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    SUBJECTS — Sports/Basketball; U.S. 1946 - 1991 & Indiana;
    SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Teamwork; Alcohol& Drug Abuse;
            Male Role Model; Father/Son;
    MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness; Responsibility; Caring.

    Age: 11+; 1986, Rated PG; Drama; 114 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.

    Description:     In the 1950s, high school basketball was something special in rural Indiana. Whole towns rallied around their team. What boys did or didn't do as 17-year-olds on the basketball court were important events throughout their lives. Norman Dale had been a successful college basketball coach, but for the last 12 years he has worked as a non-commissioned officer in the Navy. He is hoping for a comeback and has found a job coaching a small high school in Hickory, Indiana. The total enrollment is 161 students. Why did he suddenly stop coaching? Can he keep his job and make this small town team good enough to compete in the state championships?

    Benefits of the Movie:     This film is a study in the growth of character and many elements of sportsmanship. Coach Dale once believed that winning was everything. Through the movie he comes to understand that there are things more important than winning. The film, inspired by the events of the 1954 Indiana State basketball championship series also tells a great David and Goliath story.

    Possible Problems:    MINOR. There is a fight on the basketball court and a few mild profanities.


Benefits of the Movie
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Selected Awards & Cast
Helpful Background
Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)
Bridges to Reading
Links to the Internet
Assignments, Projects & Activities

WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Historical Fiction in Film Cross-Curricular Homework Project.

    Parenting Points:     Ask and help your child to answer the Quick Discussion Question. If your child is very interested in the film, go through some of the other discussion questions.

    TeachWithMovies.com recommends that every child in any family in which there is any history of heavy drinking or alcohol abuse be taken to an open AA meeting beginning at the age of 12 or 13. This should be repeated every year or so. Some meetings are divided into two parts. Try to stay for the second part. That's when specially selected speakers talk about the difficulties they encountered while intoxicated and their new lives in sobriety. Tell the kids that if they ever have trouble with alcohol, the twelve steps of AA are a way that they can avoid the destructive effects of alcoholism. For more information, see Handout on Alcohol and How it Affects Us.

    Selected Awards, Cast and Director:

      Selected Awards:  1987 Academy Awards Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Hopper); Best Music; 1987 Golden Globe Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Hopper). "Hoosiers" is listed in the National Film Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress as a "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" film.
      Featured Actors:  Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey, Dennis Hopper, Sheb Wooley.

      Director:  David Anspaugh.

    Helpful Background:

    In 1954 the basketball team from tiny Milan High School in rural Indiana beat out all the larger teams for the Indiana state basketball championship. The rest of "Hoosiers" is fiction, but full of that often elusive other kind of truth which excellent writing and superb acting can bring to a film. The characters of Coach Dale, Shooter and Myra Fleener have much to say to us. The ambiance of small town life and small town high school politics are well drawn and ring true.
QUICK DISCUSSION QUESTION:   One of the major messages of the film relates to winning in sports competition. What is that message and how does the ending of the film undercut that message?

Suggested Response: The message is that winning isn't everything and that if you think it is, you will lose things that are more important. Thus, Coach Dale lost his temper and hit his player because winning was everything to him at the time. He lost his job and his life's work. However, he has now learned differently, as shown by several events in the film. These include the scene in which he will not risk injuring a player to win a game and when he won't pressure the star player to come back to the team before he is ready. However, the team ends up winning anyway. That ending undercuts the strength of this message because Coach Dale doesn't have to deal with losing. The message of the ending is that if you stay within the bounds of good conduct and make wise decisions, you will win. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way. The point should be that the good conduct and wise decisions are important for their own sake. Winning is important too, but lower on the scale of priorities.


    Discussion Questions:

    1.  See Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction.

    2.  Was the town's relationship with basketball healthy?

    3.  Why did Myra Fleener warn Coach Dale to keep away from Jimmy Chitwood?

    4.  Why did Myra Fleener's mother invite the Coach Dale to come to dinner?

    5.  What did Coach Dale do (or not do) to win the trust of Myra Fleener?

    6.  What is the message of this film about winning in high school sports and what is the serious structural flaw in the film?

    7.  What is the proper role of the desire to win in high school and college sports?

    8.  What is the importance of "impulse control" and how did a lack of impulse control affect one of the characters in this film?

    9.  The real life situation which inspired this film involved a state championship match-up between an all-white team from a very small rural high school (the Milan Indians, student body of 161) and an all-black team from a large inner city high school (more than 2000 students). The filmmakers chose to ignore this fact and make the opposing team integrated in order to avoid setting the conflict up as white vs. black. The racial make-up of the opposing teams was also changed in the film Remember the Titans. According to the film, each of the teams faced by the 1971 Titans were all white and didn't have to deal with race. In reality, many were integrated. Do you think that making these changes detracted from the truthfulness of either film?

    10.  Myra Fleener said, "Gods come pretty cheap these days." What did she mean? Do you agree or disagree?

    11.  Why did Coach Dale give Shooter a chance to be an assistant coach? Did he really need him?

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

For suggested answers:    click here.

For English Language Arts classes, distribute TWM's Film Study Worksheet. Teachers can modify the worksheet to fit the needs of each class. Ask students to fill out the worksheet as they watch the film or at the film's end.

BUILDING VOCABULARY: upstanding, "hick town", zone defense, man to man defense, newfangled, gizzard.

    Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions:


    1.  Why, at the beginning of the season, does Coach Dale require the team to pass four times before shooting? Why was this only necessary at the beginning of the season?

    2.  Why does Coach Dale insist that the players obey him without question in matters relating to basketball?

    See Handout on Alcohol and How it Affects Us

    3.  When Shooter asked for handouts, were his friends doing him any favors by giving him the small change that he sought?

    4.  Given that Shooter was an alcoholic, would the second chance that Coach Dale had given him be the push he needed to stop drinking?

    5.  Shooter appeared to blame his failures in life on the fact that in the key game of his high school basketball career, he had what would have been the winning shot, but it went in and out. Is there any basis for this?

    6.  Shooter appears to blame his lack of self-respect on the fact that he missed a crucial basket at the end of his high school basketball career. As he explains, the shot went "in and out." Is this reasonable? What is the real reason for Shooter's lack of self-respect?


    7.  Think about the characters in this film. One of them could be classified as a male role model. It's not the coach, although he is a man who has learned lessons from life and has become a nurturing, caring individual. Who was it?

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip. For suggested answers:    click here.

Attendance at an open AA meeting is an excellent extra-credit activity. Some meetings are divided into two parts. Tell the kids to ask permission to stay for the second part. That's when specially selected speakers talk about the difficulties they encountered while intoxicated and their new lives in sobriety.

Are you concerned that time will be wasted if you are absent from class? Worry no more  .  .  .   Check out TeachWithMovies' Set-Up-the-Sub.

    Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions (Character Counts)

    Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


    (Be honest; Don't deceive, cheat or steal; Be reliable -- do what you say you'll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal -- stand by your family, friends and country)


    (Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act -- consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)


    (Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need)

Teachwithmovies.com is a Character Counts "Six Pillars Partner" and uses The Six Pillars of Character to organize ethical principles.

Character Counts and the Six Pillars of Character are marks of the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition, a project of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.

Give us your feedback! Was the Guide helpful? If so, which sections were most helpful? Do you have any suggestions for improvement? Email us!

    Bridges to Reading:

      Basketball Hall of Fame by Terry Dunnahoo -- Nonfiction -- Grades 4 - 6;
      The Story of Basketball by Dave Anderson -- Nonfiction -- Grades 4 - 8;
      Black Hoops by F. MsKissack -- Non-fiction -- Grades 5 and up;
      Taking Sides by G. Soto -- Fiction -- Grades 5 and up;
      Hoops by Walter Dean Myers -- Fiction -- Grades 7 - 9;
      In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle by Madeleine Blais -- Fiction -- Young Adult;
      On the Devil's Court by Carl Deuker -- Fiction -- Young Adult;
      The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey -- Non-fiction -- Young Adult;

      Young Adult: American Sports Poems, R.R. Knudson and May Swenson eds.,
      Grades 4 and up: Rimshots: Basketball Pix, Rolls and Rhythm by Charles R. Smith and The Basket Counts by A. Adoff.

MOVIES ON RELATED TOPICS: See the other films in the Sports section of the Subject Matter Index.

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PHOTOGRAPHS, DIAGRAMS AND OTHER VISUALS:   MGM's website for Hoosiers with a trailer and sound bytes.

    Bibliography: In addition to websites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine, the following resources were consulted to find books to recommend as Bridges to Reading:

    • Best Books for Young Adults by Betty Carter, Second Edition, Young Adult Library Services Association; 2000;
    • Our Family, Our Friends, Our World by Lyn Miller-Lachman, R.R. Bowker, Providence, New Jersey, 1992;
    • Children's Catalogue, Eighteenth Addition, edited by Anne Price and Juliette Yaakov, the H.W. Wilson Company, New York and Dublin, 2001;
    • Best Books for Children -- Preschool through Grade 6, Sixth Edition, edited by John T. Gillespie, R.R. Bowker, New Providence N.J., 1998.

    Last updated December 10, 2009.

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