Blair Daly owes his interest in Malaysia to one of his professors at Whitworth University. Inspired by his professor’s stories of serving in the Peace Corps in Malaysia, Daly spent a semester in 2009 studying in the Faculty of Social Sciences at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. In 2011, after he graduated from Whitworth University, he accepted a Fulbright English Teaching Assisting Program position in Malaysia.
Daley’s experience as an ETA in Malaysia was enriched through coaching softball, a sport unknown to most at the Tengku Ampuan Intan Secondary School (SMKTAI) in the quiet countryside of Terengganu state.
“Although softball is technically an official Malaysian school sport, very few schools field teams largely because of a lack of coaches,” explains Daley. “After conducting a quick survey to gauge interest, and having confirmed that that school did indeed possess gloves, balls, and a bat, I declared my intention to start SMKTAI’s first ever softball team.”
Remembering that his mentor at Whitworth had taught softball to Malaysians a generation before, he added, “I extended a legacy of introducing Malaysian students to the American pastime.”
Coaching softball served as a useful tool for teaching English. According to Daley, “the extra hours of informal English listening and speaking while playing softball are equally if not more valuable than our 40 minute sessions together inside a classroom. Because softball-derived terms pervade American English, the coaching of softball and the teaching of English and American culture reinforce each other.”
Likewise, Daley gained a new appreciation of Malay culture by acting as a softball coach. He visited homes and met families who were “eager to reciprocate my sharing about America by linking me to their own way of life. In their villages we’ve sipped from fresh coconuts, barbecued spicy chicken, splashed around in waterfalls, and raced on our motorbikes. Their hospitality is impeccable.”
Daley’s softball team had an excellent rookie season. In the district tournament, they won their first two games, making it to the championship round. They unfortunately lost to the defending district champions in extra innings; however, Daley recalled that “when they received their silver medals on stage at a special school-wide assembly, they held their heads high, the pioneers of softball at SMKTAI.”