A contender is a stock character found in stories, television series, films, and other works depicting the development and triumph of an individual through athletic achievement. The typical storyline of the contender is one of an (often young) individual with raw natural talent, who is hindered by a shortage of either knowledge of the sport, discipline, or indeed something as simple as confidence. Through the encouragement of a coach or other guiding figure, for instance a wise old man or a magical negro, the contender overcomes previously insurmountable limitations and achieves his or her potential or even beyond, usually by some sort of victory, for instance in an athletic competition. Alternatively, they may lose in the competition but nevertheless gain in some other, perhaps greater way, such as through genuine respect from their opponents for their endeavours. After all, what matters is "not the winning, but the taking part".
Sometimes a narrative portrays a team sport in which several or all members of the team are contenders, and their success (or otherwise) is based, at least in part, on whether or not those team members provide sufficient guidance and support for one another. Examples of team contenders include:
The Bad News Bears (1976 film), an example of the team that loses "the game", but comes out of the experience with a collective greater self-esteem