All of this changes once Coach White comes to town and initiates a cross country program. The boys who join the running team realize their real potential and what a truly wonderful sport running is. They show everyone in the town and everyone that ever doubted them that little McFarland really can be great.
One of the things that is unbelievable about the team’s success is how little resources they had. All they had was ratty sneakers with holes and rips that they went to school in, picked in, and now, ran in. After their runs they drank water from hoses at the gas station. Southern California is always warm, but especially so in August to October (when cross country season takes place).
Maybe one of the most iconic scenes of the movie came shortly after their first meet. All of McFarland’s runners were running well until they faced the biggest hill they had ever seen. There’s not a hill in sight of McFarland, and the boys surely weren't prepared to climb it. The next practice, mounds of dirt and almond from the fields were constructed. There were probably twenty-plus mounds. Coach White had all the boys run up and down and up and down the mounds, over and over and over again. Before, the boys didn’t know if they could trust Coach White to make them their best. In making them sprint those “hills,” Coach White gained their trust, showing them that he truly wanted them to succeed and that he believed wholeheartedly in their ability. When Kevin Costner, the actor who played Coach White in the movie, was asked how he felt about this scene, he replied, “When you make someone feel like they belong, they begin to feel like giants.”
You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; you’ll smile; and you may even find yourself cheering throughout the team’s heartbreak, victories, and sheer commitment.
This incredible movie is actually based on a true story. Jim White is a real person who coached real boys to a State championship after his first year. Within the next fourteen years, his team won eight more state championships.
The lesson we should all learn from this movie is that even though you seem to be at the bottom, a certain amount of hard work, determination, and dedication will rise you above the rest, no matter where you come from.
McFarland USA is definitely a movie worth seeing. If you would like, as James Rocchi from TheWrap writes, a “feel good movie that earns all the good feelings,” this PG-Rated movie is perfect for you!
-by Lucy Roth