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Discussion Guide: McFarland USA


Movie Synopsis

In an inspiring true story, a coach in a predominately Latino high school takes an unlikely band of runners and, through the power of family relationships, their commitment to each other and an incredible work ethic, transforms them into champions.

Mcfarland USA movie poster


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Discussion Questions

  1. McFarland USA begins with Jim chastising his football team for a bad first half. One of his player’s mouths off to which Jim chucks a cleat at him and injures him. How should Jim have behaved differently? What’s a better way to motivate a poorly performing team during halftime?
  2. Why do you think Jim is so interested in starting a cross-country team? Are his intentions only with the athletes in mind?
  3. Why does Jim choose to work in the field with the boys? What does it teach him?
  4. What advantages do the McFarland boys have when running, despite their many disadvantages?
  5. Consider Jim’s journey as a coach throughout the film and name 3 ways in which he changes.
  6. What role does teamwork play in McFarland’s success?

What Parents Need To Know

Parents need to know that McFarland, USA is an inspiring sports drama about a Mexican-American cross-country team from rural California. Based on a true story, the movie stars Kevin Costner as the team's coach, who's determined to guide a bunch of farm workers' kids into a team that's good enough to compete in the state's first cross-country championship. Although there are a few mature themes regarding class and privilege, as well as a couple of instances of fist fights, a possible suicide attempt, a knife fight that lands a couple of kids in the hospital, and a father who's aggressive toward his family, there are also tons of positive messages about teamwork, cooperation, and community. Coach White isn't perfect but means well and is devoted to his runners, and the portrayal of the students and their families is nuanced and uplifting -- most of the boys have hardworking, loving, intergenerational families.

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Our partner, Positive Coaching Alliance, provides a collection of movie discussion guides, which aim to help you make the most out of movie viewing with your team or child. Movies provide many of "teachable moments" parents can share with their young athletes helping them be successful, contributing members of society.

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Track & Field