In the Game is a moving ethnographic study that captures both the hope and the hope deferred of girls on a high school soccer team. It is a great video example of how sports, taught by a coach with an unwavering positive attitude, can have a meaningful impact on girls of low-SES (low socioeconomic status).
From 2010 to 2015, Director Maria Finitzo followed Coach Stan Mietus and 3 of his players at Kelly High School on Chicago’s South Side. One of the two largest schools, Kelly HS is 83% Hispanic, and 86% of its students are at the poverty level. The school has little resources and does not even have a playable field, so the girls practice in the gym, using hockey-size goals, at the only available time, 5:00 in the morning.
Halfway through filming, the crisis in Chicago’s Public Schools leads to a $4M cut in Kelly’s budget, and students are asked to bring toilet paper to school. In what is now a common American solution, those with little are made to do with even less. But the team plays on.
Looking for solutions?
In the Game is a film you ponder and discuss afterwards; since it offers no solutions, you challenge yourself to devise some. How can admirable young adults realize their hopes when life gets in the way? How can America help them break out of the low-SES cycle?
Maybe if enough people and organizations watched this film, they would be inspired to build new fields and create new programs. Maybe if US Soccer watched this film, they would resolve to build a field at every low-SES school in Chicago, the city where their headquarters is located. It would be a start.
While the version I watched was 117 minutes, I have seen reviews and descriptions of shorter lengths. At 117 minutes, the film is a little long from an entertainment perspective, but from an ethnographic perspective, it gives you an intimate feeling for the four major subjects, their environment, and even their soccer skill. You watch the girls mature and age over the years, and you wonder how girls of low-SES can rise above careers in food service, retail, and childcare.
And if this film touches you
You can contribute to the education of the 3 girls in this film, and see updates on their progress, through a GoFundMe campaign
Update on Aug-5-2018: For another inspirational short documentary on immigrant and undocumented students improving themselves via soccer in Oakland, CA, check out Futbolistas 4 Life.
7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7