The Roughnecks

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
The Roughnecks Movie Poster Image
Pee Wee football docu is interesting but intense.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 95 minutes

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Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Extraordinary hard work, strong motivation, and hard-driving coaching will lead to success. Kids at the tender ages of 10 and 11 may be abused both physically and emotionally in the name of organized youth sports.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Parents appear to care deeply and want their children to thrive. Head coach, while portrayed as well-meaning and generous with his time, is intent upon winning. He believes in "take-no-prisoners" coaching. He pushes the kids through grueling training and practicing, and his coaching style is loud, harsh, and hypercritical. Racial diversity throughout. The main two boys we see are very "real" kids, very relatable to young audiences.


Multiple sequences show Pee Wee football practice and games, with tackling, hard hits, and a few mild injuries. Several scenes are devoted to the past tragic death of the father of one of the key players, using old news stories, interviews, and the reflections of the boy's mother. Other boys reveal some inner turmoil and stress.


"Kick ass," "goddamn," "ass-whupped," and one nearly inaudible "f--k."


Fit for Life, Islander Motor Sales (Florida).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Roughnecks is a documentary about one season with the Fort Worth "Ridglea Roughnecks" Pee Wee football team. Eleven-year-olds, along with their coaches and family members, are determined to win the Texas sports league's youth "Super Bowl" for their team and community. The film is an objective look at the events, the kids, and their coaches. For some viewers this will be a satisfying journey to greatness and distinction. They'll admire the developing talent, hard-driving energy, and commitment to grueling work and play that it takes to make the kids' dreams come true. For others, it will be a cautionary tale, a close-up look at a punishing schedule of drills, practices, and hypercritical coach's harangues that could stress, humiliate, or defeat even the most resilient kids. The game and practice sessions filmed include hard-hitting tackles, extreme training and workouts, and angry tirades directed at the kids. One boy's history involves the murder of a family member; newsreel stories and interviews tell the sad tale. There are a few profanities ("kick ass," "ass-whupping," "goddamn," and one nearly inaudible "f--k"). 

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What's the story?

Richard Cameron White and Marty Bowen spent months filming, interviewing, and researching the events that take place in THE ROUGHNECKS. Told in chronological order from selection of teams to the final playoffs of the season, the documentary shows the games, many practices, and sequences filmed at home and at the participants' schools. Though the filmmakers spotlight three kids off the field (Jameel Mainor, son of the assistant coach; J.D. Myers; and Darius Williams), the football-game footage simply follows the team and does not focus on the actions of the individual players. The coaches are presented as complex men: their aspirations are simple and earnest, but their methods will inspire some and disgust others.  

Is it any good?

If the filmmakers' goal was to present a nonjudgmental chronology of events, with a close look at some of the participants and their stories, they have succeeded. However, though there is no voice-over narration to provide a point of view, their selection of so many of the tough coach's diatribes and punishing practice drills offers some clues to their personal perspective. Edited to accommodate both the personal and the team accomplishments, the film is able to move seamlessly between the two. The directors have managed to keep suspense alive, even though the outcome is predictable. For some families, and particularly for sensitive kids, it may be difficult to watch given the harsh treatment the boys receive. One particularly vulnerable team member appears to be stressed beyond endurance, and the head coach's intense need to win (which is traced back to his own sports career), though reflective of many youth instructors, is sometimes hard to take.  It's interesting to note that one of the producers of the film was a member of the Ridglea Roughnecks when he was young. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the three purposes of documentary films: to inform, persuade, and entertain. Which is the primary purpose of this film? How do the other two purposes come into play?

  • Coaches can have different styles. If you play any sport, do you play better with positive or negative feedback? Why?

  • How can participation in sports for kids reflect the community in which the events take place? What did you learn from this film about the town of Ridglea, Texas, and the people who live there?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sports

Themes & Topics

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