What to Watch? Sports Movie Suggestions from Gustie Coaches

Posted on April 9th, 2020 by

Compiled by Bruce Berglund

Lately we’ve all had plenty of time to stream a movie. But what to watch? Since we’re all missing live sports, we asked Gustavus head coaches for their recommendations for the best sports movies.

Is there a sports movie that you never get tired of watching?

“I probably watched Cool Runnings once a week during my childhood, and I still love to watch it. I also never get tired of classic underdog movies like Million Dollar Baby with Hilary Swank, Cinderella Man with Russell Crowe, and Invincible with Mark Wahlberg. They are powerful stories of resilience, humility, and determination. Of course, there’s also Remember the Titans with Denzel Washington. He’s the man. Enough said.”

– Rachelle Sherden, Volleyball 

“One that’s off the path would be The Journeymen, a pro tennis documentary featuring Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and other stars of the early 2000s. It became a cult classic with my teammates, and now it is again with our current team.”

– Tommy Valentini, Men’s Tennis

Brian’s Song was the first sports movie I recall. I remember watching Gale Sayers play and reading in the Rochester Free Press that his teammate Brian Piccolo had died of cancer. That movie was the first time for me, at age 11, that I realized sports wasn’t ultimately about skill and technique, but rather relationships. It has stayed that way for me.

“As I contemplate my other favorite sports movies, like the first Rocky, it’s clear that relationships are the lasting intrigue of all of them. They are either love stories or friendship stories or stories about battling one’s own demons.”

– Mark Hanson, Men’s Basketball

Without Limits is work of great storytelling, following the collegiate and pro career of long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine. If you can find it, I also recommend The Barkley Marathons, a documentary about an insane ultramarathon in Tennessee. In the race’s first twenty-five years, only ten people finished. This shows the craziest of the crazy in the running world.”

– Brenden Huber, Men’s and Women‘s Cross Country

1000-1: The Cory Weissman Story is a great story of perseverance and not taking anything for granted. It’s about a men’s basketball player at Gettysburg who had scored over 1,000 points in high school. In his first year at college, he had a stroke and then worked his way back to score a single point for the team. I was a strength and conditioning coach at Gettysburg when it happened, and Cory’s stroke happened right outside the weight room where I was working.”

– Laura Burnett-Kurie, Women’s Soccer

“My favorite is Hoosiers. I was in middle school when it came out, and I had dreams of playing in and winning a state championship. I watched that movie over and over, and I can quote all the lines, down to Jimmy Chitwood saying at the end, “I’ll make it.” It is so surprising to me how many young basketball players today have not seen it.

Rudy is one that inspires me. It is the story of hard work, determination, and perseverance. The scene where each player walks into the coach’s office to give up their uniform for him always makes me cry. But I admit that ever since Sean Astin was a hobbit in Lord of the Rings, it’s hard to see him as a Notre Dame football player.”

– Laurie Kelly, Women’s Basketball

Do you have a favorite performance by an actor or actress in a sports movie?

“I really like Brad Pitt in Moneyball. He shows well how Billy Beane learned from his time as a not-so-successful athlete, combined with the knowledge he gained from his assistant general manager, played by Jonah Hill.”

– Jon Carlson, Women’s Tennis/Men’s and Women’s Swimming

Bull Durham has a lot of behind-the-scenes and on-field situations that were very similar to what I experienced when I was in the minor leagues. I also think Will Smith did a good job boxing in Ali.”

– Mike Carroll, Women’s Hockey

“The actor who plays Jimmy Chitwood in Hoosiers (Maris Valainis) looks like he could shoot three’s in the NBA in any era. On the other hand, anyone playing tennis in any tennis movie ever is pretty tough to watch, with the exception of the actors in Battle of the Sexes.”

– Tommy Valentini

“I really enjoy Parminder Nagra, who plays Jess in Bend It Like Beckham. She’s not an athlete at all, but it’s a great premise for a movie.

Rookie of the Year is also a great movie, but with horrible athleticism. It’s painful to watch whenever the kid pitches.”

Laura Burnett-Kurie

“Don’t laugh, but Kate Bosworth in the movie Blue Crush does well playing a surfer girl, despite having zero experience. She gained 15 or 20 pounds of muscle for the role. On the other hand, I’ve banned She’s the Man from team bus rides. Forever.”

Rachelle Sherden

What sports movie is best at depicting what coaches actually do?

“I show Remember the Titans to my teams every other year. It has great lessons about how to become a team.”

Jon Carlson

“University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman was known to be one of the best. In Without Limits, Donald Sutherland plays Bowerman as coach of the prodigy Steve Prefontaine, teaching him to hit greatness.

Miracle also does very well done in showing how Herb Brooks executed his plan to build team culture. We see all the nuances of his decision making, which were all connected to the bigger picture.”

Brenden Huber

We Are Marshall is the tragic true story of the 1970 plane crash that killed players and coaches for the Marshall University football team. Matthew McConaughey plays Jack Lengyel, the coach who took on the unfathomable challenge of rebuilding the team. The film show the ups and downs that the community and college endured.”

Rachelle Sherden

Coach Carter is about a coach going back to the inner-city community where he grew up and trying to make a difference in the lives of young men. Played convincingly by Samuel L Jackson, he teaches values to his players, instilling in them the drive to work hard in the classroom as well as on the basketball court.”

Laurie Kelly

“As a basketball coach, Hoosiers is certainly high on my list as well. The story of coach getting a second chance is significant, but the movie is more about a small town making good.”

Mark Hanson

“I wish I could say Reggie Dunlop in Slap Shot, or Lou Brown in Major League, but it has to be Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid. He cares about Daniel as a person, not just as an athlete. He has the type of impact that great coaches have.”

Tommy Valentini

For parents who are at home with kids, do you have a favorite sports movie that’s great for kids?


Rachelle Sherden

“I liked Rudy and Hoosiers when I was younger.”

Jon Carlson

“The most Minnesota answer ever: The Mighty Ducks.”

Brenden Huber

“Being from Minnesota, you can never forget Miracle. I was too young to remember the Miracle on Ice when it happened, but the movie lets you feel what it would have been like to be part of that historic event.”

Laurie Kelly


One Comment

  1. Mike LaFountaine says:

    Hey coaches thanks for all the great suggestions I am pretty sure other then The Journeymen I have seen them all. I will watch that one now. However I am disappointed Hanson didn’t identify the most 1970s hoops movie of them all: One on One! Robbie Benson as a high school star not cutting it in college until Annette O’tool tutors him into making his grades. A must see. Be safe Gusties!