Smells like team spirit

LOH KHEEN HO got into cheerleading by chance, and decided to make it his career after two semesters doing a foundation programme in a local college.

Initially, his parents were not pleased, but they eventually came around when it was apparent that Loh was not ‘going through a phase’.

The 29-year-old co-founded professional cheerleading company Cheer Aces in 2010 (with partner Heng Li Yen) and currently serves as director of the company.

He devotes much of his time coaching cheerleading teams in local schools, as well as overseeing the more professional team Cheer Aces all Stars.

Loh obviously choose a very different career path but he is having a good time doing what he does.

Cheer Aces has won several national and international awards over the years.

This includes at the Varsity Korea 2012 All-Girl Group Stunt (level 6) where they emerged as champions; and local cheerleading Charm Cheerleading Championships, where they regularly won many awards.

We caught up with Loh during a recent training session at SMK Bandar Utama 4.

How did you get into cheerleading?

It all started when I was in Form Three. I was chasing this girl, and she was in the cheerleading team. So I became a member.

We eventually became friends but cheerleading became a sport that I really got interested in. Before that I was a basketball player, and I was the captain of the school team when I was in Form One and Form Two. When I got into cheerleading I stopped all other sports.

Cheerleading is unique because it combines elements of sports and different skills rolled into one.

Where did you start teaching cheerleading?

I started by teaching a house cheer team at Seri KDU. That house team (yellow house) never won the school games before. That year they became the champions.

I taught at schools only until I was about 22 or 23. After that I formed a company that provides coaching services, camps and music.

After that, I formed my own team Cheer Aces All Stars which comprised students who graduated high school and joined us.

We take part in national level, as well as international level competitions.

How many people are there in Cheer Aces All Stars now?

We used to have more than 70 people. Malaysia actually has a cheerleading governing body called CHARM. They have rules and regulations about who can and cannot take part. So our team has shrunk to about 30 people.

Are all the members of Cheer Aces All Stars full-time cheerleaders?

Well some of them are and the others who hold full-time jobs train with us at night after working hours.

How many schools do you coach?

We have 11 schools and 15 teams. (Most of the schools are in Klang Valley but he also coaches schools in Melaka and Ipoh.)

What qualities must a cheerleader have?

For cheerleading you must have endurance, determination and a strong mindset.

You must be very determined to catch a flier (the person who is tossed into the air), hit the stunt, and also trust your teammates.

What do you think of the reality shows that revolve around cheerleading?

I feel that drama is scripted. In reality we don't have these problems, because we educate the team members not to bring their personal issues here and to work as a team.

What are your future plans?

Expand the cheerleading scene to make it bigger. It will definitely catch on.