Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, athletics have played a significant role in encouraging people to stay fit, fostering the spirit of teamwork, and promoting healthy competition.
Whether you enjoy rough and tumble contact games like football, the fluid choreography of ice skating, or the hand/eye coordination of tennis, there are not only rules that have to be followed in order to score points but also rules of good sportsmanship to be observed in order to ensure fair and respectful play. The exercises in this month’s issue revolve around a variety of different sports and how they can be used to inspire ideas and “set the stage” for feature screenplays, shorts and television programs. For younger students who haven’t yet mastered the basics of script structure, these lesson ideas lend themselves to extemporaneous storytelling and role-playing skits. Older students are encouraged to draft scenes into correctly formatted screenplays as well as film them for peer review.
These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.
1.What is your favorite sport to play? Why?
2.What is your favorite sport to watch? Why?
3.What is the sport you like least at school? Why?
4.Have you ever been picked last for a team sport? If so, how did it make you feel?
5.What do you think is the best way to choose players for a team?
6.What is your favorite movie about sports?
7.If you could meet any famous athlete in history, who would it be and what would you want to say to him or her?
8.Should students have to maintain at least a “C” average in order to stay on a school team? Why or why not?
9.Do you ever watch the Olympics? If so, which competition holds the most interest for you?
10.Have you ever attended a professional sporting event? If so, what was it and what do you remember the most about this experience?
GOING FOR THE GOLD
At the Summer Olympics held in Berlin in 1936, American track and field athlete Jesse Owens brought home an astonishing four gold medals in the 100 and 200 meter sprints, the long jump and the 4x100 meter relay. That an African American would achieve such victories at the height of Hitler’s declarations of Aryan supremacy prompted the German dictator to withhold a congratulatory handshake. Owens has been lauded for affirming the positive message that it is individual excellence rather than ethnicity that distinguishes the talents of men and women in the competitive arena.
Your assignment: The new coach at your school has announced that certain individuals will not be allowed to play on the team based on their hair color/length, eye color, month of birth or some other silly reason that has nothing to do with his or her athletic abilities. Once you decide what the prohibiting element is going to be, write a two-page scene between the coach and an aspiring player in which both sides argue their beliefs.
LOCH, STOCK & GOLF BALLS
Leave it to those plucky Scots to come up with a sport that would eclipse archery in the 15th century and give players rigorous exercise in traipsing all over the Highlands. This new amusement, however, did not initially sit well with Scottish leaders who felt that proficiency with bows and arrows was a tad more critical to the country’s defense against the English than smacking wooden balls into holes. They were so averse to this addictive game, in fact, that early golfers often played in secret and at strange hours to avoid criminal charges for which the punishment was a swift hanging.
Your assignment: In 1502, King James IV decided to take up the sport himself. Write a two-page scene in which he receives his first golf lesson. If you want to try your hand at crafting Scottish dialect, visit Scots Online at http://www.scots-online.org.
BOWLING FOR FAME
Throwing and rolling heavy balls to knock down standing objects has been around for centuries. Archaeological evidence even points to a rudimentary game of bowling that was played in Egypt almost five thousand years. Although the sport is currently enjoyed by over 100 million people throughout the world, watching a televised competition has often been compared to the excitement of watching paint dry.
Your assignment: The producer of a new bowling program, “Spare Change”, wants her show to be a major network hit and has hired you as a consultant to give the sport some extra pizzazz so viewers will tune in. In a 300 word essay, write a proposal describing how you plan to accomplish this. Examples: participants wear outrageous costumes, bowling pins explode, players are blindfolded or have to perform choreographed tricks, etc.
AND THE WINNER IS…
In Ancient Rome, it was a custom to erect decorated columns commemorating victories over one’s adversaries in battle. Not only was this a definitive “neh, neh, neh” to the enemy but a monumental acknowledgment of the victors’ prowess to keep them inspired for future combat. With the advent of athletic competitions and the desire of rulers to reward excellence, it soon became apparent that the honorees wanted something smaller that could be displayed and admired in their own homes. Hence, the concept of trophies was born.
Your assignment: Your eight-person rowing team has just been awarded a coveted trophy that will be the team’s to keep for one year. Since you don’t have a central clubhouse where it can be displayed, a decision must be made as to whose house it will stay in. Write a three-page scene in which the eight crew members (each with distinctly drawn personalities) attempt to reach an agreement.
America’s unabashed passion for baseball is aptly reflected in the number of popular movies that have been made about this sport: The Natural, Angels in the Outfield, The Bad News Bears, Field of Dreams, A League of Their Own, Pride of the Yankees, and Bang the Drum Slowly, just to name a few.
Your assignment: It’s the last game of the season and as captain of a team that’s been doing really great, you’re just an inning away from finally beating your neighborhood rival and becoming hometown heroes. You glance toward the dugout and see a nerdy kid that you’ve kept on the bench all season. There’s no question that he loves the game and has shown up every day with the same eager look on his face that maybe he’ll finally get his turn at bat. The problem, though, is that he’s just not very good and you know you’d catch grief from the rest of the team if you put him in. Write a two-page scene in which you defend your decision to let him play. Write a second two-page scene in which you explain to him why winning is everything and you’re keeping him on the bench.
FALL FROM GRACE
Recent history has given us no shortage of celebrity sports figures that have allowed fame to go to their heads and to break rules that have not only hurt their families, tarnished their reputations, and disappointed their fans but also caused them to lose commercial endorsements and, in some cases, even get banned from future participation in the sports they love.
Your assignment: The lead character in the film you’re writing is a popular female soccer player that the media just discovered has been taking steroids. Much as she’d just like to disappear for a while until everyone forgets about this illegal behavior, she has been urged by her manager to go on television and explain her actions. Write a one-page monologue in which she acknowledges her lapse in judgment and seeks forgiveness from the fans that looked to her as a role model.
As part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at or through my website at http://www.authorhamlett.com
Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 26 books, 128 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.