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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora