Content warning: This article contains a brief discussion of child sex abuse.
In January 2020, Netflix introduced the world to “Cheer” (2020–22), a documentary series that followed the Navarro Cheer Team from Corsicana, Texas. The 14-time national championship team coached by Monica Aldama succeeded in claiming the national title in 2019, and the six-episode series gave the public an inside look into the team’s daily practices, members’ personal lives and the overall competitive nature of the sport. Two years later, following the cancellation of the 2020 NCA National Championship due to COVID-19, Netflix has released the second season and brought us back into the world of collegiate cheer.
Unlike the first season, which only focused on Navarro College, the second season highlights Navarro’s rivals, Trinity Valley Community College. The second season jumps between Navarro and Trinity Valley to showcase the rivalry between the two schools and the differences between them. The incorporation of Trinity Valley this season was a bold choice, considering a majority of the viewers had already grown attached to Navarro and would be rooting for their team, however, the show does a successful job at making viewers root for both teams by providing what felt like equal coverage of both teams.
In addition to Trinity Valley being a new aspect of the show, the second season also differs as it focuses on two competition seasons, both the 2020 and 2021 seasons, rather than just one. Although the 2020 NCA National Championship was canceled because of COVID-19, the footage from that competition season is still utilized in order to spotlight how the pandemic impacted collegiate athletics. As the season progresses, viewers watch COVID-19 grow from a slight worry in the athletes’ minds to the serious pandemic that the world has come to know. The COVID-19 aspect of the show is interesting enough. Through interviews with the athletes and firsthand footage from their final practices, the audience is able to empathize with these athletes and understand the pain and frustration they felt, even if the viewers themselves have never been involved in a sport.
Since Netflix announced the release date of the second season, there had been many questions as to how the show would address former Navarro cheerleader, Jerry Harris, who was arrested in September 2020 for soliciting pornographic photos and sex from minors. The show addresses the issue in its fifth episode. This episode of the show allowed the survivors of Harris’ abuse to share their side of the story, lawyers to discuss the issue and investigative reporters who broke the story to comment. Needless to say, this episode of the show is a heavy one that can be hard to watch, but it is critical in bringing attention to survivors of sexual abuse within sports and the lack of action some professional organizations take to protect young athletes.
After the fifth episode of the show, the intensity and drama increased tenfold. The sixth episode, “Tumbling,” marks the return of both the Navarro and Trinity Valley teams following the pandemic. Both teams are gearing up for the 2021 championship, and both are eager to triumph over the other. The audience watches as both teams attempt to perfect every movement, from their jumps to the complex pyramid, as shown in the episode “Mining for Tenths,” in which the title refers to the teams working to get every last tenth of a point they are able to earn. Watching both Navarro and Trinity Valley fight for perfection is both entertaining and fascinating. The drive and motivation of these athletes is admirable, and the passion they have for their sport is inspiring. As the show emphasizes many times, the athletes at Navarro and Trinity Valley are some of the best teams in cheerleading, and the final episodes of the show truly demonstrate how dedicated they are.
The second season of “Cheer” succeeds in being an intense, binge-worthy docuseries that showcases the fiery rivalry between two highly skilled collegiate cheer teams. The Navarro team welcomes viewers back with familiar faces and the same competitive energy as the first season, while Trinity Valley shines as the underdogs and manages to connect with the audience in the same way Navarro did in the first season. In a season with two extremely likable and equally talented teams, the only struggle viewers will have is deciding which team to root for.