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Tumbling into the unknown: how Netflix’s Cheer can help teams stay close despite new distances

Navarro Cheer pyramid

Tumbling into the unknown: how Netflix’s Cheer can help teams stay close despite new distances

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Mar 27, 2020

Navarro Cheer pyramid

Typically, we wouldn’t draw parallels between life science entrepreneurship and cheerleading (support athletics), but now seems like a good time; because 1. there are some legitimate crossovers and 2. we’re all in need of some light-hearted content.


Cheer, Netflix’s docuseries follows Navarro College, the US’s top junior college competitive cheer squad as they prepare to defend their title at the national championships in Daytona. Alongside mind-boggling athleticism, Cheer offers some compelling insights that could just hold the key to staying productive and sane as we find new ways of doing things.


1. Know your ‘why’.

A recurring theme in Navarro Cheer’s motivational pre-comp pep talks is ‘know your why’. Akin to the bottom tier of a pyramid, knowing your why is the solid foundation upon which everything else (for Navarro that means people, but for the rest of us, that means ‘business’) is built. Coaches repeatedly drill the team to know their why. “What’s your why?” is asked again and again at every pep talk and powwow, the question focuses and energises, encouraging the athletes to remember the reason for their hard work and dedication.


As we move from the reactionary stage of social distancing and settle into our new normal, maintaining momentum professionally is crucial. Know your why and double-down on the determination. Calling on energy reserves to keep focus and power through problems is a lot easier if you can remember the point of why you do what you do.

Mastering this skill will pay off now and in the months to come.


2. Mat talk.

For the uninitiated, mat talk is the practice of supporting, cheering and encouraging people in your team. Admittedly ‘You’ve got this, yassss!’ works much better in the context of a gym hall with people doing illogical things with their bodies; than a weekly catch-up call; but the concept translates.

Encourage, support and celebrate. Don’t wait for the big stuff or the ‘stop and drop everything’ situations to let your colleague know they’re doing a bang-up job. Micro-moments of encouragement go a long way, especially during a time when many are feeling uncertain about the future. Scientist or stumbler (a tumbler who can also stunt), encouragement is encouragement, and telling someone that they’ve got this really does increase the chances of them ‘getting it’.


This should, of course, be done in a way that works for you, we can’t all be Jerry.


Jerry king of mat talk

The king of mat talk, Jerry from Navarro Cheer



3. Team.

Wholly unsurprisingly, Cheer is all about teamwork. Every pep talk and every practice includes a nod to the importance of teamwork. Even though they trust each other with their lives (especially the flyers) and pretty much live together during Hell Week (the last few days before Nationals during which the team train around the clock), the team still work hard at their personal/professional relationships. When tempers flare, they sort it out. When characters don’t gel they figure out a new way to communicate. They are all accountable for their actions and the subsequent consequences to their team. They maintain personal relationships so they can work together professionally.


For most of us, up until very recently, proportionally more time per week is spent with colleagues than friends and family. That balance has switched. Regardless of how you feel about either party (two out of three of those can’t be chosen, so, you know…), there’s going to be a bit of an emotional and conversational void.


Things that might naturally come up in conversation when car-sharing to an event or making a cup of tea, etc.; won’t organically occur. But these small pockets of human interaction are worth hanging on to. They punctuate your day, if you’re lucky, they brighten it, but even if not, it creates an emotional connection that keeps us roughly on the same page.


To keep hold of these, get creative and get digital. Start a regular breakfast club and do a group video call while you eat and have a natter about what you had for dinner last night. Schedule a daily ten-minute call with someone you would normally chat to, with no purpose other than wanting to stay in touch. Send a link to a good news story you think they’d like, mention them in a LinkedIn post or an email that simply says ‘Hello’. Whatever works to keep you connected.



And if all else fails, remember…


“We Can, We Will, We Must”.

The rallying cry of Navarro cheer. A shouted call-and-reply mantra that brings pre-competition pep talks to a motivational crescendo. Put it on a post-it note and keep it close to hand for a quick-fix and you’ll be as peppy as a pompom – all together now, “We can, we will, we must”.