Less than an hour drive away from Ursuline stands Navarro College, a small community college not known for their football or basketball teams but for the people cheering them on. The Navarro cheerleading team, however, does much more than stand on the sidelines.
Navarro Cheer has taken the world by a storm ever since Cheer, the six-part Netflix documentary series based on their team, went viral. The heart-wrenching backstories of team members and as well as the drama ensuing from competition stress has captured the hearts of many. Cheer also answered the question on many skeptical viewers’ minds . . . is cheer even a sport?
By the end of the first episode, viewers will be sorry they even asked. The series showcases the immense skill and rigorous training that goes into any cheer routine. Cheerleaders are asked to push themselves to the limit through incredible flips and stunts that, if done incorrectly, can cause serious injuries.
The Navarro cheer team saves their most skillful, dangerous and impressive routines for the biggest competition in collegiate cheer, the NCA National Cheer Competition in Daytona, Florida. Unlike other sports, there is no avenue for a professional cheerleading career. Since Daytona is many team members’ last opportunity to cheer, the competition carries special emotional weight which the show displayed.
Cheer also shattered the typical TV and film portrayal of cheerleaders as mean, popular, weak and dimwitted. Every girl on the Navarro cheer team debunks this stereotype, but Morgan Simianer especially stands out. Simianer’s backstory demonstrates how cheer can help a young girl grow into a strong, smart and confident woman.
When Simianer was very young, her mother left and her father remarried and abandoned her and her brother in a trailer to live alone. Her grandparents rescued Simianer and reintroduced her to cheer since it was, as her grandfather said, “her passion in life.”
Although Simianer doubted her abilities, she earned a spot on the Navarro cheer team. She felt a deep sense of belonging on the team and from knowing that Monica Aldama, the head coach, saw potential in her. Simianer described this moment as “the first time someone noticed me.”
To viewers more informed about the world of cheer, the sport may be seen as only available to the rich. All-Star travel cheer teams cost thousands of dollars each year. The series addresses this bad reputation and adds a positive light to this narrative through many of its cast members.
One of these members is Jerry Harris who, despite not being the best athlete, was beloved on the team for his constant positivity and encouragement in the form of “mat talk.” Throughout the series, viewers have the chance to fall in love with Harris’s bubbly personality but also learn about his troubled past, causing them to reach for the tissues.
Harris had cheered ever since he was little, and despite the cost, his loving mother did whatever she could to help him continue his dream. Unfortunately, Harris’s mother died of cancer. Although Harris thought he would be forced to quit cheer because of the cost, an amazing group of moms started a GoFundMe to finance his cheer dreams.
Although Simianer and Harris started off in very difficult life situations, Cheer provided them with a passion and a reason to keep going. Cheer provided them with skills through its lessons of work ethic and teamwork that can be used in real life. The documentary Cheer opened America’s eyes to the not so easy, rewarding and definitely classified sport of cheer.