It took just three days to plow through the six episodes of Netflix’s latest docuseries Cheer, but it was well worth it. I’m not a cheerleading expert, or even a casual fan, but my initial skepticism was quickly won over by the show’s tear-jerking storytelling. Don’t get me wrong, the flips are as amazing to see as the many injuries are gruesome. But beyond the high-flying acrobatics and unimaginable feats of athleticism, the team’s journey toward the national championship really caught my attention. This show is a real-life version of Friday Night Lights, complete with stories of troubled teens, high-pressure competition, Texas culture, likable underdogs galore, and athletic triumphs. In lieu of Coach Taylor, the real heart of the show is the head coach of this world-class, junior college cheerleading program, Monica Aldama.

Coach Aldama has the championship hardware to show off her professional credentials, but she’s so much more than a coach. The athletes of Cheer openly speak of Coach Aldama as their surrogate Mom. They call her by her first name and use endless superlatives to speak of their devotion and loyalty to her. They would literally do anything for her. Monica embraces her coach-parent roles as her life’s calling from God and how she navigates between them is the secret of her genius. Coaches aren’t parents and vice-versa; but Monica is somehow both at the same time. Monica pushes her team towards athletic perfection and cares for them as young adults. She always has her athletes’s backs, and they have hers.

Monica enforces the strict team rules and high standards for excellence, but she also never gives up on them. When Jerry (my favorite in the show) asks her what he needs to do to get better, she tells him precisely where he stands and how he can improve with genuine encouragement and grace. When a distraught Lexi tells Monica she’s doing okay, Monica knows otherwise and patiently waits for Lexi to divulge her very grave problem. Monica somehow knows what makes La’Darius so defiant and intervenes at precisely the right time.

Coach Monica is seamlessly both a coach and parent — or, in theological terms, is an adept practitioner of the proper distinction between Law and Grace, always striving for the wellbeing of her athletes. That the team wins as it does flows from her caring approach. Monica does not talk at length about why she coaches the way she does, but I find her to be a fantastic model of Martin Luther’s revolutionary concept of vocation and calling. For Luther, there is no distinction between the work of the monk and that of the farmer — both are the fruits of faith. This both blesses supposedly “secular” work and makes it subject to Christian ethics. The lawyer does not cease to be a Christian when she walks into the courtroom. The logic of law and grace that characterizes how God treats us also extends to how we go about our secular employment.

The demands of productivity and subsequent accountability in the pressure-cooker of the modern economy can make even the most devout Christian an unforgiving boss or corrupt businessperson. Exceptions, caveats, and justifications for exerting the long arm of the law eventually pile up to become the norm. Putting supposed necessity and profit above people, the pangs of conscience are dulled over time as compromises become the new “winning” business model. In the world of economics, grace looks like a failure to maximize productivity. “This is the way it has to be,” we tell ourselves after a stern conversation of threats or cutting corners to save money. We may feel bad in the short run, but “the job always has to get done,” even at the expense of another’s wellbeing or livelihood. Slowly, a calling becomes just another job, governed by the whims of the world.

The winning formula of Coach Monica is her ability to see her job as a calling, informed by the logic of the gospel. For the team to become a better team, they need to be better people too. Athletic perfection flows from personal integrity — not the other way around. The team even says the serenity prayer before they walk out to perform! Monica’s the best cheer coach on the planet precisely because she’s their surrogate mom, too. Through six episodes you never see her lose her temper or even yell at the team. Instead, the athletes endlessly talk about never wanting to let her down or disappoint her. They all love her and she loves every one of them. Jerry, La’Darius, and Lexi were each failing themselves and the team, but it was Monica’s gracious interventions that turned them around for the better. Judgment may seem to be necessary in the short run, but it’s not what turns teenagers into adults (or win 14 national championships).