The United States Sports Academy selected Brandon Spradley from more than 100 applicants for one of five doctoral teaching assistant positions in August 2011.
One year later, the 24-year-old found himself in Malaysia on a three-week teaching assignment with 20 other university instructors involved in training 1,000 of Malaysia’s physical education teachers on the latest techniques and sports science for youth sports.
Besides teaching, Spradley joined an Academy delegation that met with Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Muhyiddin Yassin. Spradley briefly hobnobbed with him during introductions. The moment showing a beaming Spradley was captured on camera by the Malaysian media and printed in newspapers throughout the country and across Southeast Asia.
“It was definitely a big deal,” Spradley says, laughing. “People looked at me like a star.”
The Academy, also known as America’s Sports University, began delivering its International Diploma in Physical Education and Scholastic Sports (IDPESS) program June 20. The six-month program approved by the Malaysia Ministry of Education (MOE) is taught in six different regions throughout the country. The Academy’s faculty developed the 10-course diploma program to teach in Malaysia, where the nation’s leaders want to enhance the physical education programs taught in its schools and to improve youth sports.
Spradley is a former University of Alabama track and field sprinter who earned a bachelor’s in Kinesiology in December 2009 and earned his master’s with honors in Exercise Science in December 2010. He spoke with The Sport Update about his positive experience in Kulim, Malaysia.
The Sport Update: What did you think about the chance to teach physical education in Malaysia?
Brandon Spradley: First off, I didn’t think I would get an opportunity like this. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity at the Academy to go overseas for the first time in my life. As far as the teaching experience was concerned, I had a great experience. The Malaysian teachers we were training were knowledgeable about the subjects and were really interested in learning more. They asked a lot of questions about P.E. and sports in the United States. In Malaysia, most of them only taught students twice a week for 30 to 45 minutes. They want to change up their curriculum. Teaching there gave me a big confidence booster in my ability.
The Sport Update: Did you have a highlight?
Brandon Spradley: Kulim was a beautiful city depending on what area you were in. We did do a little sightseeing but not much because we had long days teaching. My highlight, though, came in the second course. The purpose of it was teaching social and physical responsibility through P.E. If you learn values through physical education they may transfer to other areas of life, like being respectful at home. Dr. Tim DeVinney, Dr. Fred Cromartie and I had our four classes create three events and compete in them like a Malaysian Olympic Games. They had to come together and create the rules and regulations. We also had opening and closing ceremonies, fireworks and sang their national anthem. It was a lot of fun but also matched up perfectly with what we were trying to teach in this course.
The Sport Update: What did you like about Malaysia?
Brandon Spradley: There are a lot of different cultures and nationalities in Malaysia. They all seem to get along just fine. It seemed there was a lot of togetherness there and a lot of pride in their country. There were few African-Americans but I was able to fit right in and they treated me like a regular guy. We were teaching there during the Muslim celebration of Ramadan, where they wouldn’t eat or drink during the day. We just wanted to be respectful of the students and not eat in front of them but the class wasn’t too affected by us. We didn’t have to adjust too much to their culture, we just had to act respectful.
The Sport Update: What was it like getting to meet Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister and having your picture in many of the country’s papers with him?
Brandon Spradley: The students were really interested in it. They were like, “We saw you on the news!” They gave me newspapers and translated them for me. The reason I was smiling so much was that the DPM said, “You must be the youngest.” I didn’t expect him to make a joke and thought it was funny. That was definitely a big deal. People looked at me like a star.