My mom and dad helped me lace up my first pair of soccer cleats at the age of six. After eleven years of playing consistently and seventeen years later, I never thought my love for soccer, as well as running would be beneficial during my time in Malaysia.
Every Monday night at 5:30pm, my roommate and fellow English Teaching Assistant, Christina Chavez, and I, lace up our running shoes and head to the nearby track at her school, SMK Nasiruddin Shah, for weekly jogging club.
|Jogging Club with honorary members, Hannah and Zach, during their visit to|
Malaysia in June!
|Catching a break after a run!|
Christina initiated this active club with students at her school back in April. Christina’s school is about a five-minute walk from our home, and a two-minute motor scooter ride. In addition, many of Christina’s students are from our village, live very near to the school or live in hostel (dorm) accommodations at the school. So, there are always students around wanting to participate!
After participating in Jogging Club with Christina and her students, I decided to open up the club to the students at my school, although many live quite a distance away from my village as well as from the track. However, despite the obstacles for my students to attend, my students have come to participate as well!
With our gym shoes on, we stretch and get our muscles warmed up with the students on the red tar track. Believe it or not, many of our students choose to run barefoot even though they do have a pair of gym shoes. We continually ask them if it hurts, but they always say, “No, no. It’s fine. Fine.” So, with shoes on or off, we set off running laps in the hot, yet setting sun.
Some students take it quite seriously, while others just use it as a means to simply chit chat with Miss Nina (Christina) and I. After the running session, Christina has the students write down their number of laps in hope that they can improve, while I unleash the soccer ball.
With my legs a little tired and sweat running down my face, I start dribbling the ball around and attempting to juggle it. Within minutes, students come to join.
Now, the first time I brought the soccer ball out, the boys were a bit shocked. Girls do not play football (soccer) in Malaysia, so the idea that an American, and especially a female American, could do something with a soccer ball was a bit mind-blowing to them. However, slowly and steadily, I would kick the ball to one of the boys and he would kick it back. At first, they were trying to kick lightly to be easy on me, but with the power I kicked the ball back with, they got the point. Girls can play.
Since April, we run and then play football (soccer). The boys will now play with me, and I even got some of the girl students to play as well. Remembering the days back when I wore my little blue and yellow soccer jersey when I played on the team my dad coached, I take time to show the girls how to kick the ball and what part of the foot to use. A few of them have gotten it down!
While the activity is fantastic, a natural benefit from having jogging club has been channeling an outlet for students to speak English in a more kinesthetic environment. Through jogging club, and especially through kicking a soccer ball around, I have been able to get through to students that I otherwise have a difficult time connecting with in the classroom. Running and football are two so-called “languages” the students and I both speak, which allows them to be relaxed and comfortable. So, while I use basic English conversation with them on Monday nights, they do not even realize how much they are learning.
While strengthening their legs, enhancing their football skills and getting energy out, little do they know they are building their English.