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Team Open Will - Movie Review Project

Team Open Will - Movie Review Project

Patricia Bonner, William Pote, Emilie Jean-Louis, Patricia Lee
LLG-4 Review of Movie Project
ODL 340 - Coaching and Consulting
April 3, 2016

LLG 4:   ODL 340 Movie Project

Our SJU Listening and Learning Group (LLG 4) is exploring aspects of Open Will as it pertains to activities in coaching and consulting. The theory of Open Will is a concept that has been developed by Otto Scharmer. Specifically of interest in our project is the relation of Scharmer’s theories relative to two movies illustrating various coaching and consulting techniques. The movies The Legend of Bagger Vance and Hoosiers are very different from each other yet illustrate the challenges of the human elements in accepting changes and development.

Legend of Bagger Vance

This is a story about a young man named Junuh who returned home from WWI having lost his entire battalion to the enemy. Once a proud young man and local celebrity golfer from Savannah, GA, he had become depressed. Junuh removed himself from society and the game of golf. He didn’t feel worthy of friendship, including the love of his life.  

Along came Bagger Vance, a golf caddy who offered his services for a fee of five dollars. He became the “coach” in the story and connected with Junuh on a spiritual, if not mystical level.  Vance used non-threatening approaches and verbiage and in some cases, came across naive to disarm Junuh. Through his gentle presence, he demonstrated confidence and expertise. Throughout the tournament, Vance gave subtle instruction and, upon earning Junuh’s trust, began to make a difference. 

Below are the take-aways that our group discussed and agreed were the most important messages in the film, as well as how the movie tied into our reading:

Vance taught Junah to “see the field” differently by removing everything from his sight except the path to the hole. He taught him to open his heart and mind. Junuh accepted Vance’s almost hypnotic instruction. At one point in the film Vance coaches Junuh to “Seek it with your hands— don’t think about it, feel it. The wisdom in your hands is greater than the wisdom of your head will ever be.” Scharmer relates this statement to his Theory “U”: “That piece of advice articulates a key principle about how to operate on the right side of the U. Moving down the left side of the U is about opening up and dealing with the resistance of thought, emotion, and will; moving up the right side is about intentionally reintegrating the intelligence of the head, the heart, and the hand in the context of practical applications.” (Scharmer, p.58).

He taught Junuh about being your authentic self. There’s no sense working to become something that isn’t truly authentic. The word “authentic” was heard repeatedly.

Although this wasn’t a spoken part of the film, the message was clear: one cannot coach a person who isn’t open to receiving the lesson. It was frustrating to watch Bagger Vance sit by so quietly while Junuh messed up. The viewer soon understood that he would only step up to coach when Junah specifically asked for help. Understanding this brings a great amount of peace to those who spend so much time trying to teach, or coach those who are not open to it. It forces us to realize there are times when you need to just let them fail. This failure will open their minds and hearts to coaching. Even in the workplace we often observe that people under pressure will revert back to their old ways like a child may grip his “blanket”. Once they reach a certain level of frustration, they break down and ask for help. Now that they want to change, a coach can give the manager a better path and lead them to the results they are seeking. In this case, the turning point appears to be establishing trust between the student and the coach.  


This story is based on a true story of a college basketball coach who accepts a teaching/coaching position at a high school in a remote Indiana town.  He has been out of the coaching arena for 12 years while he served in the Navy.  Upon returning to teaching and coaching, he is faced with demanding expectations from this small town whose lives are centered around this basketball team. He is also fighting his own demons from previous personal issues.

The coach had to break down and rebuild the team with his new style. The first thing he did was kick the star player off the team because he was uncooperative. The towns’ people were furious. At this point, they don’t trust him and don’t want to accept his brand of change.  Part of the challenge with coaching and consulting is leading your client to accept change and be “open minded”.  The town and the players were not willing to be open minded.

The coach had to get to know each team member and their challenges in order to connect with them. It was interesting to see how his lessons were experienced by each team member in different ways.

What resonated strongly with each of us was how the coach handled the crowd at the first game who were all chanting for the star player who was no longer on the team. He stepped up to speak to the crowd and below are some of his statements:

“These five players on the floor function as a single unit. No one person is more important than another.”
“These individuals made a choice…to represent you, this high school. That kind of commitment and effort deserves and demands your respect. This is your team.”
“I would hope you support us for who we are, not for who we are not.”

This story is also a strong example of the Open Will aspect of the U theory presented by Otto Scharmer. At one point or another, all characters in this film had to open their hearts and minds to allow the coach’s strategy to take place. During the meeting in the barber shop early in the film, the “men” of the town explained to the coach their expectations which could illustrate their “baggage.”   They each had to let go of their attitudes and trust him to bring the team to potential.

Winning the game symbolized the trust these boys had in each other and their coach.  The coach earned the respect of all the town’s people as well as a young lady that had scrutinized him from the beginning.

The movie has parallels to scenarios experienced with consultants in a corporate setting. The consultant comes in based on the decision of upper management (in the movie, upper management is the high school principal). All the managers of the company, likened to the “town fathers”, are on guard, explaining their reasoning for every process, and protecting their own turf. They are all on edge because they may be criticized, have to make changes, or maybe lose their job (the movie demonstrates this in the character of the interim coach). After all, consultants are infamous for making organizational changes that result in lost jobs. The result of the managers’ fears and concerns can make the entire company start to fear impending changes, and cause strong negative opinions against the idea of a consultant coming in. An example is the expression “We’ve been doing this for years and the consultant doesn’t know or understand our work. How could she come in and make changes?”  

In our experience, the successful consultant takes the time to earn the trust of each manager, and listen to problems, suggests changes, and works with the managers to understand their fears and challenges. In this case it took a few months for the consultant to make progress and build trust, but once the team saw the positive impact, the consultant was welcomed and became the “go to” person for problem solving.

During our evaluation of both movies and our personal experiences, we have determined that establishing trust and mutual respect is fundamental in creating a successful, strong relationship for coaching or consulting. As Scharmer confirms, the process of establishing trust in stages based on the open mind, open heart and open will, and the actions that facilitate those changes, is key to successful relationships and facilitating change.



Scharmer, C. O. (2008). Uncovering the blind spot of leadership. Leader To Leader, 2008(47), 52-59.


Redford, R. (Director). (2000). The legend of Bagger Vance [Motion picture]. United States: DreamWorks Distribution L.L.C.


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




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