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Monica Aldama, Coach in Netflix Series ‘Cheer,’ Retires

Monica Aldama, Coach in Netflix Series ‘Cheer,’ Retires


Her obsessive goal of training an elite small-town cheer squad into national champions made Monica Aldama one of the most famous cheer coaches in the country.

But Ms. Aldama, who entranced viewers in the popular Netflix docuseries “Cheer” before being mired in a lawsuit by a former student, will no longer be head coach at Navarro College. The community college in Texas announced her retirement from its cheer program on Thursday after nearly three decades of coaching.

“There is not a larger figure in the sport of cheer than Monica Aldama,” said Michael Landers, the college’s executive director of student services and athletics. “She is an icon in the sport and built our program from the ground up with class, grace and a championship mindset.”

A former cheerleader herself, Ms. Aldama was hired to teach mathematics and sponsor the cheerleading program at the college in the small town of Corsicana. Over the next few years, she built it into a championship-winning juggernaut that drew ambitious practitioners of competitive cheerleading, who often perform physical grueling stunts and gymnastics.

Under her leadership, the team won 17 national titles in annual collegiate competitions in Daytona Beach, Fla., organized by the National Cheerleaders Association.

The niche world of Navarro Cheer, and its head coach, burst into the mainstream in the 2020 Netflix series ”Cheer,” after a documentary crew followed the team as it prepared for a competition. The series gave audiences an intimate front-row seat for the trials of the squad’s cheerleaders, as they endured Ms. Aldama’s meticulous training sessions and confronted more personal problems.

Ms. Aldama’s no-nonsense coaching style and demand for discipline left some viewers inspired. Others, however, were unsettled by her determination to push Navarro’s cheerleaders to win the title.

The show’s success made stars out of Ms. Aldama, called “the Queen” by her students, and her cheerleaders, leading to appearances on talk shows, a spoof on “Saturday Night Live” and even a live tour. Ms. Aldama joined the ranks of reality TV royalty by competing on “Dancing With the Stars,” and she released a book in 2022.

But the team has also become mired a series of controversies. One fan favorite cheerleader, Jerry Harris, was accused of using his status to solicit sexually explicit content from teenage boys. Mr. Harris was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2022 after pleading guilty to two charges of sex crimes involving minors. A second season of the show, two years after the first, showed Ms. Aldama and other members of the squad grappling with that revelation.

Then, a former cheerleader on the team claimed in a civil suit filed in April that Ms. Aldama and college staff had pressured her to keep quiet after she accused another team member of sexually assaulting her on campus.

Ms. Aldama called the allegations “demonstrably false,” in a statement on Instagram, and said she had been temporarily suspended from participating in cheerleading by its national governing body, USA Cheer, as it investigated the complaint. Navarro College also denied any wrongdoing.

She has since returned to coaching and no longer appears on USA Cheer’s suspensions list. Ms. Aldama will retire after finishing out the fall 2023 semester, the announcement said.





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