In 1971, a time when women’s sports are viewed as unimportant and often unnecessary, Immaculata College has just one basketball team—all girls. The college’s gym burned down months ago and the activities room is full of statues and boxes of old junk—there’s nowhere to play. And to top it all off, the school may close soon due to a lack of funds. The odds were stacked against the Immaculata College Mighty Macs, to say the least, but when Coach Cathy Rush arrived, everything changed.
“The Mighty Macs,” a Quaker Media film written and directed by Tim Chambers and produced alongside Pat Croce and Vince Curran, tells the inspirational, true story of Cathy Rush (played by Carla Guigino), a woman who believed in making dreams reality and fighting for change during a time when women were often considered secondary to men and given few opportunities to showcase their talent.
Rush, newlywed to NBA referee Ed Rush (David Boreanaz), has experienced disappointments as a talented member of her own high school and college basketball teams. Looking to fulfill long lost dreams, Rush sets out to become the coach of the women’s basketball team at Immaculata College. She’s hired on the spot by the critical Reverend Mother St. John (Ellen Burstyn) who’s too busy dealing with the struggling school’s financial well-being to become interested in women’s basketball. Despite well-anticipated adversity, Rush whips her amateur team into top playing condition and leads them all the way to the first-ever women’s basketball NCAA Championship in 1972.
Many feel-good sports movies have been produced in the past, but there’s something special and authentic about “The Mighty Macs” that sets it apart from the others.
Aside from the fact that “The Mighty Macs” is one of the few movies centered on women’s sports, the truth of the story itself and the simple, honest way it unfolds are a part of its uniqueness. The movie was filmed on location at Immaculata, now a university, and various other familiar places like West Chester University and Jimmy John’s diner, which make it believable and exiting for those who have frequented these places. Costumes and props also give the movie a genuine '70s feel.
Although the storyline is mainly based around Rush’s experiences, told from her perspective, the film has a lot of depth and is rich with details. Characters deal with a number of issues throughout the simultaneous growth of the women’s basketball team: One young nun, Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton) is second guessing her vocation, one team member is poor and must decide between working at a department store or remaining on the team, one team member’s boyfriend breaks up with her, and the list goes on.
Despite the various dilemmas characters undergo, a mix of humor and wit shine through at different moments of the film. It’s hard to resist laughing at scenes of nuns in habits on treadmills and nuns jumping for joy in Converse sneakers. The various drills Rush creates for the team—wearing oven mitts while playing, running through underground tunnels in the cold dark and practicing against boys—are often unheard of, inviting scorn from Mother St. John. There are numbers of memorable words of wisdom like the line in Cathy’s pep talk to her team, “As you think, so shall you be. Be not afraid.”
The funny, smart and inspiring story of “The Mighty Macs,” which hit theaters Oct. 21, 2011 and was released to DVD last Tuesday, Feb. 21, is clean-cut and rated G, making it suitable for everyone from “8 eight to 88,” as
Lessons of courageously following one's heart and shooting for the stars, combined with the example it provides of one person’s ability to change the lives of many people, leaves a lasting impression.