What it is like to be a cheerleading coach in Singapore
CheerForce SG's Ng Tian Jun has been cheerleading for the past nine years.
He has no qualms lifting people up with just one hand. He is also adept at executing gravity defying stunts like the ‘Basket Toss’, where flyers are tossed four to five metres in the air.
However,cheerleading coach Ng Tian Jun still feels uneasy when people ask him about his full-time job at his own company, CheerForce SG.
Some of his family members had doubts about his cheerleading pursuits, saying that it was a “feminine sport” he should not be involved in.
But the athletic youth remained unfazed.
“My family saw it as more of a hobby…until they saw the amount of effort, heart, and soul I put into this business to see it grow,” said 25-year-old Tian Jun, with a smile.
Thankfully, Tian Jun’s hard work over the past nine years in the cheerleading industry has paid off.
Today, he is the proud coach of two cheerleading teams in Singapore: CheerForce SG and the King Edwards Hall VII Titans Cheerleading Team.
At the Asia Cheerleading Invitational Championships 2018 held in Singapore, Tian Jun and his CheerForce SG team won the ‘Asia Cheerleading Invitational Championships Team Cheer Coed Elite Champions’ title.
His CheerForce SG team has since performed at event launches and even became the opening act for South Korean girl group, Twice, last year.
Tian Jun started his cheerleading journey during his first year at Singapore Polytechnic (SP) in 2010.
“I joined cheerleading because [SP’s cheerleading team] Gusto put up an impressive performance. As I had a dance background, I saw this as an opportunity to improve myself,” said the international business graduate.
Tian Jun’s cheerleading spirit lived on even as he served his national duties and completed his studies in university, where he attained his degree in business management.
Gradually, his passion for cheerleading inspired him to coach others. He worked hard to be certified as a cheerleading coach in 2012, which opened more doors to coaching opportunities.
Despite his wealth of cheerleading experience, Tian Jun only thought of starting his own cheerleading company after coaching NTU Hall 6’s cheerleading team.
“Most cheerleaders that graduated from university wanted to continue cheerleading without having to advance to the next level, so I decided to open that avenue for them.
“CheerForce SG was formed to create a passionate team of cheerleaders who could cheer together, even if they are not good enough to join competitive teams,” said Tian Jun, who started his company with two other co-founders in 2014.
Running his own business was not as simple as he thought.
Apart from making do with the small training space he rented in his friend’s warehouse, Tian Jun faced difficulties recruiting new cheerleaders for his team.
Thankfully, Tian Jun found a pillar of support through cheerleading – his girlfriend and CheerForce SG co-founder, Gwendelyn Tan.
“We would often spend nights discussing how to make the team better for everyone. When times were tough, we would try to find ways to make sure that the team goes on,” said Tian Jun.
Although Tian Jun has already accomplished a few milestones in his journey, he still finds it a challenge to address gender stereotypes in cheerleading.
“I wish that people will understand that cheerleading isn’t just about females. Males are also part of the cheerleading scene, and we lift the flyers to make the performance even more amazing.
“Here’s a fun fact: Co-ed teams actually tend to consist of more males than females,” shared Tian Jun, with a wide grin.
Despite the naysayers, Tian Jun has grand plans for his team.
Tian Jun recently moved into a new warehouse he purchased in April this year – a huge upgrade from the small space he started with in 2014.
Most importantly, Tian Jun plans to hire more cheerleaders as full-time performers or coaches, so that they too can fulfil their dreams.
“One day, I hope that people will look at cheerleading as a sport where both males and females can work together to wow the audience, and that it will no longer be seen as a sport for females only,” said Tian Jun.