by Cambree Bernkopf
In Greg Whiteley’s documentary series, Cheer, which built up an large fan base after the release in January, the young athletes of Navarro College’s 14-time national championship-winning cheerleading team repeatedly lift, throw and catch teammates–and risk injury. This documentary shows the pain, anguish, and dedication that comes with competitive cheerleading. Some parts are very hard to watch because of how intense and sad some situations these young adults have to go through. Watching Cheer may convince viewers that competitive cheerleading teams like Navarro are the norm. According to an article in Time magazine, “They are not the majority of cheerleading squads in the country,” most of which mainly do sideline cheer. This just shows what it’s like for the top 10% of competitive cheer teams.
When stunts don’t go as planned, there are often concussions, ankle injuries, swollen and twisted limbs, broken bones, and more. Whiteley, who directed the football docuseries Last Chance U on Netflix, said he’s amazed at the tenacity of these athletes. “They’re the toughest athletes I’ve ever filmed,” the documentarian told The Wrap in an interview. “It’s not even close. And that’s no slight to football players.” The only problem is cheer is not recognized as a sport, like football. The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at UNC reports that for both high school and college athletes, the number of female cheerleader’s injuries was second only to football players, based on data taken from 1982 to 2018. Cheerleading has had a higher rate of injury over time than 23 of the 24 sports recognized by NCAA, with the exception of football.
The documentary on Netflix really shows what some of these athletes have to go through. At times, it’s ruthless and there’s no way you could say that what they do is not a sport. Cheerleading is high impact, has a high injury rate, takes grit and dedication, and is some people’s whole life.