Cheer stars share what was going through their minds when Austin got hurt at Daytona
Ever wonder what was going through Coach Monica's mind at Daytona when Austin hurt his ankle and the Navarro College cheer team had to stop mid-National Championship performance?
During a conversation with 92Y and Entertainment Weekly, the stars of Netflix's docuseries Cheer (including head coach Monica Aldama and cheerleaders Lexi Brumback, Gabi Butler, Jerry Harris, La'Darius Marshall, Morgan Simianer) and the show's creator and director, Greg Whiteley, shared what they were thinking in the moment that could've ended the team's year-long efforts to claim the NCA 2019 Championship title. "Being in Daytona, for me, is terrifying," began Aldama during the panel, available now on 92Y's YouTube channel. "I always tell them good luck, and I'm walking around way before they get on the stage because I don't want that nervous energy out there." The Texas-born coach added that while the team is focused and can pretty much rely on muscle memory to see them through, it's almost harder to be in her position because everything's out of her hands. "I'm not up there; I have zero control of what's happening," she said.
Fans of the inspiring 6-episode series know all too well that during the squad's performance, Austin Bayles injured his ankle and the team had to abruptly stop the routine and bring in another athlete to take his place. "When Austin got hurt, I couldn't even believe it," says Aldama. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, Austin just fell.' Then he got up and I thought his shoe had come off because he was hopping — I didn't realize his ankle had come off!" When the coach fully grasped the seriousness of the situation and realized the routine would have to be reconfigured, she automatically went into business mode. "They said stop the music and I think I just went into another world because I don't even remember most of it," she said. "Right there I was thinking, 'Who's going to do this part?' I didn't have time to be nervous, scared, or anything like that. I was strictly in business mode thinking what we were going to do to be successful out there on that stage."
As we now know, the team came back and still managed to snatch the title, making for some pretty compelling television in the process. Whiteley admits that, as a television producer, the unexpected setback actually made for TV gold. "That was a great thing!" he said when asked if he was secretly glad it happened after the fact. "I was worried for Austin because I know La'Darius." Simianer added that the director shared that sentiment with the cheerleaders after the incident. "[Whiteley] said, 'You couldn't have scripted it better!' And we're just like, 'Okay?!'"
Marshall and Brumback also shared their worries at getting back out there and redoing the entire routine, having already spent most of their energy on the first pass. "I had to keep myself together because people who were really close to me were looking at me to make sure I was okay... and if you know that people really look up to you, you can't show that you've been defeated," said Marshall. "That's another thing that Monica has taught us: You keep going even when things aren't how they're supposed to be. I was more tired than I had ever been that entire season." Aldama was also aware of how exhausted her team would be getting back out there. "When we go out on that stage, they're putting every ounce of everything they have out there," she said. "They're leaving everything they have on that mat, and so when the music stops and we have to go and do it all over again, they've already left half of what they have out there, but then they have to do the whole thing again!"
Sadly, despite the team's 2019 success story, the Navarro College squad wasn't able to defend their title in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic — but that doesn't mean they weren't ready to. Although the team spent time early in the year traveling to promote the series, Marshall assures fans that they were fully prepared for Daytona 2020. "I promise you, it don't matter where we go, that's how hard our coach is going to go for us and that's how hard we're going to go for our legacy and our family," he said. "For the people who thought we weren't practicing, this is a note to you: Trust and believe we were ready...It was about to be won."
Watch the full conversation above.
The Netflix sports docuseries, which follows Navarro College's competitive cheer squad, returns for a second season in a very different world.