Netflix’s Cheer brings back memories of my (amateur) cheerleading life


He makes a pretty conspicuous fall out of a cheerleader formation and onto a safety mat. thunder Watching the obligatory Netflix documentary Cheer about Navarro College’s champion cheerleading team, which returns this week for a second series, is this Drop — even more so than the ever-upbeat EDM megamix that soundtracks every routine, or the team’s song-song beat counting to eight — which immediately takes me back to my own stint on the mat.

For three years, put off the brief period of recovery that came after busting my knee dance A mash-up of Sean Paul’s temperature and Benny Benassi’s satisfaction, I was an enthusiastic, if not particularly talented member of my varsity college cheerleading squad. While the Navarro team, governed by coach-slash-manager-slash surrogate mom Monica Aldma, attracts, as one member puts it on the show, “the best of the best,” our affair was naturally far more laid back. , an equal opportunity for all, that didn’t require a laborious audition process (thank goodness—I was more a Morgan than a polished Gabby Butler, prone to collapsing under single scrutiny).

Navarro coach Monica Aldama

, Netflix

What inspired me to practice on the first Wednesday afternoon? It certainly wasn’t natural gymnastics ability (when I joined in, I could barely roll a proper forward – my friend Claire signaled to me as I rolled down the aisle of my student housing, and I Gave himself a deformed neck). As a fresher, I was out of my depth, surrounded by people talking about public schools using imprecise shorthand; Looking back with a decade’s worth of vision, I probably had a poignant, High School Musical-inflected belief in the potential for smiley, charismatic, in-demand cheerleading. Also, despite my otherwise lacking in athletic talent, I was unusually good at doing splits, and extended doses of Cascada and 3OH! Could tolerate 3K music.

It didn’t take me long to realize what quickly became clear to everyone who’s watched Netflix’s series: that cheerleading isn’t just about having pom poms—it’s hard work, requiring patience, and a lot of hard work. For those who have risen to the top of the pyramids, nerves of steel, even if our stunts are nowhere near as impressive as Navarro could have done in his sleep. At five-foot-seven, I was tall enough to be the back base of my lift group, which was responsible for catching and holding fliers, the little girls who are lifted into the air during stunts. For fear of being indirectly responsible for inflicting a serious head injury, I swung into action as a human safety net whenever a basket toss or extension went awry, often a practice with multiple brews brewing. (including a memorable black eye from a Plisold foot on the face).

After the contest, with hair damaged by stunting

, Katie Rosenski

While Monica is laser-focused on winning the cheer championship at Daytona in Florida, “the most famous stage in all cheerleading,” our goal was much more modest: not to finish last in the annual inter-college cheer competition held every December. . Every year, we board a minibus to get to Metro Center’s large Primark in white plisoles, flesh-colored tights worthy of Kate Middleton (passengers were exempt—tights can be dangerously slippery in transit) and terrifying black. Will file to buy shorts. our uniform.

The competition timing was full but strangely exhilarating. We’d stand in line for our makeup (blue and silver eyeshadow!) and the hair bow would be approved; Jewelry was taboo (including, as my friends and I discovered at the last minute, gritty festival wristbands; I gritted my teeth and said goodbye to the Leeds Festival remnants of my festivities – she insisted that we wash with water and institutional dish soap. combination. Her wrist is intact) and us on “Spirit” and “Facial” (a rictus grin! All the time! Especially during any remotely suggestive dance move!) as well as stunts and choreo. will be marked.

On the home stretch of a performance, our backing track was cut, at which point Tiny Tempah screams “It’s OK, I’m good, let’s go!” In pass out. We carried on with the routine by counting the beats out loud, joining the audience like we were on the emotional top of our own inspirational sports movie (or at least, the budget British version). Things came back into Bring It On territory a few years later, when we figured another team had grabbed our soundtrack, and some choreography as well; When we ranked high in the final rankings—and were nearly kicked out of a club for attempting to expand on the dance floor—we had Hollywood confirmation.

Watching Navarro Squad reminds me of a feeling that’s hard to recreate outside of the rehearsal room—the excitement of nailing a routine, knowing you’re in the right place, at the right time, of the group as a whole. harmonize with. There is a closeness between many of the team members that also seems real. After graduating from university, and from cheerleading, I was a bridesmaid to our choreographer with Claire and another Cheer alum (whose marriage I ended up flying to Portugal a few years later); The girl who was so eager to hang on to her reading wristband that she’d be at my 30th birthday celebration in a few months’ time without a festive bracelet, as she’s been doing for the past decade. Friendships forged in a crucible of embarrassing battle spells and mild distress are clearly built to last.

Cheer Series One and Two are on Netflix right now