Flying High: Daytona teams battling it out

Have you found yourself picking up a new interest recently? Maybe you’ve started watching a new show, and that show introduced you to a new world involving the lives of cheerleaders. At the height of 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns, thousands of people found themselves in similar boats, and flocked to Netlfix to watch its new show, Cheer.

The show, which follows Navarro College, a junior college cheerleading team, highlights the co-ed team as they prepared for a big competition in Daytona, Florida. On January 12, 2022, when Cheer season two came out, the show was third on the charts for Netflix Canada within a few days.

Why has this show been so intriguing to our fellow Canadians? Catherine Foskett, an Ottawa area resident, used to take part in cheerleading for her school back in the 1980s.

“When I was involved in the 80s, the main attraction would be the basketball game, or the hockey game that you were supporting, whereas now, the sport is considered to be a sport in itself,” said Foskett.

Cheerleading consists of a two minute and thirty second routine with sections of dance, jumps, tumbling, stunting and a pyramid.

While Cheer follows the team as they prepare for Daytona, there are individual interviews with the athletes dispersed throughout giving you a human connection with everyone.

“I think it’s a great display of the sport. It’s a great display of the athleticism and the commitment of the athletes and that side of cheer, but it also has the elements of showing the personal stories of each athlete, and there’s the drama that’s in there too,” said Jessica Beaudoin-Walker, a cheer coach at Black Widow Cheer Gym in Ottawa.

Over the two seasons’ available episodes, Cheer takes you on a journey to see who will make the mat and compete in Daytona.

Beaudoin-Walker coaches levels one and two at Black Widow, while Navarro College’s cheer team is an advanced large coed team.

“If you look at the skills they’re doing, they explain it a bit in the show where they have partner stunts where it’s one boy and one girl who are being lifted, like it’s a one-to-one stunt. And then they have one spotter, so those are really difficult stunts to do,” said Beaudoin-Walker about the difficulty of the skills Navarro does.

“We, especially in the levels that I’m coaching, and for most levels, you have two bases, a back spot, and a flyer, so you have three people for one flyer, as opposed to Navarro having the one flyer and the one base,” she added.

While the season follows Navarro College, it also takes you forty-five minutes down the road to get a glimpse of Navarro’s rivals. Trinity Valley Community College.

The series delves into many issues the cheerleaders faced like the COVID pandemic cancelling the Daytona 2020 competition, and sexual assault allegations regarding one of Navarro’s cheerleaders.

Although the storylines season two showed are difficult to watch , it is helpful to see what was discussed as the sport of cheerleading is notorious for sexualizing athletes, and I found it eye-opening to delve into the darker side of the sport.

“I really enjoyed the first season, because it was so inspiring, and it was such a positive outcome for the team you were cheering for,” said Foskett.

While anyone can watch along and support their favourite cheerleader, the language can sometimes sound a little foreign to non-cheerleaders. Throughout both seasons, especially in season one, you hear a lot of cheerleading terminology like “full out.”

Terms like full out may be everyday phrases to people like Beaudoin-Walker, but for the rest of us, trying to understand can feel like playing catch-up.

“In a two minute and thirty second routine, you’re going to have tumbling, you’re going to have jumps, you’re going to have stunts, and a pyramid, and a dance, so a full out is when every single section of the routine goes,” said Beaudoin-Walker.

“It is something we work up to, on every team no matter the level, it’s something the kids know is coming somewhere through the season, but you work up to it just to make sure it’s safe for everyone to do it,” she added.

She believes Monica Aldama is an excellent coach for Navarro, but considers herself a nicer coach and less strict.

Throughout the show, Aldama is sometimes shown ignoring the athletes injuries, and in season one, Morgan Simianer was too scared to go up to her when she was experiencing pain in her ribs.

“The difference is she has a higher stake team and an older team, but I think she’s an excellent coach, and I think you can see she really cares about her team,” said Beaudoin-Walker.

“And then, she really knows what she’s talking about, she has all of the experience, and she talked a lot about how your attitude matters, and your actions matter, and how your actions affect every single person on the team, and I think it’s so true, so I think she’s done a really excellent job of creating a team that really understands the expectations.”

Although Aldama’s toughness is shown in her coaching, she also cares about her athletes like a mother, and the trust the athletes have in her has led to the team succeeding on the mat.


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