In the Game
By Maria Finitzo
Historically a German, Irish, Polish and Lithuanian working class neighborhood, Chicago's Brighton Park is primarily a mix of natural, legal and undocumented Mexican residents today. It’s also home to Kelly High School, serving mostly minority students, predominantly Hispanics. In the throes of a severe budget crisis, the school is bracing for more cuts while struggling to provide basic educational services for its students.
At Kelly H.S., the girls’ soccer team aims for goals on the proverbial uneven playing field. Stan, a son of Polish immigrants, has been the soccer coach for nearly three decades, and would love to see the girls win a city-wide championship. He imparts a host of core values to his students, including commitment, determination, teamwork and more, with the ultimate goal of teaching the girls how to win at life.
IN THE GAME is a portrait of a working class community, one of many displaced by the demise of manufacturing jobs and the rise of real-estate values in major cities like Chicago. It portrays a group of trailblazing Latinas, who defy ghetto-glam, overtly-sexualized and mean-girl stereotypes, but are modest in many ways and bound by their first-generation traditional values. Their exceptional experience can influence the outcome of their lives, yet their culture and gender often lead to adversity that derail their college aspirations.
Largely because of their socio-economic status, these bright young women face uncertain futures. Yet, they remain hopeful and have won some hard-earned life lessons, in no small part thanks to the camaraderie of their teammates and the dedicated mentoring of their coach. So far, the team follows their coach, Stan’s, sage advice: “In life you deal with what’s dealt your way. When you get knocked down, just get up right away. Never give up.”