Gridiron Gang: Adolescent Athletes in the Kilpatrick Detention Center

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The 2006 film Gridiron Gang is based loosely on a true story about adolescent athletes in the Kilpatrick detention center. Although the film is filled with cliches, it actually captures essential truths about the nature of coaching and especially of coaching adolescents. Sean Porter (The Rock) is a supervisor at Kilpatrick who incorporates football into the regime at the juvenile detention center. His personal struggles mirror the experience of any high school coach but especially those who deal with kids whose social lives are distinguished by gang membership. Porter presents football as an effective means of uniting kids from opposing gangs, engendering teamwork and cooperation instead of hostility and antagonism. While his methods do work, they occasionally fail in the film, adding a touch of refreshing realism to the movie. For example, the standoff between Free and Kevin is a heartfelt reminder that even the best coach cannot change endemic social issues.
One of the most realistic elements of Gridiron Gang is Sean’s character. He is a multidimensional hero, not without his flaws. He has a temper and loses it frequently with the kids. His impatience with them causes him to lose their trust, almost completely. However, Porter redeems himself. He proves that having a vision may be the most important asset a coach can have when leading a difficult team and trying to instill a sense of unity and teamwork into teenagers that essentially hate each other. To try and help the adolescents channel their anger, aggression, and frustration on the field instead of onto other people is a challenge no coach would wish upon himself. Yet to rise to the occasion like Porter does is truly admirable. The film can therefore be used as an inspiring piece to play for varsity teams. Showing players that their coaches are human beings with flaws helps them gain respect. Similarly, the film reveals the psychological and sociological problems underlying vi…