Saturday, January 16, 2016

"Trophy Kids", a documentary about kids and helicopter parents who force competitive sports upon them

Trophy Kids” (2013), by Chris Bell (co-written with Leland Anderson), is a “reality” documentary presenting clips of the lives of kids whose parents (mostly in southern California) insist that they succeed at any cost.  The sports presented are football, basketball, tennis, and golf.

A tagline would be, “Do we want what’s best for our kids? Or do we just want them to be the best?” Is this a “me generation” for parents rather than the kids? Parts of the film were incorporated into Peter Berg’s series “State of Play” for HBO (not the same as the film).

The film opens with an individualized football practice.  The father seems to be giving the son a hard time about to paying attention to the proper body movements.  Later, the film gets into the issue of how to make the “hits”.  At this point, the helicopter dad seems unconcerned about the idea of concussions and brain damage (Dec. 25).  Later, the film makes the point that some fathers think that physical pain and major risk taking has to be required of all growing boys for them to fit in to society.

The first session about basketball is a little more positive.  A kid who maybe 78 inches all is entering high school, and puberty. 

In the tennis segment, a mom is telling her son that playing tennis is “who you are.” She also says that everything is “God’s will”.  But she complains, “You don’t want to win.”

Later, the football father gets into an argument with his (separated) wife in front of his 15 year old son his authoritarian manner in making his son “a man”. The wife says “you’re teaching him fear”.  The father asks “What have you done to earn my respect?”  The father very much takes the position that it is his prerogative to mold his son according to his own ideas as a representative of his lineage.  The wife eventually returns and is diagnosed with leukemia, and “Justus” indeed becomes the “man of the house”.

I’m reminded of some portions of the 2004 book “The Cheating Culture” by David Callahan (Book reviews, March 28, 2006), where parents do anything to get their kids to win.

HBO’s site for the derivative series is here. The film (107 minutes, Mance Media) can be viewed on Netflix.

The film should not be confused with the 2011 film by Josh Sugarman. 

Picture: Baltimore Ravens MBank Stadium, 2010;  but how many fathers really would want their sos to play in the NFL? 

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