By Madison Pena
Netflix treated its subscribers to a captivating sports documentary they can add to their lists. “Cheer,” a new original series, follows Navarro Junior College’s elite cheer team as they prepare to compete in the 2018 national cheer competition in Daytona, Fla.
The championship-winning team is the pride and joy of small-town Corsicana, Texas and has since stolen the hearts of millions of viewers. This show is an inside look into just how much work goes into the two-and-a-half-minute routine on the cheer floor.
Under the leadership of the tough but kind Monica Aldama, Navarro began its legacy of winning championships and shaping students. In addition to making sure the team is continuing to up their routine difficulty, she takes it upon herself to enforce a strict no-nonsense policy regarding grades and conduct.
Throughout the show, it is reinforced that Monica’s goal is not just to win but to shape her team into better students and people.
While junior college is meant to act as a stepping-stone to a four-year university, for many of the cheerleaders, this is the last time that they will be able to compete competitively. There is no such thing as professional cheerleading, which is something that devastates these elite athletes who have spent the majority of their lives training to perfect their complicated routines.
A lot of the cheerleaders on the team come from damaged backgrounds and their sport is the only outlet that has given them a chance to be themselves or to escape familial issues.
Aside from the respect I had for these athletes after seeing how hard they train, the viewers’ knowledge backgrounds and home lives made it easier to understand their stories and left me in awe of how they conduct themselves and constantly push to be better.
The show focused heavily on Monica’s relationship and impact on several team members. Each member came from different backgrounds and struggled in their own right, but were able to make the team their family.
I found myself rooting for so many of the cheerleaders to get “on mat” to compete in Daytona. With such a large team of around 30 and only room for 20 to compete, the group was decided during practices.
While this semblance of totem pole would usually cause unfriendly competition within a team, the Navarro squad used it to push each other to their limits, elevating the entire team as a result.
“Cheer” constantly emphasizes the fact that the traditional notion of a cheerleader comes nowhere close to the true athleticism and dedication required for the sport. Over the course of a few episodes, multiple girls were injured to the point of not being able to compete, while others complained about pains that would be enough to make me want to quit.
The series goes against any image of a high school cheerleader and makes you wonder why it’s not a professional sport with the amount of work needed to pull the complicated routines off.
As the season progressed, I cheered as the team triumphed and empathized when they went through trials and tribulations. It felt like I knew these people and that I was part of the comradery. When a person I liked did not make the mat at first, I got frustrated. Every time a flyer fell, or a stunt did not hit, I found myself feeling stressed even though it had nothing to do with me.
“Cheer” morphs from being about whether or not Navarro will bring home yet another championship to how the athletes face their battles together, leaving the audience in awe and itching for the next installment.