By Jiji Lee

How to Plan for a Big Goal Like Coach Monica From Netflix’s "Cheer"


No backflips required!

Have you been watching the Netflix documentary series Cheer? 

The show follows the Navarro cheerleading squad as they prepare to compete at the National Championship in Daytona and defend their winning title. The show will warm your heart and make you cry, but most of all it will motivate you to achieve a big goal, thanks to the inspiring presence of Coach Monica Aldama.

It’s hard not to be inspired by Coach Monica. With a business degree from the University of Texas, Coach Monica brings a business savvy and entrepreneurial style to her coaching. She sets out a S.M.A.R.T. goal (winning nationals) and has a clear plan for breaking it down into small chunks and helping her team work towards the goal.

You don’t have to be a cheerleader or a professional athlete to benefit from Coach Monica’s goal-setting advice. 

In fact, what struck me most about the show was how often Coach Monica would tell her cheerleaders to take her advice and use it in the real world. She says, in one of my favorite lines: “How can you be successful if you don’t organize your life?”

Here are some ways that you, too, can prepare for and break down a big goal. Luckily, no backflips are required for this -- you just need your favorite planner and pen

Break down a big goal by planning in advance

Coach Monica plans for the year ahead and writes down all her activities and events in her calendar and planner. In this WSJ interview, she says:

“I live and die by the calendar. I try to have my planner mapped out at least for the entire year. Our fall is super busy. We have a lot of football, soccer, volleyball appearances, community service and mentoring. There’s so many things going on that if I don’t have everything written out, then things can get crazy. I look at my calendar every morning because sometimes I’m going to be in all different directions, or something will pop up that’s not on my calendar that I’ll have to rearrange.”

What you can do:

When it comes to meeting big goals and projects, it’s important to prepare in advance and use organizational tools like a calendar, planner, or a daily overview notepad

For example, let’s say you have grad school application that’s due in April. You don’t want to start scrambling and gathering your materials the month before it’s due. Instead, start planning for your big goal in advance and identify all the things you need to do before that deadline. 

Your to-do list might look something like this:

  • Review the application 
  • Make note of all the materials I need to submit
  • Take any necessary exams
  • Visit the campus
  • Write my application essays
  • Ask someone to read and review my essays
  • Get recommendation letters

Afterwards, write these tasks/activities into your calendar so you know exactly when you need to do them. How much time will each one take? What order do they need to happen in? Figure all of that out now, so you’re not problem-solving later.

And don’t forget to check in with your calendar every morning so you know what your priorities are for that day. 

Practice, practice, practice

The Navarro cheerleaders literally give blood, sweat, and tears as they prepare for the National Championship in Daytona. The sheer amount of work, sacrifice, and determination that goes into every single practice is enough to inspire you to pursue your own goals. When you watch these kids pull-off a gravity-defying pyramid, it will make you think that writing for twenty minutes isn’t so bad in comparison! 

What you can do:

  • If you’re a writer, try to think of ways that you can hone your craft. Are there writing exercises you can do everyday? Can you read more books by your favorite writers and learn techniques from them? Can you join or form a writing group that can provide regular deadlines and feedback?
  • If you’re nervous about a big presentation that’s coming up, maybe you can sign up for a public speaking class or do a test-run with your co-workers. 
  • If you have a big final exam, set aside time to study and prepare. Maybe you can form a study group, make flash cards, and review old exams so that you can feel confident and prepared on test day. 

Go “full out”

Some of the most jaw-dropping scenes on the show are when you see the cheer team do their routine “full out” and perform like it’s competition day. By giving 100% and performing at the top of their abilities, the cheerleaders test their endurance and learn to perform under pressure. 

What you can do:

Luckily, most of us don’t have to put our bodies through the ringer to achieve our goals. But we can still use the philosophy of “full out” and give something our all. While it may be challenging and unrealistic to give something 100% every single day, we can find other practical ways to go full out.

  • If you’re at the office, try to focus on doing your best possible work so that you can then comfortably leave it behind when you’re at home knowing there isn’t more you could have done.
  • If you’re hanging out with family or loved ones, give them all of your attention (no texting or sending work emails).
  • If you’re struggling to find time for an hour-long workout or writing session, try to find 15 minutes and give it your all during that amount of time. 

Want to get closer to a big goal? Be strategic

In a scene that showcases Coach Monica’s business background, she reviews the cheerleading score card and figures out what moves they need to hit to score more points. She reminds her cheerleaders to do “smart cheerleading” by performing stunts that will earn them more points and avoid getting points deducted. By being strategic, the team can focus on what they need to do to win.

What you can do:

How can we be more strategic and focused in our own lives? 

If you’re interested in writing or performing, you can try focusing on a specific genre and gaining traction in that area, instead of trying to be a jack of all trades.

If you’re starting a side-gig, get specific about the value you offer and what kind of customers you’d like to attract. Do the math on exactly how much money you need to make for it to be worth it, rather than vaguely hoping to make millions.

If you’re looking to be more healthy, you can focus on creating weekly meal plans that are easy to prepare and that you’ll want to eat every day. 

Move on from failure and have a back-up plan

After losing the National Championship in 2017, Coach Monica let herself feel bad about it in order to move past it and learn from that experience. She says: 

“I allowed myself to take a few weeks when we got home to reflect on it, and honestly just to be sad. I was so devastated about it, and I wanted to get it all out and not bottle it up inside me. And as soon as I felt like I had allowed myself to have a little self-pity about it, I was like, Okay, now we’re ready to go. You can’t ever stay in that moment, because then you won’t ever get the things done that you need to. But in general, any time we have a setback, I’m always thinking of a plan B, C, D, F. As soon as something happens, my mind’s already thinking, What’s the next step?”

What you can do:

If you experience a setback, don’t feel pressured to hold it all and march on like a soldier. It’s okay to feel your feelings and release all your emotions so that you can then step back and take stock of what you need to do next. It may not seem like it at the time, but there’s always another option or route that you can take. 

  • If your presentation didn’t go well at work, can you ask someone to coach you so you can feel better prepared next time?
  • If you’re applying to grad school, are you also applying to back-up schools in case you don’t get into your first choice?
  • If you don’t get a job offer from your dream company, is there someone you can meet with at the company to learn how they got in?

Decompress

Another memorable scene in the show is watching Coach Monica sweating it out at the gym. It was a great reminder that as we try to achieve our goals, we need to take time for ourselves to decompress and relieve our stress.

What you can do:

  • Write in your journal in the morning or before bed
  • Break out your favorite gel pens and do an adult coloring book
  • Light a pleasant smelling candle and drink a cup of soothing tea
  • Go for a walk in the park 
  • Tend to your garden or house plants
  • Put on some cozy pants and socks and meditate in your favorite room 

If you’d like even more self-care ideas, read here. 

While not all of us may have huge competitions or a supportive coach in our lives, we can still take inspiration and cheer for our own big goals. We may experience failure and setbacks in doing so, but as long as we allow ourselves to learn from them, we can move forward and get one step closer to our big goal.