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Mental Toughness Documentaries

Dr. Rob Bell has put together an intriguing list of 11 documentaries that all center around mental toughness and/or grit. The documentaries cover different sports and amazing feats of human survival and endurance, ranging from walking through wilderness to mountain climbing to cardiac rehabilitation to naval disasters. There's sure to be something that you'll find interesting and worthwhile on his list!

Check out his post here, and be sure to explore the rest of his blog and site for more resources and information about developing mental toughness.

Icarus

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Icarus, which won the 2018 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, is about the shadowy world of doping in international sport. Bryan Fogel, an amateur cyclist, sets out to show that anyone can game the system if they have the desire. Shortly after beginning his doping regimen, he is put in touch with Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of RUSADA (Russian Anti-Doping Agency), who helps him to mask his performance enhancement drug use. But what unfolds after is an international thriller as RUSADA is investigated and Rodchenkov flees to the United States. The information that Rodchenkov reveals to the world helped cause the partial ban of Russian athletes in the 2016 and 2018 Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

Released 2017; Runtime 121 minutes

Concepts
Doping: Bryan Fogel uses testosterone, HGH, and EPO, (a similar regimen to that of Lance Armstrong), and actually shows the injections; Through working with Rodchenkov, he is also able to mask his use.Confidence: Bryan feels much more confident goi…

More Than a Game

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More Than a Game follows high school star LeBron James and his talented teammates as they grow up and compete. They face many challenges along the way, including players being ineligible and growing media attention. This documentary focuses on their senior year and the last time they will ever play together.

Released 2009; Runtime 105 minutes

Concepts
Confidence: The team is overconfident their junior year, thinking they can act however they want and still come out victorious, which does not happen.Goal Setting: At the start of the year, because this is their last time playing together, the team sets out to be national champions; They accomplish their goal because everyone makes sacrifices for the good of the team and their goal.Media: Because of their success, they were on a national stage, with come with lots of fans, but also a lot of detractors and people who wanted them to lose.Team Cohesion: The "Fab Five" had been playing together since middle school and nothing could b…

Ip Man

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Ip Man is about a Chinese martial arts master (who taught Bruce Lee) who practiced Wing Chun during the Sino-Japanese War. After the war forces him from his home, he taught Wing Chun to locals as a method of self-defense against bandits. He also used his skills to defend himself and his family during the war and to proclaim pride in Chinese martial arts.

Released 2008; Runtime 106 minutes

Concepts
Ethics: Ip Man's core values are tested and on display as to why he practices martial arts, which is more about helping each other improve instead of harming others.Imagery: Ip Man regularly practices on a wooden dummy, simulating an opponent; This is also evident during his fight against the Japanese general where he imagines his training.Sportsmanship: This is shown by Ip Man's attitude and how he goes about every battle he has with professionalism, fairness, and humility.Pride: Ip Man helps restore pride to the citizens if his town, Foshan, who were humiliated and beaten by outsider…

Invincible

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Invincible follows the story of 30-year-old Vince Papale, a substitute teacher in Philadelphia. After losing his job and his marriage, Vince tries out for the Philadelphia Eagles, who are holding open tryouts to look for any hidden talents they've been missing. Vince trains relentlessly, defies the odds, and inspires both the city of Philadelphia and the nation.

Released 2006; Runtime 105 minutes

Concepts
Commitment: Vince refuses to allow his shortcomings define him; His level of determination sets him apart from everyone else and helps him earn a spot on the team.Inspirational Moments: Despite coming from trying circumstances and being doubted and kicked around, Vince's spirit wins out and leaves a mark on people.Pursuing Your Dream: Even when he was told that he would never make the team and experienced negativity about what he was doing, he kept moving forward towards his ridiculous endeavor.Underdogs: Vince makes it on the team as a walk-on, something that no one expected h…

When the Game Stands Tall

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When the Game Stands Tall is about a high school football team building a 151 game winning steak and what happens when they lose it. The team most unify as they recover from both the major loss they encountered and the loss of a former teammate.

Released 2014; Runtime 115 minutes





23 Blast

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23 Blast is about a high school football star, Travis, who suddenly loses his sight. Throughout the movie we see Travis struggle and adjust to his new lifestyle and fight his way back onto the field.

Released 2014; Runtime 98 minutes

Concepts
Disability: Travis is faced with an unexpected disability, becoming blind, and learning how to live and play football with that disability.Motivation (Extrinsic): Travis wants to prove those doubting him that they are wrong.Motivation (Intrinsic): Travis also wants to prove to himself that he can play football and still feel the same satisfaction he once did from playing.Parents & Family: His parents play a huge role in helping him adjust to his new lifestyle and are supportive of the decisions he makes.Sportsmanship: The rest of his team helps Travis adjust and reach his goals on and off the field.

42

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42 tells the story of Jackie Robinson, who was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946, breaking Major League Baseball's infamous color barrier. Even though Robinson faced a great deal of racism, he remained professional, displayed remarkable character, and eventually won over his team and the fans, changing baseball forever.

Released 2013; Runtime 128 minutes

Concepts

Race & Ethnicity Issues: The movie is about how Jackie Robinson was the first black MLB player, starting his first game in 1947.Motivation (Intrinsic): Robinson loved to play baseball and was determined to prove himself worthy enough to play in the MLB.Leadership: In every bad situation Robinson was put in, he remained positive, supported his team, and always strove to do the right thing on and off the field; He set an example for everyone to follow.Team Cohesion: Initially his teammates were not accepting of him, but eventually realized they all had more things in common than they did different, leading to Robinso…

Trophy Kids (HBO State of Play)

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Trophy Kids follows families in four different sports who are pushing their kids to succeed. But what are the kids playing for: their own dreams, or someone else's dream? This documentary takes an honest look at how sport parents can go wrong.

Released 2013; Runtime 107 minutes

Concepts

Parents & Family; Youth Sport: The entire documentary is about the state of youth sport and overbearing parents; Fascinating look at how well-intentioned people can push their children in counter-productive and negative ways.Motivation (Extrinsic): Many of the parents talk about their children obtaining a scholarship, playing professionally, living up to their expectations, etc., but rarely is anything intrinsic cited as a reason for playing.Anxiety & Stress: It is clear that the kids are stressed out by the forceful and negative parenting.


The Marinovich Project (ESPN 30 for 30)

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The Marinovich Project recounts the career of Todd Marinovich, who was slated to be the NFL's next big star. The documentary outlines Todd's upbringing, his legendary training and diet regimens, his high school and college careers, his tumultuous NFL career, and what happened to him afterwards.

Released 2010; Runtime 90 minutes

Concepts

Burnout: Todd Marinovich is one of the best-known cases of burnout; Plenty examples are given throughout the first half of entrapment, overtraining, foreclosed identity, and chronic stress.Parents & Family: A prominent fixture throughout Todd's early life was his father, who started training Todd when he was still in a crib; Todd's family goes through a lot of stress because of his intense training, plus when he is homeless following his NFL career.Substance Abuse: Todd becomes addicted to marijuana while in high school, using it as a release; His drug and alcohol use skyrocket in college and while in the NFL, causing him to leave foo…