Homophobia is the topic explored in the compelling and devastating documentary “Training Rules.” The film is Dee Mosbacher’s up close analyzation of Penn State’s women’s basketball team. Running time is less than an hour, but the feature easily packs more punch than movies running three times that length.
The main focus lies on Penn State’s former coach Rene Portland. Portland, who remained employed at the college for over twenty years, was looked upon favorably by other coaches, but racked up high controversy over her anti-lesbian attitude. She is best known for blatantly dismissing players who admitted to being lesbians, associating with lesbians or even talking with them. Actions were so extreme that players even lost scholarships.
Throughout the movie several teammates who have been scarred by the coach’s discrimination speak out including Cindy Davis and Courtney Wicks. Perhaps the most notable case was Jennifer Harris, a student who managed to get the NCAA involved to rock the boat. Harris was dismissed after Portland confronted her with lesbian accusations. She basically presented Harris with a choice: be gay or play basketball.
Through the efforts of Harris and her family, Portland was fined and ultimately resigned two years ago, after infuriated members of the student body picketed and protested as to how this woman still remained employed at the university.
Late in the film, a player laments that Penn State and the NCAA have really missed the whole point of the women’s basketball movement. “Women’s basketball is supposed to be about change, progression and opportunities.” Perhaps one-day college sports will start living by that statement instead of spending infinite amounts of energy to refute it.
”Training Rules” is a very well done documentary because like the best of them, it addresses an important topic and manages to accurately convey the painful effects of such a scenario while educating the viewer. Easily a piece that could be used in any high school classroom demonstrating the importance of acceptance and tolerance when it comes to sexuality in sports, this gem is worth seeking out.