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When the first episode of Netflix’s docuseries ‘Cheer’ ends, the 1988 Pretty Poison song “Catch Me I’m Falling” plays as the credits roll. It’s a direct ref­erence to the dangers of com­pet­itive cheer­leading and the impor­tance of the team catching any member that flies dan­ger­ously high through the air. It is also, however, an indirect ref­erence to a theme that plays out through the entire series: the uncanny power of the Navarro College Cheer Team to catch kids falling from broken homes, rough back­grounds, and dark places. 

The series, which was released on Netflix on Jan. 8, follows the Navarro College Cheer Team and their coach Monica Aldama as she coaches them to their victory at the 2019 National Cheer­leading Asso­ci­ation College National Cham­pi­onship in Daytona, Florida. 

Perhaps the most important thing for you to under­stand about ‘Cheer’ is that this isn’t your mother’s cheer­leading. Sure, these kids cheer on the side­lines at football games. But, they are also world-class ath­letes. The tum­blers could give four-time olympic gold medalist gymnast Simone Biles a run for her money. The flyers do flips and other aerial tricks from 30 ft high. The top girls do intricate dance moves on one foot while held up by just one hand of one of their team­mates. 

Add to the amount of physical pain and mental stress each of the ath­letes endure, the flips and tricks become that much more impressive. Most of the ath­letes are afflicted with sprained ankles, bruised ribs, and other injuries throughout the doc­u­mentary. Fur­thermore, the ath­letes deal with mental stress from long prac­tices, high expec­ta­tions, school work, and various other issues whether it be rela­tionship problems, dark pasts, or tough home lives. On paper, the fact that the Navarro College Cheer­leaders can execute their routine pre­cisely and per­fectly is nothing short of a miracle. 

But, “Cheer” isn’t on paper. Instead, the ath­letes’ stories play out before you in seem­ingly real time. And yes, while ‘Cheer’ is meant to impress, but it’s also meant to make you feel.

When stunters drop one of their flyers, you feel the pain and anxiety that comes with it. When Jerry “mat talks” one of his team­mates, you feel his encour­agement as if it was meant for you. And when all the hard work finally pays off and the team per­forms their routine per­fectly, you feel not only the excitement, but also the team’s relief that it was all worth it. 

That is why it’s so popular. Sure, the skills and tricks are incredible. But, people have united over ‘Cheer’ because of its ability to capture the human element. It’s watching Morgan Simianer find herself and her place in the world after years of trial and hardship, or Jerry Harris be an absolute beam of sun­shine to all those around him even though he carries sorrow wherever he goes. Most of all, it’s about watching human beings overcome and grow from impos­sible sit­u­a­tions both on and off the mat. 

At the end of the day, ‘Cheer’ isn’t about winning Daytona. It isn’t about the flashy outfits or the picture perfect rou­tines. ‘Cheer’ is about human resilience and the power of a shared goal. It’s about people from dif­ferent back­grounds and lives uniting over a common desire, a common passion.