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By Alan Ng | July 7, 2022

What kind of person does it take to be a winner in sports? More importantly, what kind of person does it take to be a winner in life? Is there a connection between the two? Documentarian Thomas A. Morgan may have found just that person in the game of rugby in his feature film, Scrum.

Scrum is the story of Frank McKinney, one of the only black college rugby coaches in the United States… probably the only one. Coach McKinney runs the men’s rugby team at the Queens University of Charlotte. Right from the beginning, the Queens’ team has the deck stacked against it. The rugby program is now in its third season. Though when he was initially hired, the administrators’ only question to McKinney was when he would win a national championship. An odd question considering there wasn’t even a team yet.

“…the story of Frank McKinney, one of the only black college rugby coaches in the United States…”

McKinney’s first job was to hire assistant coach Tyree Reed. Reed knew a lot about the game, but the problem was he didn’t have a college degree. Ultimately, Reed’s position was his, contingent on earning his bachelor’s degree. Next on McKinney’s list was finding players. The first was Jharid, a student from Jersey City, who was the foundation of the team. Taking this opportunity to earn a college degree would make a difference in not only his life but his single mother’s as well.

McKinney then recruited other players wherever he could find them, primarily from the wrestling team and then even taking on the school’s mascot. He worked tirelessly for his players by helping them work out their financial aid woes, classwork, and grades while assuring minority parents that their children were safe in the predominantly white state of North Carolina.

Sports documentaries often follow a team’s improbable winning season, which no doubt Scrum does. Yet, winning seems to be an afterthought during the third act. The film is less a profile of a winning team and more a profile of Coach McKinney’s philosophy of winning. His primary focus is on the personal development of his players. McKinney believes that good students and good citizenship make good players. When players succeed in the classroom, the team celebrates. He also invests in each player by getting to know them and their circumstances.

Scrum (2022)

Directed and Written: Thomas A. Morgan

Starring: Coach Frank McKinney, etc.

Movie score: 8.5/10

Scrum Image

"…built on the fundamentals of the game, good sportsmanship, and true teamwork."

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