At first, back up quarterback Jonathan "Mox" Moxon (Van Der Beek) is nowhere close to being a football star. He's perfectly content to stay on the bench and out of the win-at-all cost strategies of coach Bul Kilmer (Jon Voight). But when the starting quarterback is injured, Mox is in the game…and in direct conflict with his hotheaded coach and girlfriend. Soon everyone in Mox's football-crazed community will realize there's not just a new star quarterback in town, there's a new kind of hero.
When a compulsive gambler (Keanu Reeves) is unable to pay a debt he owes to his friend, he is given the choice to payback the debt by coaching an inner-city little league baseball team. Taking on this new challenge gives him a new outlook on life, as well as the kids on the team. Based upon the book, "Hardball: A Season in the Projects", by Daniel Coyle.
Coach Carter is based on true events and while it contains the familiar theme of an underdog team’s soaring to excellence it is also about a man who tries to push that team to far greater things. As is mentioned during the movie, Carter wants to put the word, “student” back into the term, “student athlete”. To this end, on his first day with the team, he makes it clear who’s in charge by laying down some ground rules; he insists that all of the members sign a contract in which they must agree to maintain a 2.3 grade average, attend all their classes, sit in the front row and wear a tie on game days. Carter wants his athletes’ lives not to be ruled by the game alone in the hope that they can escape the unpromising future that inevitably awaits most of them.