I’m not sure if you know this about me, but I was a cheerleader in eighth grade.
It lasted exactly one year, and there is no photographic proof of this because the yearbook forgot to take our picture because it was the first year that our school had middle school cheerleaders.
Small mercies, people, small mercies.
So when I see that Netflix has a new documentary/reality show/follow-em-around series called Cheer, with small young women flying in the air and burly young dudes mostly catching them, I am IN.
I love it.
I love that the cheer team at Navarro Community College in Corsicana, Texas has won 13 national championships. I love that their coach, Monica, has the most terrifying deadpan you’ve ever seen on any coach, and I include Bill Belichick in there.
She does not blink.
Girls fall down, three in a row, and she continues to watch. An elbow dislocates, and she calmly dials up the head trainer.
Maybe it’s the dramatic arc that has me hooked: the cheer nationals are on the horizon, and the Navarro team wants its fourteenth win. Who makes the cut? How many concussions are too many? Will Jerry, beloved Jerry, get his chance?
It’s incredibly dangerous stuff—the 20-person pyramid looks mostly like a flailing fleshpile with moments of tantalizing, pure balance. But Coach Monica has a mathematical calculation of what that pyramid needs to include for maximum points, and she’s famous for cooking up daunting combinations. So it’s up to Morgan to learn baskets; Lexi to tumble faster than ever; and for those of us watching, it’s a show to watch with fingers crossed that they come out of this thing with their bones and brains intact.
Mostly, I admire the way the director portrays the young people whose stories they’re telling. There are sad, sad stories in here, and a lot of grit and resilience. Totally inspiring.
And to be clear, my cheerleading career involved no airborne anything. I think I managed a banana jump once but it made my ankle hurt so I just went back to handclapping and worrying about the fit of my polyester uniform.
The six-part series is streaming on Netflix, here.