Allee-Sutton Hethcoat stars as Courtney Smith-Donnelly, the fresh-from-college teacher and new cross country coach at Orange Hills, a private Christian high school. Her principles are built on Christian tenets, like “whatever you do, do it for the glory of God” and “humble yourself in the sight of the Lord.” But when she tells her young team to “train slow to run fast,” she finds herself at complete odds with her runners, their parents, and the school administration. What will it take to help the community Remember the Goal?
Why are we running if we’re not running to win? -- A parent of an Orange Hills runner
In Dave Christiano’s sports film, which he wrote, produced, edited, and directed, the action on the course is a direct parallel to the way that the young women are challenged in their non-running lives. When Smith-Donnelly arrives, she finds a team lacking a clear vision, hurting for recruitment, and divided by the expectations of parents who lack the ability to separate their desires from their children’s lives. (As a coach, I regularly find that the toughest part of team-building is the parents!) When the young coach refuses to accept dissension, she finds her job threatened, but she refuses to give into the runners, their parents, or the school’s athletic director.
What Smith-Donnelly does is provide a constant reminder of the example of running as a metaphor for our Christian faith; whether it’s telling stories or quoting Scripture directly, the coach embodies a different kind of leadership than the girls have ever seen. While they had previously run, run, and run some more, working their bodies into the ground, she shows them that endurance requires patience and consistency, not periodic, unplanned sprints. When it comes to living out the examples of the course in real life, she shows them how to love people and share their faith in organic, meaningful ways.
One of Smith-Donnelly’s stories revolves around Jesus healing a girl who everyone else has written off (Luke 8:40-56) and the way they mock his different perspective. This is clearly one of Christiano’s main points for the film: that doing things in a new way, or doing them like Jesus, puts us at odds with the expectations around us. While the parents (and some runners) say they want to win the state championship, they forget that goal while pursuing day-to-day training and races; Smith-Donnelly is focused on ‘the mission,’ and stays true to that goal throughout… just like Jesus.
At times exciting, and often realistic to life on a team, Remember the Goal delivers some rousing entertainment with practical Christian teaching that drives home the point. It’s a reminder to all of us not to go with the crowd, but to follow Jesus, to … Remember the Goal.