Passion is power behind basketball cheerleader's winning routine
Cheerleading has become a useful marketing tool for professional basketball clubs to boost their fan bases. Raymond Li talks to 21-year old Li Ke (pictured), a cheerleader for the Topsun Basketball Club based in Shaanxi, about the glitz and glamour
How did you become a cheerleader?
Topsun Basketball held a cheerleader's contest last September. I was one of the 300 women who signed up for the month-long selection. Luckily, I made it to the top 20 and then was picked for Topsun's cheerleading team.
What made you believe you could be a cheerleader, or, to put it another way, what quality does a person need to become a cheerleader?
I didn't know much about it before I joined Topsun, but I was in a student dance team all the way through to university, which I thought should be an advantage. There are some basic requirements on an applicant's height, appearance and how she presents herself physically. But it really comes down to whether you have a passion for basketball. Only if you have the passion, can you deliver the dance routine in an energetic and explosive way.
You just mentioned the word 'passion', what do you love about the sport? Who's your favourite player in general and the player you like most at Topsun?
I didn't have many opportunities to see live games at the stadium before I joined the team because I was a poor student. But I tried to watch as many games on TV as I could. The best part of being a cheerleader is watching the games up close. Internationally, the Cleveland Cavaliers' forward LeBron James is my favourite. In China, I like national team forward Li Nan and Topsun's point guard Liang Wei.
How do you feel about performing in those tight outfits? What do your family and colleagues think of you being a cheerleader?
I was embarrassed in the beginning, but gradually I got used to it. We are sexy in a healthy way. My family and my colleagues are very supportive of me in cheerleading. Why not? I can get free tickets for them!
Can you remember the first time you went out onto the court and how it turned out?
I think it was during a game in November, although I can't remember exactly what day it was. We did struggle to get our formation right and nobody knew exactly where they should begin because we were all nervous. But it wasn't bad in the end.
What do you normally do to get yourself ready, especially on the night when you perform?
The China Basketball Association's league runs between November and April and, during that period, we train three times a week, jogging and working out in the gym. For the rest of the year, we train on a regular basis. On the night of a game, we start at 6pm doing our makeup and some warm-ups, then we begin rehearsal from half-past seven. Once the match starts at 8pm, we are on standby until the end because we can be called on to the court at any minute.
I know cheerleading is a part-time job for you and the rest of the squad. What day job do you have?
I have been working as a legal assistant at a law firm in Xian since I graduated from the Xian International Studies University.
What are the everyday problems you deal with as cheerleader? How do you juggle both jobs?
It is difficult to have two jobs. Sometimes I skip training sessions because of my day job. But the biggest problem is to keep myself in shape as I'm the kind of person who gains weight easily. So I have to be careful about what I eat.
What have you gained from cheerleading and how much have you changed since you took it up?
The job has changed me quite a lot and I'm now more confident about who I am. On top of that, I believe I'm more beautiful both deep inside and on the outside.
I don't suppose the two jobs have much to do with each other. Have you ever thought that cheerleading could lead you to something bigger, say in showbiz?
I don't know what will happen in the future. I just do it because I love the game and I will continue doing it. Besides, I feel my life is enriched by cheerleading and I can have something to remember when I get old.