Netflix Review: Cheer is everything I wanted

The Netflix documentary Cheer shows viewers the hidden truth behind competitive cheerleading.

Madeline Hull

The Netflix documentary Cheer shows viewers the hidden truth behind competitive cheerleading.

by Madeline Hull

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I dislocated my shoulder stunting at Manchester Valley Stampede Invitational cheer competition. I spent the following week on the couch, icing my shoulder, scrolling through Netflix.

As I clicked on the “Start Episode” button for the newest documentary series Cheer, I wondered, would they show cheerleading for what it really is?

The six-episode documentary series takes viewers inside the world of competitive cheer at Navarro College, a small junior college in Corsicana, Texas.

I’ve heard the stupid argument that cheerleading is not even a sport—and I’m here to tell you that you’re mistaken. Even if you’ve never tumbled on a dead mat, done a toe touch, or flown in a pyramid, this show is fascinating. 

Cheerleading is an honest to goodness sport. Some squads just shake pom-poms and memorize chants, but cheerleaders on competitive teams like Navarro’s are dedicated athletes. Tumbling like gymnasts, executing complicated stunts, throwing people in the air like it’s nothing at all: some of these kids have been working for years, and it shows.

In Season 1, the Navarro squad is preparing for the national championships. The school has a history of winning 13 championship titles under coach Monica Aldama, a tremendous inspiration.

Everything leads up to the Collegiate National Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida. The big question is whether Navarro can capture another first-place finish.

Not everyone on the team gets to compete at nationals, so there’s the tension surrounding who’ll get to “make mat” — the best of that best. When injuries happen, as they inevitably do, Aldama has to make the decision of who will sub in, and then get them up to speed as they race against the clock for Daytona.

The documentary focuses on a few members, and, after just one episode, you will want to drive down to Texas and give them hugs. A number of the cheerleaders come from tough backgrounds. Navarro has offered them a home and a safe space to be themselves and become part of a larger family.  

Morgan who lived alone in a trailer for a while after being abandoned by her dad.

Jerry lost his mom to cancer and found refuge in cheerleading. 

There is an unexplained bond between cheerleaders and team-mates. You put other people’s lives literally in someone’s hands. Having the trust to do so creates a bond like no other. 

If you don’t know a lot about cheer, the show does an exceptional job showing just how athletic and physically demanding it is. Statically, cheer causes young female athletes more injuries than any other sport.  Most of the time, when fliers are thrown into the air, twisting and spinning, they are caught. But when they aren’t, it can be disastrous. Even when they are caught, the series repeatedly demonstrates the aching ribs (and my shoulder) that result from hitting down onto other people’s bony forearms.

I finished the show in a matter of three days, and I do not regret the binge watching. I will say that I cried many times from both stress for the competition and happiness for the team.

Cheer has not yet been renewed for Season 2, but Netflix typically waits a couple of months after a show’s release date before making a renewal decision. I vote it should be renewed immediately.