The story of a horse, a jockey and an inspiring coach

Directed by Gary Ross - 2003 - USA - 141 min


2021 July 19 | by Arduino Mancini Coaching - Performance - Resilience - Teamwork

Can you define coaching?

If you don’t have an instant answer, don’t worry: even those we might consider experts in the matter (right or wrong) are unlikely to provide identical definitions.

In my blog glossary, I defined coaching as the discipline by which a coach supports the efforts of a person, a team or organization in learning and/or performance improvement process aimed at achieving specific goals.

In short, coaching seems to be a serious business; too serious to be explained with only one definition.

So, I thought I might get some help from an amazing team: a horse, a jockey, a coach, and the entrepreneur who brings them together.

Well, here is their story.

Seabiscuit is a film that takes place in the USA in the 1930s, when a very serious economic crisis is taking place following the crash of ’29, which was as unexpected as it was dramatic; the Great Depression, as it is generally referred to, disrupted the life of the entire nation.

The story focuses on four characters.

Charles S. Howard, an entrepreneur in the automotive industry, is forced to face a personal tragedy more devastating than the economic crisis: Frank, his very young son, dies in a car accident. Charles and his wife are unable to overcome the tragedy and the marriage collapses.

Red Pollard, a boy that the family is forced to leave to a tutor because the available resources do not allow to support all the children.

Tom Smith, a bit cowboy a bit horse trainer, a man who struggles to adapt to a world that changes dramatically and who always ends up getting emotionally involved with the horses he gets in touch with; he is the famous quote “You don’t take a life and throw it away in bulk, just because it has some little defect” referring to a horse that anyone else would have sent to the slaughter-house.

The three lives cross when Charles decides to assign Tom the responsibility of training the horses in his stable and to purchase a horse that, despite having excellent pedigrees, has not been as successful as expected in competitions; indeed, as Tom says, he has actually unlearned how to race.

The horse is Seabiscuit, the film’s protagonist and capable of bringing out the best in the people he meets on his journey.

The coach understands that Seabiscuit might become a champion despite being short, overweight and having a shabby leg; with a lot of work and infinite patience, Tom gets him back on track.

But he has a problem: finding a jockey who can ride him.

It is at this point that Red Pollard enters the story; up to this point the boy has made his living by boxing and working occasionally as a jockey: Tom understands that Red and the horse have the same intractable temperament, and maybe for this very reason they could get along wonderfully.

The intuition is right and from that moment begins an exciting journey that, if you want to know, you will be forced to watch the film: what I can tell you is that the story of Seabiscuit helped the whole nation to rise again.

Now watch the trailer, then I’ll tell you what aspects I suggest you pay attention to.



How to watch the film

A very appealing film for people who live and work in organizations for which performance improvement, both individual and team, is a crucial element for the achievement of objectives.

Here are some of the aspects you’ll be able to notice:

  • an entrepreneur who grants his trust to his staff and waits, with confidence and patience, for the results to come;
  • a coach who can help the jockey and the horse to know each other, taking the best from each and accepting defects and areas for improvement;
  • an entrepreneur capable of choosing a coach who seems to have nothing to give, but who seems able to get the best out of whoever is in front of him, whether man or animal;
  • a trainer who doesn’t give a damn about the “flaws” and decides to entrust Seabiscuit to a jockey who has a limited visual range;
  • a team capable of absorbing, both technically and emotionally, the forced replacement of the jockey just before the most important race.

You will have understood that, for me, Tom Smith represents the most important character in the film: certainly, the one who has the most to teach.

A film that I recommend to managers, entrepreneurs, and coaches of all levels: but above all to

those who believe that talent always brings immediate results.

Because that talent, without preparation, is nothing.

A film to see, again and again.



Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, William H. Macy, Elizabeth Banks, Gary L. Stevens, Eddie Jones, Samuel D. Riddle, David McCullough

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