EEC: Documentary Studies

Your response to “Hoop Dreams”

The Econ Extra Credit Team Mar 18, 2021
Heard on:

Thanks for writing in with your thoughts and reactions to this month’s documentary selection, “Hoop Dreams.” As former young athletes or the parents of young athletes today, you reflected on the economic experiences of the families in the film and offered your own observations about the pressures of playing competitive sports. 

Tracy C., who played field hockey and studied economics at the University of Michigan, wrote:

“It takes a village to raise young men these days and keep them moving forward. My heart went out to both of these young men and their families and I was so proud of them for persevering and getting that college degree.”

Tracy also offered a view on whether college athletes who earn scholarships should receive further compensation or be allowed to enter into endorsement deals: 

“I don’t buy this argument because I feel that … a college education is what they are being paid for their work on the field. Also, this prevents one college athlete from being valued more highly than another. In most cases, the work and energy that has been expended to get to that level of achievement is the same for a swimmer or gymnast as that of a football player. Just because the public prefers to watch football does not mean that that athlete should be more highly rewarded or paid.”

Heather F., who watched the film with her 18-year-old daughter, said she spotted the economics lessons throughout.

“I think the film illustrates the basic concepts of barriers to entry, likelihood of success, [return on investment] and others extremely well. It also raises questions about some assumptions that underlie thinking — and therefore policymaking — about poverty/employment in the U.S. Some of those were at play as Congress deliberated Pres. Biden’s COVID relief bill. Is single-minded dedication and hard work/devotion enough to work my way out of poverty or at least better my socio-economic standing — and hopefully, that of my family? Is ‘failure’ to achieve one’s version of the American Dream always, sometimes, or never the result of not working hard enough?”

Adam S., a high school teacher and coach, had this to say:

“My own experiences in high school, coupled with my experience of watching the film, have shaped my philosophies as a teacher and a coach. I see the systemic pressures of performance/winning, the negative and positive effects on the spirit and body. Today’s teenagers are under more stress than any generation before them… The dark side of youth sports is a microcosm of American society today: racial and socio-economic inequality, fanaticism, skewed priorities, tribalism, and money. But youth sports still are and can be great. We just need to focus on the positive values they instill.”

Thanks so much for writing in! We’re taking next week off and we’ll be back April 1 with a preview of our next selection for this “Econ Extra Credit” documentary film series

Got a documentary recommendation you’d like us to consider? Email us at

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