Gridiron Gang, The (FORGIVENESS)
Main Point of Discussion: Forgiveness frees us to move on.
The Movie Clip: “How long did it take you to forgive your dad?”
Every once in a while a film is released that reminds youth workers that we can make a difference: Coach Carter, Stand and Deliver, Renaissance Man… The Gridiron Gang is another one of those films. If you haven’t seen it, stop by the video store tonight and pick it up. (Yes, there is some violence and pretty bad language speckled throughout the film—a realistic glimpse of our institutional system. But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. This film is a gem. This is the type of film I would have shown to my outreach clubs when I worked with a pretty tough group of campus kids. This raw film reveals a realistic glimpse of street life, tough choices, and their consequences. The film is very real and earns its PG-13 rating.)
The movie is about a counselor in a juvenile detention center who wants to give kids a second chance. He starts a football team to teach them discipline, teamwork and accepting criticism.
This movie has several good clips that you could use to promote discussion. In this particular scene Coach Porter has a one-on-one conversation with an inmate named Willie about forgiveness. Use the following introduction to introduce the clip.
Introducing the Clip:
Today I want to show you a clip from the movie The Gridiron Gang. Many of you have already seen this movie, but for those who haven’t, this scene is a conversation between a juvenile prisoner named Willie and Coach Porter, played by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson. Coach Porter is a counselor in a juvenile detention center who wants to give kids a second chance. He starts a football team to teach them discipline, teamwork and accepting criticism. In this scene, Willie, one of the players and inmates in the institution, is having a deep conversation about the changes happening to him in the institution. Since playing football, Willie is making better choices. But he’s having trouble accepting the fact that he can be a winner, not just in football, in life. His past is haunting him. Willie is holding onto old pain and resentment toward his father. In this scene, Coach reveals the only cure for this kind of baggage.
BEGIN CLIP AT 1 hour, 31 minutes and 51 seconds. (in Chapter 12: Willie and Coach have just been having a deep conversation. Some cuss words were exchanged. Cue up to this specific time to avoid any.)
- Willie: (pause, hitting the wall, crying) I don’t know what’s happening to me, man! (crying)
Coach Porter: I do. (pause) You’re not the loser you were when you first got here Willie. You’re just not used to being a winner.
Willie: (shaking his head) My father said I was a waste of his time and his money.
Coach Porter: Your father was a loser Willie. My old man was the same way. He spent so much time tellin’ me I was no good- telling me I was nothin’, I believed him.
Willie: That why you’re so pissed off all the time?
(they both laugh)
Coach Porter: Yeah. That probably got something to do with it. (sitting down next to Willie) I know how you feel Willie. You get to the point where you expect to screw up. You expect to fail. When we want to win we gotta let ‘em go. Forgive ‘em and move on.
Coach Porter: Forgive ‘em. Other wise we give ‘em too much power over us. And they don’t deserve it.
Willie: How long did it take you to forgive your dad?
(long pause. Coach considers what Willie asks… and takes a moment to respond.)
Coach Porter Til just now. Til just now.
Willie thought he was a failure. He had no hope, because his father had always told him that he was a waste. Willie subconsciously believed him. He almost expected to screw up. He expected to fail. But Coach Porter told him the secret to moving on… the secret to overcoming that failure: forgiveness.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: Before we begin, tell everyone your name and your favorite breakfast meal.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: Now let’s each share one thing about ourselves that no one else in the circle knows. It doesn’t have to be personal… it can be something simple like the brand of toothpaste you use… just something that no one else knows.
- ASK A FEW: In the scene we just saw, Willie was feeling trapped. He felt like he was going to fail no matter what he did. I’m sure many of us have felt that way at times. When you feel that way, how do you usually respond?
- ASK SOMEONE: Willie shared about his father. Since his father used to tell him he was a waste, Willie started to believe that about himself. Then coach told him to stop believing that and move on. But there was something he had to do to move on, something that coach needed to do also. What was that? (leader—the answer you are looking for: forgive)
In another scene in the movie, one of the coaches quoted the Bible. The Bible is a great place to find answers. Right now, let’s read a passage from the Bible about forgiveness:
Read the following passage:
Col. 3:12-14 (NIV)
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
God has forgiven us for the worst of sins. Jesus even forgave the people that were killing him:
Read the following passage:
Luke 23:33-34 (NIV)
When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
In the same way, we need to forgive others. Here’s even another passage about forgiveness:
Read the following passage:
Mark 11:25 (NIV)
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
God wants us to let go of everything to put our faith in Him, that includes letting go of our grudges. It’s a scary fact, but God needs us to forgive others in order to receive His forgiveness. (For further discussion: see James 2:12 & 13 or Matthew 18: 21-35.)
CLOSE GROUP IN PRAYER: Some groups may want to give everyone in the group an opportunity to pray and ask for forgiveness for a grudge that they’ve been holding on to.
Forgiveness gives us the freedom to move on. Because if we aren’t willing to forgive someone… we are the only one holding ourselves back. In the movie clip, the coach was preaching the message of forgiveness to Willie, and then Willie’s question made Coach realize that he had never forgiven his own father. So Coach did it right there and right then. Maybe some of us need to do the same. Forgiveness frees us from the self inflicted torture chamber of bitterness. You can be free tonight!
Close in Prayer
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.