“The Bill Belichick of Cheerleading” and star of Netflix’s Cheer discusses the experiences that led to her new memoir, Full Out: Lessons in Life and Leadership from America’s Favorite Coach.
Monica Aldama is back.
It is hard to believe that it’s been nearly exactly two years since we first met Aldama and her all-star cheerleading squad at Corsicana, Texas’ Navarro College. The first season of the Netflix sensation Cheer introduce legions of fans around the globe to the intense world of competitive cheerleading.
While the show is back for its second season, which will feature some familiar faces, but also address a new slate of challenges as the Bulldogs embark on their latest quest for the NCA National Championship — a title Aldama has won an incredible 14 times.
While the show ticks down the days to Daytona, Aldama preps her team for success with a delicate combination of tough love, high expectations, and a little bit of fun. Now, she’s bringing her essential tips for success to the masses with her new book Full Out: Lessons in Life and Leadership from America’s Favorite Coach.
In this installment of “Boardroom Book Club,” Aldama reflects on why she decided to share her story, her grueling time on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” and the importance of a little bit of mat talk to inspire self-confidence when the going gets tough.
SAM DUNN: How do you feel about being called the “Bill Belichick of Cheerleading”?
MONICA ALDAMA: You know, that came out in 2020. I actually say that in the book. That’s an honor. I mean, first of all, love football so much. I respect some of those really great coaches like Bill Belichick and Nick Saban. So to me, that was the highest of honors. So I absolutely loved it.
BERNADETTE DOYKOS: Tell us about the title of the book, Full Out.
MA: I thought from the beginning [that] I wanted it to be called Full Out because, obviously, that’s a cheer term.
We go full out quite often when we’re getting ready for competition. And when you go full out in cheerleading, you’re doing everything 100 percent. You’re putting it all out of there on the mat. And, I try to do that in my life to give everything that I have to — whether it’s raising my kids or with my family or with my job.
And I just thought it was an appropriate title to live your best life and go full out.
BD: What made you decide to write a book now?
MA: I wanted to just be vulnerable and use my experiences to help other people.
There’s a set of core values that I think are really gonna help you be successful in all areas of your life, that I really try to instill in my kids, my athletes, to be successful in their own lives.
I really wanted to make sure that I talked about different experiences that talked about those different lessons, whether it was communicating better or having good positive self-talk and keeping your mental health good and having a strong work ethic, just things that are gonna set you up for success.
BD: Are there parts of this book that set the record straight for how you were represented on Netflix’s Cheer?
MA: In the show it was, it was very surprising how some people reacted to or perceived me. For the most part, it was positive, but for the parts that weren’t, it was just a little shocking to me. So I wasn’t really worried.
I really just wanted to have a book that could help people. I wanted to talk about my own personal life, my mistakes my journey of learning, and all the things that I’ve been able to do when coaching and working with young adults and to give some of these lessons to people that would help them in all areas of their life: from parenting to relationships, to business or coaching, or just personal development.
I just wanted to be open and honest.
I think maybe just the perception, the overall perception of some people about what athletes really do and how top-level athletes push themselves because they want to be the best. And I think just to get that message across that we are safe and we are pushing ourselves because what we want to do as athletes is to be the best versions of ourselves.
BD: What can we expect in the book from your time on Dancing with the Stars?
MA: It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I definitely went in with more confidence, thinking that I could handle being in a competitive show because I’ve competed pretty much my whole life, either as an athlete or on the coaching side. And so I was very shocked at how intimidated I was when I got there.
it’s always good to step out of your comfort zone and be the student when you haven’t been that in a long time to get you back in the right perspective. But I do feel like I’m a coach who takes into account how the athlete is feeling.
Yes, it probably opened my eyes to that, but I have always come from that point of view anyway. There was a lot of outside noise was trying to get in my head about the coach coaching the coach and I let that get to me for a little bit, but I just had to bring back the principles that I teach the kids. I had to remember those and get myself back on the right path to make sure I was communicating and having a better experience and getting out of my head.
BD: What’s the importance of “Mat Talk” that we learned about in both the show and the book?
MA: I think mat talk is a big topic in cheerleading. We really opened up the world to that terminology.
It’s really just positive self-talk. You’re basically giving yourself a pep talk, especially when you’re going through difficult times. Just telling yourself that you can get through it and whatever may be coming at you.
But also, you can use it as a way to encourage your teammates, encourage your spouse, encouraging your kids, or anyone, really.
The past couple of years have been tough, we are all going still through this pandemic. And I found myself mat talking myself quite often, actually, way more than I had in the past. It goes alongside the chapter where we’re talking about positive self-talk.
And I think that it’s very important to keep your mental health good and to keep your mind filled with positive thoughts because we are going through some really difficult times in the world right now, and you need to keep your mind filled with positive things in order to stay in a good, healthy place.
I think it’s important that we all just take a minute every day and, and keep our mental health good.
BD: Over the last two years, are there any particular sayings or mantras that you’ve sort of used to continuously mat talk yourself?
MA: Oh, goodness. Glennon Doyle says, “You can do hard things.” And I have found myself saying that quite often the past couple of years.
BD: If you could leave your readers with sort of just one piece of advice, what would it be?
MA: It’s simple. To believe in yourself, to love yourself, and to go out there and win the day.
Full Out: Lessons in Life and Leadership from America’s Favorite Coach is available now from Simon & Schuster. Click here to find out where you can find a copy.