Ezawa Malish on her inspirations and journey to SFU

The freshman blocker reflects on the lack of Black women representation in volleyball

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Black and white photo of Ezawa Malish in a huddle with her team.
Malish aspires to open her own facility to lower training costs for future up-and-comers. Photo: Garrett James

By: Luke Faulks, Staff Writer

Major: Business, first year

Hometown: Coquitlam, BC

Position: Middle blocker

Ezawa Malish was first introduced to volleyball after attending summer camp between grade eight and nine. The following year, she joined her high school squad. Malish soon began rising in the ranks and gathering accomplishments, including a gold medal at the 2018 BC Provincial High School Championship, and a spot on the Team BC Select Program for the 2021 Canada Games.

“In grade 10, I played on the senior team, so I played [with older players], and we were able to host the provincial tournament at our school which, to this day, is like the greatest experience I’ve had,” she said. “We got a bronze medal with our four seniors [who] are the biggest leaders in my life.”

Those four seniors continued to be a strong influence on Malish, embodying four values — perseverance, inspiration, control, and dependability. “Those four values just kind of stick with me a lot,” said Malish. “I always think of them when I’m struggling on the court or off the court because they’re just good examples.”

Her high-school coaches are also a big part of her life. “They coached me from grade nine to grade 11,” she said. “I look up to them so much.”

Due to COVID-19, Malish didn’t have a chance to play during her senior year of high school. She described not having volleyball in the interim between high school and SFU as quite nerve-wracking.

“I was going from not competing for almost a year to going and playing NCAA volleyball. It was very, very scary. I was watching a lot of volleyball games, and tracking film.” It’s a strategy that she continues to employ in the run-up to a game. “Trying to absorb as much volleyball as I can off the court, so when I get on the court I’m ready to go.”

Whether it’s at the high school, university, or professional level, she said being a Black woman athlete in volleyball makes her stand out. “In my sport, you don’t really see a lot of Black people. To kind of go through the sport without seeing someone who looks like you is pretty hard because there’s no one to watch.”

During her first senior level tournament, she saw another Black female player for the first time. “I just remember that day so much because [ . . . ] I saw someone who looked like me, for like the first time, and I kinda looked at her like ‘I wanna be like her.’”

Malish has made it a goal to try to be an inspiration for other athletes in her field. “It’s really important to see Black female athletes that look like you. And that’s why I [ . . . ] go so hard, because there are little girls in my community who kind of look up to me.” She added, “It just keeps me going. 

“I hope to one day be that role model for other girls who can look at me and say there’s another Black [woman] athlete playing volleyball.”

For now, Malish’s long-term plan is to make coaching services more accessible. “I know that eventually, I want to open a training facility for volleyball and hopefully widen it to basketball and soccer, and kinda just give priority to kids who can’t afford the huge prices for training.”