Directed by David Anspaugh and released in 1993, “Rudy” tells the story of a young man who pursues his life goal against all odds, and manages to accomplish his dream of playing football for Notre Dame. The film tackles prominent themes in sports psychology, such as self-confidence, goal setting and achievement, commitment, and sportsmanship inner drive, teamwork, and the existence of mentors.
The film follows the early life of Rudy Ruettiger, a boy whose dream is to play football for the Notre Dame University, which has one of the best football teams in the country. The third son of a factory worker, Rudy starts the work in the steel mill after finishing high school, dreaming to raise enough money to pay the tuition at Notre Dame. After his childhood friend dies in an accident at work, Rudy decides to follow his dream and leaves for South Bend, Indiana. He finds extraordinarily father figures and mentors on his path, in the persons of a local priest and of the Notre Dame stadium’s groundskeeper, named Fortune. Both are impressed by his determination and by his sincere nature and offer him help and emotional support. Rudy tries for several times to get admitted to Notre Dame, and he finally succeeds which opens the path towards the football team, where he is admitted in the prep squad.
He distinguishes himself during training for having a lot of heart, and never giving up, despite being hurt, or put to the ground. His father and his brothers however do not believe that he is in the team because they do not see him playing, and not even dressed up on the side. He therefore asks coach Ara Parseghian for a chance to dress up for one game during his final year at college. The coach promises to offer him this chance. However, coach Devine takes his place in Rudy’s final year, and continues to overlook him, causing Rudy’s anger, and his decision to quit. Fortune however confesses that he was also once in the team and quit, an action he regretted for the rest of his life. Rudy returns, and with the help of his teammates, he convinces the coach to allow him to suit up for the final game. As his parents and brothers come to watch him play, the entire stadium begins to chant his name, led by the Notre Dame players, in an attempt to convince the coach to allow Rudy to play. Rudy does play in the last seconds of the game, sacking a player from the opposite team. He is carried off the field on his teammates’ shoulders.
The film’s main theme is the determination of an individual to overcome all obstacles and realize his impossible dream. There are several major obstacles that stand in the way of Rudy’s way. First, it is his family’s financial situation, and social status. The Ruettiker boys were expected to follow his father and work in the steel mill, and were not encouraged to go to college. Second, Rudy is not tall or strong and therefore, he was not considered fit to play football. Finally, he is dyslexic, which stays in the way of academic achievements. Rudy however, has a huge desire to follow his dream, and tries to overcome each of the obstacles, thus proving great self-confidence. He establishes small goals in the attempt to reach his life goal. By achieving one goal after the other, Rudy gets closer and closer to reaching his impossible dream: first, he enters the Holy Cross College. There, he obtains good grades to be able to obtain a transfer to Notre Dame. Once at the Notre Dame College, he immediately tries to enter the team. Finally, while in the prep team, he pursues his final goal of dressing up and playing for one game. Establishing small goals is important because it allows him to keep his optimism as he records small successes.
His main advantages were his inner drive, and his energy and resilience. He was ready to make a greater effort than the other boys in order to succeed. Rudy never complains about his physical disadvantage, and he did not victimize himself. Instead, with each failure, he continues to try. In what football is concerned, Rudy compensates his physical disadvantage with great energy and resilience. He puts a lot of heart with each training session and all the coaches notice it. Coach Parseghian criticizes one of the other players and says, “If you had the tenth of the heart of Ruettiger, you would have made All American”. His willingness to work twice as his teammates and his endless energy impresses coaches and team leaders and bring him their respect, admiration and affection.
However, Rudy is also respected for his ethical system. He is committed and devoted to the team, and its symbols. When one teammate criticizes him for trying too hard, he confesses: “if I cool it, I won’t be helping you guys to get ready for the next week’s game, got it?”. Rudy therefore does not spare his efforts and energy to make sure that his teammates are prepared for the game His dedication and his optimism also inspire one of his other teammates, who declares: “you are one of the reasons I stayed on this last year”, in other words, that Rudy’s attitude encouraged him not to give up. While many athletes give up in lack of motivation, or support, Rudy had the support of men who counsel him, and offer him support, because they recognize his sincere commitment.
People around him influence Rudy to a great extent. His family keeps him from attempting to overcome his limits, from the belief that he does not have what it takes to succeed. However, his father’s love for the Notre Dame team, and the desire to make him, and the rest of his family proud, represent a great motivation for Rudy. His best friend’s death convinces him not to spare any more minute and to try to achieve the impossible. His friend constantly supported him, and offered him a Notre Dame College jacket before his death. This jacket reflects his intense desire and also his great commitment because he never takes his off. This jacket therefore becomes a symbolic object for Rudy. The trauma, which in many cases has a destructive effect upon young people, is constructive in Rudy’s case, because his friend had faith in him. The priest who helps him by having him admitted to the Holy Heart College is also a mentor for him, because he helps him to preserve his religious faith, and his spiritual strength. Finally, Fortune represents a silent and wise presence in Rudy’s life, who shows him what happens when one quits, and makes him realize he needs to keep trying.
Thus, Rudy’s story is a story of success because Rudy, despite the obstacles that seemed insurmountable, managed to reach his dreams by being committed, hard-working, and motivated. In addition, he pursued his life dream by establishing small goals, and using great energy and dedication to achieve each one. His ethical values and his loyalty to the team and to others, as well as his resilience and determination to give his best even in less important occasions, brought him the respect and admiration of coaches and team leaders, and determined them to try to help him. The men in his life had great influence upon him, and upon his decisions. They acted as motivational factors, helpers, counselors and mentors. However, it is his own inner drive, energy and optimism which brought him the affection of the others, and determined him to continue despite all odds.