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Movie Review: Hoosiers vs The Legend of Bagger Vance

Movie Review: Hoosiers v. The Legend of Bagger Vance

LLG3 Open Heart- Jacob Peck, Latasha Price, Erica Durant and Lanisha Moore


Our team had the opportunity to view two films enriched with examples of both coaching and consulting.  In their respective roles, Bagger Vance and Coach Dale were required to teach their pupil(s) lessons that required the objective process of coaching to provide tactical, sports based advice to win a game or a match.  Equally, if not more important, both were also called upon to provide broader life lessons whose impact would be felt most outside the lines of sport.  As we will describe, both of these films highlight the differences between consulting and consulting in both process and impact.

The movie Hoosiers details a small town’s high school basketball team led by head coach, Norman Dale, rise to a winning streak shortly after the head coach’s arrival to the team. The team and town of Hickory are pretty unsure the team will be able to win with the new coach and without the help of previous team member, Jimmy Chitwood. Norm Dale is able to display exquisite consulting skills for his team and concerned town residents. Norm is caring, patient and understanding. His background before joining the team is questionable but his intensity for molding a great team based on fundamentals and not winning is just what consulting should be, genuine.

In the article Consultants: In the Know, author Melissa M. Ezarik states, “According to the Consulting Club at Duke University School of Business, consulting means providing advice to organizations that are trying to improve what they do or how they do it” (2003). In the movie Hoosiers, Dale explains to the players before the start of their first game, “put your concentration into playing the best of your potential” (1986). Norm Dale informs the team to focus on their strengths not the scoreboard win or lose doing the right thing for the team and for one’s self is best. A consultant is responsible for delivering a result; the result is strategically planned with input from the client and once next steps have been determined, the plan can move forward to the execution stage.  Norm Dale delivered the result the client agreed to and that was a winning team that shares the ball, relies upon one another and plays fair. The team went on to win the state championship due to the strong consulting skills of their coach and the willingness to execute the plan as outlined by the coach. Coach Dale brought a level of consulting expertise that led his team to victory and that is the greatest end result any consultant could ask for, victory above other teams in your client’s field of experience.

Consultants are engaged when an individual or organization recognizes its need to improve.  In most cases, if only from a high level, problems within are often recognized even if they are misunderstood and deemed too difficult to solve for.  Consultants tend to be objective, solutions oriented, and looking to implement strategies/initiatives to improve specific and defined parts of a greater whole.  We learned of an example where a bank brought in IT consultants to rework systems to increase efficiency and reporting accuracy.  Examples of consulting in Hoosiers included: 1) transitioning to a more defensive minded team 2) new drills to work on stamina 3) non-shooting drills and 4) the four pass rule to ensure a good shot is taken.  All of these strategies were technical in nature, addressing individual areas in need of improvement, narrow in scope and able to be measured. 

Coaching on the other hand, is a process that is more subjective and aims to improve the overall well-being of an individual in a broader way.  Coaching requires that emotional connections be made and that trust is built.  In Hoosiers, Norm Dale “coaches” his players in a way that is not limited to a drill or something out of a play book.  He worked to build confidence in his team and helped them understand the premise that hard work and dedication will allow them to reach their own, individual potential.  Another example of Norm Dale’s coaching was the time he spoke to Jimmy Chitwood prior to rejoining the team.  His words about Jimmy possessing a gift and his decisions about what to do with that gift was about much more than basketball.  It was a personal intimate discussion, with the potential to transcend basketball.

One of the scenes in the movie that best highlighted the contrast between consulting and coaching was the scene prior to the State Finals.  After going over technical game strategy including no penetration and to be tough on the boards, Norm Dale looked at his team and said, “I love you”.  It was a perfect comparison of the mechanical feelings received when one is consulted to the powerful, emotional difference a coach can make.

The whole point of the movie seem to be listen to your coach, even if at times it doesn’t make sense. During the final play of the game the players seem to disagree with Norm Dale’s play call.   He taught the players to believe in themselves and in the end they put their best shooter in a position to win. They played as a team and they knew their best chance was with Jimmy.

            The different coaching techniques used were:

  • Facilitates growth amongst the players
  • Building on the players strengths
  • Supports the team players to achieve their own result or outcome

The movie also shows Norm Dale’s evolution and redemption. He was ousted from coaching early in his career because of his temper and headstrong attitude. In the end, he learned to put his ego aside, how to listen to others and how work collaboratively with his team to bring about a clear vision that was specific, measurable, and time bound that led the team to winning the state championship.

The Legend of Bagger Vance recants the story of what happened in the town of Savannah Georgia during the Great Depression, when  a young socialite makes a rather hasty decision to hold a high stakes exhibition golf match to save her father’s premier golf resort following his tragic suicide.  Pressured from the townsmen to sell her father’s resort, Adele Invergordon convinces two of the greatest golfers of that time to come play an exhibition match. In an effort to stop the match from happening, the townsmen call a meeting, and after a heated discussion, decide to invite a former gifted local golfer Rannulph Junuh, her ex-love, and former unsung war hero, to play with the stars to attract more visitors to the game. Reluctant at first to play, Junuh decides to go practice in the dark of night and meets Bagger Vance, who not only offers to become his caddy, but coaches him back to become a great golfer once again.

The film captures many moments of coaching and consulting, especially as we focus on Bagger Vance. His first encounter with Junuh reveals his strengths as a coach: he uses the opportunity of practicing bad swings to get Junuh to think about what he is doing and more importantly what he is NOT doing. Bagger doesn’t correct what Junuh is doing wrong, nor explicitly tells him what he could do better; he carefully chooses his words and allows the discussions they have to create an opportunity for Junuh to make decisions for himself.

Bagger Vance: Don't make no sense is all... Man say he don't play no golf when he out here this shade of night hittin balls off in the dark where he can't even see 'em...
Rannulph Junuh: Yep... Well, I've done things that have made less sense...
Bagger Vance: As we all have...

He follows the model explained in The Trusted Advisor that offers what great advisors should follow in order to be effective.  Bagger seems to demonstrate that:

  • Gives Junuh his options
  • Gives Junuh an education about the options
  • Gives Junuh a recommendation
  • Lets Junuh choose[i]

Bagger Vance: You wanna quit Mr. Junuh? You know you can just go ahead and creep off somewhere I'll tell folk you took sick... Truth be told, ain't nobody gonna really object... In fact, they'd probably be happy as bugs in a bake shop to see you pack up and go home...
Rannulph Junuh: You know I can't quit
Bagger Vance: I know... Just makin sure you know it too...

During the film, Bagger also demonstrates his ability to act as a consultant.  Different from coaches, consultants help to facilitate the changes their clients require. In this vain, Bagger helps Junuh to identify solutions to his problems (in the scene where he explains the differences in how the grass on the field reacts the light of the day verses the night sky and how those differences impact the grass and how the ball will roll upon it) and he also develops opportunities for Junuh to make discoveries that will expand his growth…both as a golfer, but more importantly as a person.

Bagger Vance also creates room for Junuh to look inside himself for the answer. He creates a safe place for him to be vulnerable yet trusting. It is through those moments that Junuh is able to release the torment of his past, forgive himself of his failures and allow himself the space to move forward by moving out the way so Junuh can find his truth.  Bagger demonstrates the skill necessary for all coaches and consultants.

Bagger Vance: Inside each and every one of us is our one, true authentic swing. Something we was born with. Something that's ours and ours alone. Something that can't be learned... something that's got to be remembered.

As we have discussed, and in the spirit of Open Heart Philosophy, both Vance and Dale were successful in rewiring their subjects to move beyond downloading the advice and leadership they were offering.  They achieved in showing their player(s) the possibility of moving beyond using past experiences to learn and operate, and instead to embrace “the new” and ultimately creating a better future outcome.



Ezarik, M. M. (2003). Consultants: In the Know. Career World, 31(6), 18.

Anspaugh, D. (Director), Haven, C. D., & Pizzo, A. (Producers), & Pizzo, A. (Writer). (1986). Hoosiers [Motion picture]. United States: Orion Pictures.

[i] Maister, David H, Green, Charles H., Galford, Robert M. The Trusted Advisor. 2000. Free Press

Scharmer, C. O. (2008). Uncovering the blind spot of leadership. Leader To Leader, 2008


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