News / USA

High School Sports and Religion Intersect in Dearborn

Members of Fordson High School football team in Dearborn, Michigan during practice session
Members of Fordson High School football team in Dearborn, Michigan during practice session

As students in the United States prepare to return to school this fall, many student athletes across the country are also gearing up for fall sports. This includes the U.S. sport of tackle football, which for many towns and cities across the country is a time-honored community tradition. But the Fordson High School football team in Dearborn, Michigan, faced a problem. The practice sessions to gear up for this year's season fall during Ramadan. And all but a few players are Muslims, who refrain from eating and drinking during the day. The team's coach came up with a solution, supported by the community, that keeps the players ready to compete without interfering with their religious beliefs.

As the heat of a glaring sun beats down upon the Fordson High School football field, an annual August tradition is playing out in Dearborn, Michigan -- summer practice.

It's an intense time of year for these teenage athletes, running drills and honing their skills for long hours in the grueling heat.

The mascot of the Fordson football team is a tractor, but coach Fouad Zaban knows his players are not machines.  They need water to stay hydrated, and to stay in peak physical condition.

But the drinking fountain next to the field stands empty the water dripping to the ground instead of into the players mouths.

That's because this year's summer practices fall during Ramadan, a time when devout Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.

Many of the players on the squad observe the religious practice of fasting, which presented a unique challenge for Coach Zaban. "It's just not safe, it's not normal for someone to be out here for six to seven hours a day running around in ninety degree (32 degrees Celsius) weather and not being able to drink," he said.

In search of a solution, Coach Zaban talked with his players, both Muslims and non-Muslims, as well as officials at the school district.  He decided the best time to have practice was after his players broke their fast, at night.

The Fordson Tractors spent several weeks in August practicing from 10PM to 4 AM, with the support of the community, and most parents.  Zaban says only one family called him with concerns. "But the few that have been detractors, you know have tried to make it a religious issue, you know why are we mixing religion and school or sports, and ultimately the only answer I can give them is this for the safety of the kids," he said.

It is a very different team than the one Ron Amen played for at Fordson in the early 1960s. Then, he was one of the few Arab-American Muslims at the school.  He says adjusting practices would not have been a consideration. "Wouldn't have happened.  When I was in high school, that very first year, I was lost in a sea of -- for lack of a better term -- white kids, and I made very few friends.  I felt very isolated, and I gave very serious thought to dropping out," he said.

Amen says things gradually got better once he started playing sports at Fordson.  He has watched the Arab-American community in Dearborn grow over the years, and the makeup of this year's football team is very different from his squad fifty years ago. "The football team is probably 98 percent Muslim, but there are some non-Muslims on the football team," he said.

The long night practices have now ended at Fordson. Though Ramadan continues, the current afternoon practices are not as long or as grueling, allowing Coach Zaban to get his athletes accustomed to the conditions during games played in the late afternoon.

"It's time for us to prepare for our first game.  It's a tough game, It's Novi Catholic Central, the number one team, the state champs from last year, so we have our work cut out for us so that's what we're going to be concentrating on," he said.

The team had an undefeated season last year going into the playoffs, something they hope to repeat this year as they try to take the team further toward the Michigan state football championship.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid