Cheering for 15 years and counting

Mr Fairul, head coach of the Legacy All Stars, first learnt about cheerleading from library books.
Mr Fairul, head coach of the Legacy All Stars, first learnt about cheerleading from library books.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Mr Fairul Edham Hirdayat Dahlan, 29, the head coach of Legacy All Stars, has been cheerleading since he was 14 years old.

At the age of 18, he obtained his cheerleading coaching certification from an international cheerleading body to become the youngest coach in the cheerleading community in Singapore.

He was inspired by the movie series Bring It On, about two competing high school cheerleading squads, and was intrigued by how cheerleading seemed to be a mix of dance and gymnastics.

His first taste of cheerleading was at an inter-school sports day when he was part of a team as a secondary 2 student at Si Ling Secondary School. Then, he was asked by a teacher if he would like to form a school cheerleading team.

He said: " We had no access to the Internet, we had no access to coaches at first.

"I went to the library in Woodlands and looked for cheerleading books, and that's how I learnt."

 

He recalls practising at a void deck after school, then going back to school to train the team.

Soon after, word got round that Si Ling Secondary had a cheer team, and he was approached by other schools nearby such as Marsiling and Woodgrove secondary schools.

Alluding to how cheerleading is regarded by some as a "sissy sport" for men, he said: "Sometimes people don't realise how physically and mentally demanding it is.

"Cheerleaders are among the toughest people around; we do a lot of cardio and plyometric exercises."

Plyometric exercises involve sudden moves using maximum muscle strength in a short time, such as lunges and jumps. They help cheerleaders build explosive power in their jumps.

Mr Fairul was once overweight but cheerleading had changed his life for the better.

He said: "I used to weigh 98kg at the age of 17 and my coach was very strict with me. I had to do double of the exercises given to the team.

"But looking back, I'm thankful for what he put me through because not only do I look better, I'm healthier, too."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2016, with the headline 'Cheering for 15 years and counting'. Print Edition | Subscribe