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Superfan Dan boosts morale

Annika Chu

“Fire!” The swimmers and Dan Starrett shout in unison. Moments later, the athletes on the pool deck break away from their huddle, leaving Starrett, otherwise known as “Superfan Dan”, standing there, beaming. He takes a seat on the bench underneath the shade and begins to lead the cheering for the first heat of swimmers. Starrett’s speeches and cheers meant to motivate athletes have become a fundamental part of the pre-game ritual across multiple sports at Paly for over 30 years.

Starrett, a 1985 Paly grad, said he first decided to attend games while biking past water polo practices at Gunn in October 1993.

“Officially, I was a Gunn fan the first two months,” Starrett said. “(The) first few years, I was a Gunn and Paly fan. Then gradually, I lessened my sweat for Gunn and increased it for Paly, so about two years afterwards, I was a total Paly fan.”

Starrett said he faced family crises in 1994, encouraging him to find a way to overcome this grief by supporting student athletes.

“From the time my dad had a heart attack to me going out on my own and my dad’s suicide — I experienced all of that in just under three months,” Starrett said. “Being a fan helped me get through all that, as well as other challenging situations I’ve faced since then.”

By leading cheers for students, Starrett said he gets the opportunity to connect with others and motivate teams.

“If a team is doing line-up, like water polo, I lead cheering because, at that time, there’s nothing to distract the athletes — coaches aren’t talking to them, they’re not playing the game and refs are not blowing their whistles,” Starrett said. “That seems to help win a lot of games, not all games, but a lot of them.”

Junior varsity swim coach Scott Benson said he respects and appreciates Starrett and his eagerness to come to all swim meets.

“He asks me, ‘OK, when’s the next meet? Where is it?’ and just gets all the details so he can be there,” Benson said. “He’s been to many meets, it’s just unbelievable. Some parents don’t even come to every meet, but Dan’s here every time, so we appreciate Dan. Hopefully he can be a Superfan for many years to come.”

Starrett said he enjoys cheering at high school sporting events because it is more fulfilling than attending college or professional sports with huge crowds.

“Here, you can stand out,” Starrett said. “Even more, you inspire them, and you make a difference that way.”

Benson said having Starrett lead the cheers gets athletes pumped up to do their best performance.

“You can just feel that energy,” Benson said. “The whole pool is just screaming and yelling and causing the swimmers to go their best time, so he definitely helps the swimmers get to their maximum potential.”

Senior and varsity swim captain Grace Gormley said it has become a tradition before every meet for Starrett to give his Star Wars parody speech, which begins with the lines “Today is the last day of the republic.”.

“All of us are around together in that big circle about to start the meet, and he sets us off with a really good energy,” Gormley said. “Just having that every single meet is such a special moment to look forward to.”

Junior and junior varsity swim captain Charlie Chen said Starrett’s pre-meet speech raises the swimmers’ enthusiasm.

“Throughout the years, he has become an integral part of our team because of his spirit and his representation of the team to the point that, at least for aquatic events, we have to have his presence in order to make this a complete meet,” Chen said.

Gormley said it means a lot to the team to have somebody who supports them at every meet and encourages them to do their best.

“Seeing Superfan Dan out at all of our meets, both home and away, is really inspiring for us,” Gormley said. “It just shows that there are people out there who really care about the team and who are committed to the legacy that has been built by the players before us and the legacy we’re going to leave behind.”

And Starrett said he intends to continue being Superfan Dan for as long as he can.

“I hope to reach the 50-year mark,” Starrett said. “I chose to be a high school sports fan to help me get through tough times rather than become a drug junkie or an alcoholic. I chose another kind of life, something not self-destructive.”

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Annika Chu
Annika Chu, Staff Writer
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