Fathul Nur Hakim, 32, was also once crowned a stretching world champion.
Being the best in your field of work is considerably hard to achieve.
But 32-year-old sports therapist Fathul Nur Hakim, who specialises in stretching, can certainly call himself that.
In 2019, he was crowned the world stretching champion at a competition organised by Dr. Stretch – one of the world’s leading brands for helping people to stretch.
Then, he was working as a stretch trainer with the brand and joined the competition solely to gain new experiences. While he won the Singapore competition, he wasn’t expecting to win the international competition held in Tokyo.
“To my shock, I saw my face in the middle of that top three. I went on my knees and I cried out… I definitely wasn’t expecting this, I just wanted an experience,” recalls Hakim, who then had only two years of experience under his belt. He had beaten those with over 10 years of experience in the international competition.
Today, Hakim works with local football club Lion City Sailors, as they try to establish themselves as one of Asia’s best. Joining the team was a straightforward decision for Hakim, a passionate football fan.
But if you were to ask Hakim if he ever envisioned himself in such a position a decade ago, the answer would probably have been no.
Hakim, by his own admission, was never interested in studying when he was young and just wanted “to enjoy life”.
“I just wanted to play football, eat and sleep,” says Hakim.
Ironically, it was a serious knee injury he suffered – he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and damaged his medial collateral ligament – while playing football at 20 years old that got him started on this journey.
“I looked up to this physiotherapist who had been treating me for my recovery session,” he shares, recalling how the physiotherapist constantly gave him mental support.
That was when Hakim decided he wanted to become a physiotherapist, so he can help others who were injured too. But then came a challenge – he did not have the education level required to be one.
“To become a physiotherapist, you need to have a degree. You need to know the basic anatomy of the human body,” explains Hakim.
Thankfully for Hakim, he was already working as a gym trainer and had some basic knowledge. Joining Dr. Stretch also gave him an opportunity to take his certification and it was then that he decided to pivot to becoming a stretching specialist.
It wasn’t all rosy, as there were also people who looked down on Hakim because of his past and lack of education. But instead of letting his critics demoralise him, he pushed on to get to where he is today.
With the Lion City Sailors, Hakim works about four hours a day, including weekends when there are training sessions or matches. But while the short hours might make his job look simple, it is far from the case.
“In my job, every hour, every minute counts. The responsibility is very high, especially when I’m doing stretching. The energy that I use up while doing stretching for players is the same amount for an eight-hour office job,” shares Hakim, who did admit that it does feel cool to be working short hours every day as it gives him more time to spend with his family.
A major part of his job is to evaluate the issues the players are facing with their bodies and quickly come up with the necessary stretches to ease their pain. This comes with immense pressure, as a failure to treat the players properly may result in their unavailability, which may in turn affect the club’s fortunes on the football pitch.
He also helps out with planning for training programmes with the coaching team, offering his medical advice, so as to ensure the players’ body are able to cope with the rigours of the training sessions and matches.
“For example, if the players have a game on Tuesday, I need to look at what we are going to do before the game, and what we are going to do after the game. How are we going to take care of the players’ health?” shares Hakim.
“Some people may say it’s easy. Yeah it sounds easy, but the responsibility you have on your shoulders is going to make it hard too.”
For now, Hakim has the goal of trying to learn from his colleagues and broaden his perspective. He wants to “improve himself” and “become better at what he does”. He wants to learn how a sports trainer goes about his work, before moving up the ladder to try his hand at performance coaching.
Speaking to Hakim, it was obvious that he truly had the passion for what he does. He may have been a late bloomer, but Hakim’s journey goes to show that it is never too late to discover what you may be good at.
He had one piece of advice as well for those who may have struggled with their education, like he did when he was young.
He says: “Some people will give up, because of the struggles they will go through. But if you’re really into something, then go for it and don’t stop. Because one day, you will thank yourself for not giving up.”
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