Anyone out there with kids who may be thinking of enrolling them in sports, or have kids already in a sports program will absolutely love this DVD that is a solid life lesson not dissimilar to Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture.”
The Long Green Line features Coach Joe Newton of York High School in Elmhurst, Illinois who has used the sport of Cross Country to teach simple but important life lessons to high school boys for the last 50 years.
“Always do your best”, “be on time” and “it’s nice to be great but far greater to be nice” are his mantras, which have turned York High School Cross Country team into the top high school team in any sport in America. Newton turns boys into men, who carry his teachings with them throughout their lives.
The Long Green Line is the feature length documentary film that follows the York Duke’s 2005 Cross Country season as the runners seek their record 25th state title in 50 years. In the sport of Cross Country only the top five athletes per team score points and only seven are included in competition.
The York team has 221 athletes participating under the tutelage of Coach Newton. Though 214 boys know they will have no influence on the season’s scores, they are moved to participate just to be in the presence of Coach Newton.
Monsters and Critics had a chance to ask Coach Joe Newton some questions regarding his career, and philosophy.
What was the most revelatory thing you learned about yourself and your long career coaching in putting this documentary together?
JN: I hope the film shows 2 things – that I have a passion for my job, I love my job and I love young people. If you don’t love your job, there’s not enough money in the world that you can make. Also, there is more to the cross country team than winning.
For any student in athletics (mine is a varsity wrestler) what is the most important lessons – in your opinion – that adopting a sport in school curriculum offers them as a person?
JN: “It’s nice to be great, but it’s far greater to be nice.” I’ve only missed one day due to illness in 52 years of coaching. I teach the Golden Rule – do until others as you want them to do to you. This is more important than talent.
Most proud moment(s) of your career, and biggest disappointment?
JN: Proudest moment – I dreamed all my life of being an Olympic Coach – I had the opportunity to coach the Olympic track team at Seoul, South Korea in 1988.
Each time you lose is disappointing, but you move on. “The greatest thing in life is not in never having fallen, but in rising up again.”
Coach Newton is able to spread his influence on the large team by careful delegation and oversight,, but life lessons can go unheard when they have to trickle to so many ears.
In the middle of the season, two of the star athletes are expelled from school after committing over $1 million in arson damage. The York team is forced to rebuild — to face a true test of what they have learned both physically and mentally.
The team is colorfully decorated with characters like the All-American Dettman Twins, the high functioning autistic with a heart of gold, John Fisher, the out of shape former football players who reside on the lowest rung of the team, and the freshman Connor Chadwick, who has cerebral palsy but is able to run without leg braces for the first time in his life.
The Long Green Line is a rite of passage. It is a lifeline for these young runners as they move from adolescence to manhood.
The film was directed and produced by Matthew Arnold who grew up in Elmhurst. The producer and director of photography is Brady Hallongren who also hails from Elmhurst and ran on the cross country team under Coach Newton. The film features music from “The Frantic.”
One to own.