Coach Lad: The Real Story of the Coach Portrayed in ‘When The Game Stands Tall’


In his 33 years at De La Salle High School in California, Bob “Coach Lad” Ladouceur became one of the most successful high school coaches in the nation. His 399-25-3 record ranks the most victories in California history, including 29 North Coast Section championships, 17 California State championships and the longest winning streak in the history of high school sports. Five different times, both USA Today and Fox Sports Net voted De La Salle the No. 1 team in the nation; the Spartans finished in the Top 20 every year for the past two decades.

Three times USA Today named Coach Lad National High School Coach of the Year. He was the first NFL National High School Coach of the Year, from among 1,200 nominees. In 2011, he was inducted into the Federation of State High School Associations Hall of Fame.

Under Coach Lad’s leadership, De La Salle posted win streaks of 34, 44 and 151 games–the latter a national record. More than 80 of Coach Lad’s players received college scholarships; 10 went on to play in the NFL.

Interestingly, Coach Lad’s coaching philosophy and style have remained practical and down to earth. He stresses superior physical conditioning, mastery of football basics, and total commitment to team success, and he’s known for translating lessons from football into daily life. His ability to instill the fundamentals of the sport showed clearly as his players consistently outperformed teams that far outsized them.

Bob first joined the De La Salle school staff as a full-time religious studies teacher, an assignment he held throughout his coaching years and continues today in the wake of his remarkable coaching career.

Check out When The Game Stands Tall in theaters today.

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Post sponsored by When the Game Stands Tall

Watch the Trailer for ‘When The Game Stands Tall’

When the Game Stands Tall opens in theaters everywhere Friday.

What Makes a Great Sports Movie?

What makes a great sports movie?

Is it passion?


Chariots of Fire

Or the invincible spirit of a dreamer?




Is it the courage to get back up?



Or the heart of an unexpected champion?



Or is it all of the above?

Check out When The Game Stands Tall coming to theaters August 22.

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5 Best Coaches in Football Movies

5. Coach Gary Gaines (Billy Bob Thornton) in Friday Night Lights


4. Coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) in Remember the Titans


3. Coach Tony D’Amato (Al Pachino) in Any Given Sunday


2. Coach Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) in We Are Marshall


1. Coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) in Invincible



Check out Jim Caviezel as Coach Bob Ladouceur in When The Game Stands Tall

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Brought to you by our sponsor When the Game Stands Tall.

American Bible Challenge – Watch Host Jeff Foxworthy Talk About His Personal Faith

American Bible Challenge airs on the Game Show Network (GSN) Thursdays at 8/7central

This post is part of a promotional campaign for the American Bible Challenge

Video: Watch the Trailer for ‘Heaven is For Real’

This post is shared from our partners in support of Heaven is For Real.

Video: Faith Leaders Praise ‘Noah’

We’ve heard from a few faith leaders speaking out against ‘Noah,’ most of whom haven’t even seen it.

Now Paramount is releasing a video of faith leaders who have seen the film and their reactions.

“Grace Unplugged” – The Prodigal Daughter

by Patti Maguire Armstrong

This was first posted in The Integrated Catholic Life

Imagine that the father of the “Prodigal Son” from Scripture once partied like a rock star before converting to the goodness of a Godly life.  He taught his sons well, sharing the emptiness of his past as a place never to wander. But one son, thinking his Father to be boringly conservative, leaves for the bright lights and all that goes with it. Imagine the Father’s heartbreak after bringing a greater truth to his children only to have one runaway for a lesser existence.

Such is the situation in the movie Grace Unplugged, rated PG, in theaters October 4.  But rather than a father/son story, it is a father/daughter scenario.  And instead of losing worldly riches and ending up struggling to survive, the main character risks spiritual riches in place of fame and fortune.

Grace Trey, is a pretty, sweet, Christian teen with enormous musical great talent.  Her father Johnny once put the “party” in rock star until finding Christ and leaving the stage for a church music ministry.  He teaches Grace well, imparting both music and Christianity.  It’s a happy ending, bad boy makes good story until the next generation. At the impressionable age of eighteen Grace gets the break of a lifetime but her Dad tries unsuccessfully to stand in the way.  Without his blessing, she answers the call to fame and finds it’s everything she ever dreamed of, and a whole lot more than she ever imagined.

True to Life?

During interviews, the movie’s producers and actors were asked if using people, backstabbing, pressure, phoniness, and temptations portrayed on the screen is what the big time in Music and Hollywood is about. Their answers:  yes, all of that, and no, that’s not all there is.

Writer/director Brad Silverman explained that even though you won’t see “inspired by a true story” under the title, it does reflect real life on the way to fame and also the reality that many parents confront. It’s about the story, not about the music business or Hollywood, according to him. “I did not set out to make a movie that said, Christian Music good, Hollywood bad,” Silverman said. “It’s about a girl who is coming of age and has to wrestle with the pull of God and the pull of the world.”

He shared that some of the inspiration for the movie’s story line comes from a friend, whose daughter ran away and has been estranged from the family for over six years. “Maybe she will see this movie and it will give her the jolt to come back to Christ.”

Silverman was asked if the movie is a case of art imitating life as in the recent shocking example of former Disney star, Miley Cyrus, raised a Southern Baptist by a singer/father. , Silverman shrugged but did not comment directly on Miley. “This movie seems to be coming out at the right time,” he said.

Christianity in Hollywood

AJ Michalka, 22, who plays Grace, says she can attest that the world will tug at a Christian’s faith in Hollywood. The successful actress, musician and songwriter has been named one of the top 25 performers, by The Hollywood Reporter. She was a Disney star on both television and the big screen (Secretariat) and she her sister Aly are platinum selling recording artists as 78Violet, formerly known as Aly & AJ.

“It’s not always easy, but you have to make the decision to follow your faith,” she said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found the only way to keep my priorities right is to get more into God’s word.”  She points to family—like in the movie—as in important support system not to let faith it slip away.  “My mother and my sister are my main support,” she says. “Everyone always loves my mother, and my sister Aly and I talk about everything.”   With God and family at the center, Michalka said she has avoided a lot of the drama and temptation that comes with fame.  “Family are the ones that will always tell you the truth, and that is what I like about the movie,” she said. “It doesn’t preach but the message is that family matters and to surround yourself with people who love the Lord and you won’t fail.”

Pre-production of Grace Unplugged had begun before a “Grace” was actually found but writer/director Brad Silverman said that Michalka ended the search.  “We wanted someone who could convincingly play an 18-year-old, she had to be good-looking but the girl-next-door type; she had to act, sing, and play the guitar like Eddie Van Halen too. And, she had to be Christian too.” When the two met for the project—both sizing up the other—they also prayed together. “She was just such a gift from God on every level,” Silverman said.

James Denton is Johnny Trey, Grace’s father. He attended college on a basketball scholarship, dabbled a bit in acting then settled down to a job in advertising.  At 28, he tried acting again in theater, movies and TV including the award-winning Desperate Housewives.  Denton said being a Christian really does make a difference in Hollywood, or at least it should. “There are times when deciding not to compromise my values means having to turn things down,” he said. “Then, there are other times that I’ve done things and my Christian friends will question me if I should be doing that or not.  So being a Christian affects who I am and the work that I do.”  Denton said that as a father of a young girl, he identified with Johnny’s character.  “I know what it’s like to see my daughter use a hairbrush for a microphone and sing in front of the mirror,” he said. “I understand first-hand wanting to protect my child from the dangers of fame.”

Shawnee Smith, who portrays Michelle, Johnny’s wife and Grace’s mother, actually homeschools her own three children.  For her, the part in Grace Unplugged is an extension of her own values and hopes, not just her children but for herself.  “I would love to be in a marriage like theirs,” she said.  Although Johnny plays a central role, Michelle’s character is quietly strong and loving. “By not pushing and telling her husband what to do, she gives him time to decide himself what to do,” she said. “It would not have been the same or had the same effect if Michelle had been telling him what to do all the time.”

Smith’s character is certainly not timid or mousey. As often happens in real life parenting, disagreement over how to handle Grace creates tension in the marriage but never sacrifices their respect for one another.

More than Entertainment

Perhaps Grace Unplugged is convincing because these actors are not totally acting. Their roles reveal a part of who they are.  According to Silverman, it’s the part of the movie he hopes makes a difference, because he wanted it to be more than just entertainment. “I’m hoping we prompt a lot of dialogue between families, that this movie is a conversation starter,” Silverman said.  He would like it to also encourage people to re-examine their definition of success and consider the part that God plays in it.

For parents whose greatest desire for children is God, this movie will speak to the heart. For young adults and teens, who desire both God and success, it will stir the heart and present values to ponder.

Two books to accompany the movie have been released by B&H Books: Grace Unplugged is a novelization of the movie by Melody Carlson; and Own It, by Michael and Hayley DiMarco, is a book featured in the movie. The latter challenges readers to develop a belief in God that becomes their own.

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Movies: What Every Dad Should See

By Phil Boatwright

This was first posted in the Baptist Press

“Grace Unplugged” is the tale of a former rock star’s 18-year-old prodigal daughter who wants to find her own fame.

Grace Trey, portrayed by A.J. Michalka of “Super 8″ and “The Lovely Bones” lineage, is a member of her dad’s praise and worship team, but the gifted singer and musician heeds the call of the secular music world. After she gets the music break of a lifetime and is thrust into the “real world,” her faith is quickly put to the test.

The film’s premise is certainly timely, as in reality we see former teen cable network stars forced to change their image for relevancy in today’s pop-culture that demands change over talent.

The makers have updated the prodigal son parable by changing the lead’s gender, and creating a father in need of as many lessons as his wayward child. The story is set in the music world, allowing Michalka to make full use of all her entertainment talents. She’s best known for her singing career as half of the duo Aly & AJ, renamed 78Violet.

Actress Shawnee Smith, who has personally tasted the bitter and sweet of show business, portrays in Grace Unplugged a loving Christian wife and mother. While the film focuses more on a father/daughter relationship, it also explores the downside of fame.

Smith too expresses hope that daughters across America see the movie.

“Somebody brought up Miley Cyrus last night. I hope she sees the movie,” Smith said. “I don’t know how she could watch it and not see how that world can molest your life. What’s dead somehow looks shiny. I remember being there. I relate to this story. I was in a rock band. I know that world.

“You feel [in the movie] the power of it. You quickly get onboard with that illusion,” Smith said. “And by film’s end, Grace sees what’s real and what’s truly satisfying. I hope all the Miley Cyruses see this film.”

The role is unique to Smith’s career, shaped by “Becker,” “Saw,” “Saw 2,” and “Easy Prey.”

“I was drawn to the film right away from reading the script. I wept,” Smith said. “There’s real substance to it. I just wanted to be a part of this movie. I loved the main character. I would be so happy for my daughter to be this woman. And I’m finally doing a movie she could actually see.”

Grace Unplugged is not afraid to mention the name Jesus. Perhaps most films do that, but here His name is not uttered in anger, but rather mentioned as a centerpiece in several characters’ spiritual lives. I’m sure this is the icing on the cake for devout Christian Michalka, to be the star of a movie meant to honor God, strengthen the body of Christ, and witness to members of an industry caught up in the Me-ism of celebrity.

The movie attempts to reveal the underbelly of the music industry, but in a family-friendly way. It adds a religious component, undoubtedly a real-life reality for former church singer Cyrus.

At a recent press junket in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to meet the movie’s writer and director Brad Silverman and its cast. What a pleasant surprise to discover that the film’s star, director and the producer are all followers of Christ, their openness concerning their faith deeply affecting other cast and crew.

The film’s faith connection is endearing and rare, Michalka said.

“Usually when I read a script, I look to see how I feel about the role, what drives the character. But with this script, it was really the faith behind it. And when I met Brad Silverman, and seeing his love for God and his passion for this film, it was so moving to me,” Michalka said. “I actually came home from the interview and cried. I was overwhelmed. It was so cool to be in a meeting in the dead center of Hollywood, but it had nothing to do with Hollywood. It had to do with the Lord. That’s rare.”

The film is more about light than darkness, Silverman said.

“I don’t want to glorify sin. I wanted it to be a heart issue. This girl has a heart change. She makes an intelligent decision for her. I didn’t want it to be about ‘how dark can I get this girl to go?’” Silverman said. “This is a coming-of-age story of a girl who has to wrestle with her heart, not a story on the evils of Hollywood. But I had to ask myself, ‘How am I going to tell this story in a PG way?’ Some people will say I didn’t go dark enough, but I don’t apologize for that.”

Kevin Pollak, who portrays a music agent/promoter, said focusing on the dark would cheapen the film.

“It cheapens [Grace Trey's] decision and the audience’s experience if the music industry and her career represent hedonistic values. If it’s a true opportunity, a life opportunity that’s being experienced by her, then how much more difficult is that decision to choose family first? And faith?” Pollak said. “It’s only when given true opportunity that those decisions are more difficult to make. You just cheapen it all with a stereotypical dark side. It’s just too easy for her to say ‘What was I thinking? I’ve fallen prey to the demons,’ as opposed to ‘That’s what I thought I wanted.’”

Grace’s lesson in living her dreams leads to reconciliation with her father, her God, and her family, Pollak said.

One more theme that runs throughout the film is the question of “borrowed faith,” noted by producer Russ Rice.

“I hope the movie leads kids to examine themselves and their faith,” Rice said. “Do they own their faith, or is it merely borrowed from their parents?”

The film features the acting or feature film debuts of three music stars: Christian singer Jamie-Grace, American Idol Season 10 Finalist Pia Toscano, and an appearance by renowned Christian artist/songwriter and Grammy Award® winner Chris Tomlin.

Grace Unplugged will be released in theaters Oct. 4. For more information about the film and the companion book, “Own It” by Michael & Hayley DiMarco, visit
In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for He is also a regular contributor to “The World and Everything in It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.