A man for all seasons: sophomore Faaiz Memon finds his fit through participating in cheer and football


Frank Ding

Memon pushes against a locked blocking sled for a sled drill. Football players practice sled drills to increase power and speed.

Christine Zhao, Editor-in-Chief Investigations

Sophomore Faaiz Memon throws the force of an offensive lineman to the side and sprints at breakneck speed into the backfield. He is a natural on the football team – it’s hard to imagine that just a year prior, he was on the sidelines, encouraging the team as a junior varsity (JV) cheerleader.

Memon had entered his freshman year as a member of the JV cheerleading squad; his friends and the lively attitude of the team motivated him to join.

“Before freshman year, I was very uncoordinated, but I was decently strong so I thought maybe cheer could be a fun time as a fall sport,” Memon said. “I was wondering whether to do a fall sport, and a couple friends told me to try cheer. They seemed to be really excited and peppy, so I was like “alright, I’ll put my name down.” Once I did that, I just kind of got caught up in it and it was a really fun time.”

Memon faced challenges as a cheerleader, but enjoyed the experience regardless.

“I was decent enough at stunting as a base, but I just didn’t retain [the cheers,]” Memon said. “But when I did learn the new ones, I was really happy about it. [Doing the TJ Rumble] was always exciting because everyone does it.”

Cheering on the sidelines allowed Memon to pick up football knowledge that he hadn’t understood before. His desire to later join football grew out of a concern for both the cheerleaders and the football players: he wanted to ensure that the cheerleaders had a team to cheer for and that the football team had enough players on the team. Being more exposed to football as a cheerleader, combined with the urgency that he felt to join the JV football team, pulled him towards the sport and persuaded him to start practicing in the spring.

“I saw this Facebook post: if we didn’t have more JV members playing, we might not even have a team,” Memon said. “I knew our JV team had very few sophomores there and not many more freshmen coming in, so I felt like if I didn’t join and help, I was risking letting it slip by.”

Memon began going to 7 on 7’s – practices without designated linemen or positions – and eventually found his niche within the skills that football required. While Memon had enjoyed his time on the cheerleading team, he didn’t think he had the skills required to be a cheerleader and found football to be a better suit for his strength and sprinting abilities.

“In football, speed is more important and I think I have more of that,” Memon said. “I’m decently flexible, but I’m not good at that. It’s just I didn’t have the skills that lined up with cheer. I’m not saying I had the body type to be a football player, but I’d say I had more of a mindset from wrestling, go and hit the guy, a more visceral feeling of success, and you really see the result when you do it.”

Particularly through football, Memon has learned to take more chances for his academics, extracurriculars, and himself. He’s made riskier decisions, decisions he normally wouldn’t have made, because of his ability to consistently challenge the norm.

“Going out and doing something different that you’re not expected to, especially at TJ, is something that’s been important to me,” Memon said. “I’ve pursued some stuff that [is] more action-based and just going and taking action for yourself where most people wouldn’t.”

Memon’s experiences as both a cheerleader and a football player have instilled in him a greater amount of enthusiasm and pride. Memon attributes a stronger mindset and understanding of himself to his participation in these sports.

“I’d say between this year and last year, I’ve learned more about my strengths and weaknesses, both because of sports and because TJ in general,” Memon said. “When you’re under stress, you learn what you’re good at, and one thing I found out I was good at was a lot of problem-solving and improvisation. You can improvise a football play with some flexibility; you can’t really improvise a cheer. Knowing myself better has probably been the biggest thing.”