Courtesy of Noa DiBerto

The latest film tackling the realities of the athletic world is the cheer competition drama Backspot. Following the journey of two high school cheerleaders and their lives, training, successes, and failures in an all-girl competitive setting, Backspot is about cheer as much as it is about growing up. Riley (Devery Jacobs), Amanda (Kudakwashe Rutendo), and Rachel (Noa Diberto) made the cut for the elite Thunderhawks, and the pressure is on. The team competes in just a few weeks, and the friends have to balance school, training, and their personal lives if they plan to succeed.

For those chasing cheer dreams in real life, like actor Noa DiBerto, films like Backspot are a refreshing look at cheer minus many of the stereotypes that often stick to the genre. “I’m so grateful that there is now a movie that showcases these struggles and diminishes stereotypes,” she said, highlighting her favorite moments in the movie, ones that show the hardships, injuries, and hard decisions that come with sports and cheerleading.

These are daily challenges for Noa who stepped into the world of competitive gymnastics—which she reminded us is “essentially four different sports in one: vault, bars, beam, and floor”—at 4 years old. Alongside earning top provincial rankings in artistic gymnastics and power tumbling, Noa also trained in dance. Throughout her school years, these passions developed alongside a love of acting that filled her time with drama classes, performances, and theater productions. “I would do gymnastics for 25 hours a week, and then on the weekend, I would have acting classes, so it was very busy, but I made it work!”

Noa does it all in her role as Rachel, too. “I perform all of my stunts, and in the film, I am seen as a spirited cheerleader with a gymnastics background,” Noa shared. “It’s been a joy to embody Rachel, bringing her positive energy and comic relief as she navigates the competitive cheer world alongside Riley and Amanda, showcasing athleticism and resilience.”

Competing in level 7 co-ed cheerleading as part of the University of Western Ontario CoEd Cheerleading Team, who won the National Championships in 2023 and 2024, Noa isn’t a stranger to the kinds of stress and training Rachel and her friends are experiencing in the movie. In part, this was exciting as Noa connected with her Thunderhawks teammates and performed with them using her real-life cheer and gymnastics skills. “Doing my own stunts was exhilarating, especially incorporating my passion for tumbling, which helped elevate the film and showcase my skills and commitment.”

The work was also an important look at an often overlooked aspect of sports like cheer: mental health. “Backspot looks into mental health, highlighting the anxiety and stress that come with significant life transitions, such as advancing in one’s career or joining an elite team like the Thunderhawks,” Noa explained. “By portraying these struggles authentically, the film invites viewers to empathize with the characters’ experiences and challenges superficial perceptions of cheerleading.” The instances of checking on friends and loved ones in the film are something Noa hopes sticks with viewers.

Mai Tilson

Backspot debuted in the United States last month so you can watch it yourself! While you do, Noa encourages you to challenge any preconceptions you may have about the sport. “Ultimately, many stereotypes about gymnastics and cheerleading must be broken, such as pom poms, pretty girls, and being weak,” Noa said. “Cheerleading is dangerous and difficult and requires fearlessness and strength. A light must also be shed on mental health in both sports and the resilience required to succeed.”

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Veronica Good has been with Showstopper Magazine since 2016. When she isn't keeping you updated on the latest trends, she is at home with her many pets or probably playing The Sims 4. Veronica has a BA in English and an MA in writing from Coastal Carolina University. She is also a writer of fiction and poetry, and her work can be found in Archarios, Tempo, and Scapegoat.