RW in McFarland, U.S.A.

by | Feb 23, 2015

McFarland 1 (250x250)If you’d like to see some vivid examples of relational wisdom, be sure to see Disney’s latest release, McFarland, U.S.A.

The movie is based on the true story of a 1987 cross country team from a predominantly Mexican-American high school in McFarland, California. Kevin Costner stars as coach Jim White, who has lost job after job because of his poor relational skills. When he arrives in McFarland, he notices his students’ exceptional work ethic and athletic ability, and seeks to form the schools’ first running team.

After many missteps with his own family, fellow faculty members, his runners and their families, White steadily overcomes his relational deficits and builds bonds that inspire the Latino community and spur his team on to a state championship.

Just before the climatic race, White demoralizes his team by interviewing for a job at a more prestigious high school. As you watch the following clip, note how he seeks to repair the damage and motivate his boys by modeling key elements of the SERVE acrostic:

  • Smile (Warm and friendly expression and eye contact)
  • Explore and Empathize (Show interest and compassion)
  • Reconcile (Be a peacemaker)
  • Value (Express appreciation and admiration)
  • Encourage (Give courage, inspire, put wind under their wings)

If a video screen does not appear above, click here.

As revealed in the credits at the end of the movie (I saw it last night), coach White’s relational leadership had a profound, life-changing impact on each of these young men, most of whom teach and coach at McFarland High School today.

Just think of the people you could impact as you learn to SERVE the people around you in similar ways!

– Ken Sande

Reflection Questions

  • As you reflect on the brief clip above, how did coach White model each element of the SERVE acrostic? How did it impact the young men he was called to lead?
  • This movie is filled with outstanding examples of relational leadership. I encourage you to watch it with your family, youth group, or the leadership team from your church or office, and then draw out life lessons by discussing how the various characters model the relational qualities and skills described in this Summary of Key RW Principles.

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2015 Ken Sande

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