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Management and the Movies: Hoosiers

An innovative company retreat idea inspired by Dr. Debora Dragseth.

Ask your work team to watch the movie Hoosiers, a 1986 American sports drama that tells the story of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team that hires an unconventional coach and, against all odds, makes it to the state championship. The movie is inspired by a true story of a team that won the 1954 state championship.

Below are the discussion questions I review with my Masters class at DSU. Using "Management and the Movies" could be an enjoyable and effective way for you and your company's leaders to develop a deeper understanding of leadership challenges in difficult or adversarial settings.

Imagine you have just accepted a new job with a small firm. The staff, already in place, has been working on projects for several months that you will now oversee. As the newcomer, you face hostility from some team members who see you as an outsider. The only strong supporter you have is the person who hired you. Despite this, you're confident in your methods, which have proven successful in past assignments. With a tight schedule, minimizing distractions is crucial to meet your goals. In this scenario, consider lessons from the classic sports movie "Hoosiers."

"Hoosiers" explores themes of second chances and resilience. Norm Dale, previously banned from college coaching for striking a player, gets a chance to redeem himself. What guidelines do you think should apply to second chances? The movie also portrays Mr. Butcher's plea for his son's reinstatement to the basketball team. Do you think Coach Dale made the right decision in this case? Why or why not?

In the film, sports serve as a microcosm of society, reflecting our competition, rules, and values. Norman Dale meets with the “town coaches” at the barbershop and is told how things are done in Hickory. Dale has a clear vision of what he wants and does not feel the need for outside help. Was this the right approach? Furthermore, Dale's abrupt dismissal of George, the volunteer coach, makes an enemy out of him. Could this have been handled more effectively?

The transformation of Coach Dale from a volatile figure to a compassionate leader illustrates significant character development. How does he achieve this transformation, and what impact does it have on others?

In the workplace, like in sports, changes and results take time. Coach Dale's strategy of scoring fewer points to win more games is unconventional. How can this approach be applied in a business setting? The film also questions the criteria for evaluating success. Should coaches only be judged by wins, or managers in business by profits alone?

Finally, despite limited resources, Coach Dale's leadership succeeds, especially during the pep rally speech. Analyze his methodology and provide examples from the film where he fosters leadership in others.

By: Dr. Debora Dragseth Baker Boy Professor of Leadership | School of Business and Entrepreneurship

Dickinson State University

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