Strength Spotting: What’s right with Timo?

Coach Carter is the true story of coach Ken Carter, a tough, no-nonsense high school basketball coach who took an underfunded, underprivileged, unenthused, and all-around weak excuse for a basketball team and turned them into a team of champions, on and off the court. As you watch this clip, ask yourself, what’s right with this picture?

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Neutrino’s Analysis

Timo’s Strengths

Even without referencing the rest of the film, it’s made clear in this scene that Timo is one of the weak links on the team. He has previously been kicked off the team and is given a chance to rejoin if he can meet Carter’s tough standards of excellence. Timo falls well short and the uncompromising Carter, though impressed, perhaps feels that it wouldn’t be fair to the other players to accept him, having fallen short a whopping 80 suicides and 500 push-ups.

The core strengths he does display are bravery and persistence in putting himself out there and trying again. It’s not enough to meet Carter’s standards, but luckily, it is enough for his team to recognize how hard he’s trying, and trying again alongside them as they help him out.

The Team’s Strengths

Appreciation of beauty and excellence is a clear strength displayed by the team. Not everybody would be able to see the heart and willpower lying underneath Timo’s efforts. Open-mindedness and wisdom are on display as well, but above all we see virtues of teamwork and loyalty. These kids have taken Carter’s teachings to heart, and even as Carter feels compelled to follow the rules to the letter, the students prove that they’ve been listening and take on the leadership role in this scene, following Carter’s teachings in spirit.

Carter’s Strengths

Coach Carter is one of those tough but fair coaches, in the film and in real life, and this scene shows a softer side of his personality. A side that can be humble, kind, and forgiving. Most of this film has Carter taking a leadership role, pushing the players to excel on and off the court, changing their minds about life, about themselves and about one another. In this scene, the players reverse roles and teach Carter something.

Humbled, Carter accepts Timo onto the team, concluding the scene by showing a great display of mercy, fairness, and perspective. A lesser coach might have insisted on following the letter of the law in order to maintain consistency and integrity, but Carter is capable of seeing the full picture: perhaps he’s bending the rules, but the kids clearly get what those rules are there for in the first place, so there’s nothing wrong with showing some mercy in this instance.


Character strength references:

Peterson, C., & Park, N. (2009). Classifying and measuring strengths of character. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology, 2nd edition (pp. 25-33). New York: Oxford University Press.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

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