Born to Play

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Born to Play TV Poster Image
Female athletes fight for glory in tender football doc.

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Positive Messages

Hard work may not result in glory, but living an authentic life is essential to lasting happiness. Life isn't fair, and spoils are distributed unequally, but pushing through can result in deep self-satisfaction. Teamwork and perseverance have their own rewards, including being part of a close-knit group.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Players are uniformly tough and powerful, facing great odds yet fighting against them tenaciously. We see them at work and at home to emphasize how much of their lives they've dedicated to the game. Allison's mom is touchingly proud of her daughter, showing off pictures of her sporting life. Chanté's sister hugs her and says how much she admires her strength and power.

Violence

The brutality and potentially injurious nature of football is emphasized. We see players get knocked down, barreled into, suffer injuries like a torn ACL and then attempt to recover. In one scene, a player's family boils lobsters alive (we don't see the lobsters actually go in the water, but the family talks and jokes about it). 

Sex

We see some players with their same-sex romantic partners, holding hands or snuggling together at home. 

Language

Language includes "ass," "damn," "goddammit," "hell," and sound-alike curses like "frigging." Stronger words like "s--t," "f--king," and "motherf--king" are bleeped. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Born to Play is a documentary about the players of the Boston Renegades, a women's tackle football team. There is little iffy content -- no drinking, smoking, or drugs, no sexual content (save for same-sex partners cuddling affectionately), and language is confined to "ass," "hell," "damn" and "goddammit," with words like "s--t," "f--k," and "motherf--king" bleeped. Violence is also infrequent, though it's clear how physically taxing the game is and how brutal it can be, as we see players mowed down and knocked over on the field. We also see them recovering from injuries, or dealing with injuries that keep them from playing altogether. We are also made aware of how hard and tirelessly they work, and how little glory they receive for that work. Family members are supportive and close, and proud of their athletes. Ultimately, though it's clear how humble this league is compared to male football leagues, we understand how important the game is to its players, and the perseverance and teamwork that makes it so meaningful to them.

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What's the story?

Tackle football is generally a game reserved for male athletes, but BORN TO PLAY shines a light on the little-known women's tackle football league, and one team in particular, the Boston Renegades. They don't get paid like their male counterparts, they don't draw huge crowds, and they wield precious little power and fame. But on the field, these athletes put their bodies on the line, even if during the day they keep the full-time jobs that are necessary to support their dreams. In this documentary, we meet players who range in age from 18 to 49, and come from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, yet are united by their love of the game and their willingness to do what it takes to keep playing. 

Is it any good?

There's plenty of valor to go around in sports movies and the lion's share generally goes to male players, but the women of the Renegades fight, hard, and win at least a measure of respect and admiration. The diminished status of women's sports is underlined in countless ways in this sensitive documentary. There's the revelation that all the Renegades players pay to play, the camera sweeping over the sparse crowds at games, and one player's realization that she can't just recover from an injury like a male player and keep going out on the field because she has a day job she needs to maintain. "The male pros can commit 100 percent of their time and energy to playing and improving," she tells us wistfully in Born to Play. "I wish I could do that too." 

And yet, these powerful athletes are electrified with delight to be playing at all. The joy is particularly evident emanating from quarterback Allison Cahill, who first announced her intention of growing up to be a football player at age 4. At practices, at games, even in her day job as a personal trainer, she pushes so hard it's as if she could will her team into success and acclaim with one more drill, one more play. Cornerback Chanté Bonds.puts it into words: "Being on the field makes me feel alive," she says bluntly. "I was born to play." And this sentiment -- despite the ordinariness of their day-to-day lives, and the injuries, and the never ending struggle -- is why these women soldier on. It's easy to admire their athleticism and grace on the field, but it's in their daily lives that these women show their true toughness, enduring so much for such precious little glory. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Born to Play is and isn't like other sports movies or documentaries. What sets it apart from similar movies? How are the players similar or different to athletes in other documentaries? Are their struggles different, too? 

  • Do you think the media glamorizes professional sports and sports stars? If so, is that a positive or negative thing? Do the players in this documentary receive any of this glory? Why or why not? 

  • How do Renegade players demonstrate perseverance and teamwork in Born to Play? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

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For kids who love sports

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