Disney’s 1993 feel-good story Cool Runnings, which is very loosely based on the true story of the first Jamaican bobsled team, still ranks among the top 10 sports comedies of all time. And why not? It has all the makings of the kind of story you want to see in sports: a great Jamaican athlete loses out on a chance at the 1988 Olympics in his own sport (sprinting) so he finds an American coach to help Jamaica reach its first winter Olympics. The crew that joins the adventure includes a go-cart racer and two other sprinters who lost their shot at the summer games.
The core of Cool Runnings is about overcoming obstacles and not letting expectations hinder progress. After you’ve seen the movie, here are a few topics to discuss with kids:
- ”Do the words ‘give up’ mean anything to you?” Derice Bannock has to hurdle obstacle after obstacle in his quest to the Olympics. At each one he adjusts and works with his team for creative solutions. When your kids hit an obstacle in their path toward success, help them work through creative solutions instead of giving up.
- Be honest about your dreams. Junior Bevil didn’t tell his father about his dreams or even that he had joined the bobsled team. This caused a father-son dust-up that could have been avoided if they’d both respected each other a little. It’s important for kids to be honest and proud of what they hope to accomplish, even if it seems laughable to some. Being honest will help other adults and friends work together to find ways to accomplish those goals.
- Be yourself. When the Jamacians reached the bobsled run and tried to emulate the very successful Swiss team, they found out that wasn’t what worked for them. While kids can have heroes and mentors to look up to, it’s important to try to be the best version of themselves and not a carbon copy of someone else.
Now that you’ve seen Cool Runnings, try these screen-free activities inspired by the movie.
- Create your own family Olympics. Make medals and create games for your family’s version of the Olympics. Let your kids make up some of the games on their own — Hot Wheels races or paper airplane contests, anyone? — and compete as individuals or make teams (kids against parents or pair up parents with kids).
- Make a mirror. Kids should be proud of their differences and of who they see in the mirror. This craft from the Powerful Mothering blog helps kids learn about loving themselves.
- Learn about your differences. At first, the Jamaicans were seen as different because there hadn’t been many bobsledders like them — Black and from a warm-weather country — in the Olympics before. Help your kids understand that we should embrace differences in ourselves and others by learning about their own. They can start by making a list of what makes them the same and different from their siblings, kids in their class, their neighbors, etc. Then teach them why those differences are important in life such as what makes them unique and special makes them a help to others.
- Throw a Jamaican-themed party. Warm up in the winter months with a Jamaican-themed party and learn about where the team came from. First, help your kids learn about the island and its inhabitants. Then, they can assist making a menu, party invitations for the family and decorations, while finding a Caribbean music station on Spotify or Pandora.
- Dig your own bobsled run. When the snow is on the ground – and there’s enough to create piles – kids can take to the backyard to make their own bobsled runs downhill with turns and curves.