Navigating athletic conflicts with religion
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Faith and athletics can sometimes be hard to reconcile. Each religion has its own set of tenets that govern its followers’ lifestyles and activities.
The most blatant of the limitations occurs with clothing. Although not worn by every Muslim female, the hijab is important to its wearers because they believe it maintains modesty. Hijabs are veils or headscarves that cover the wearer’s hair and chest.
Junior Noorshifa Arssath wears a hijab while wrestling, a largely contact sport. Noorshifa has experimented with several types of hijabs when wrestling. “On a regular basis I use pins to hold my hijab in place, but that’s a safety hazard,” she explained.
“I used to wear a slip on hijab but that was difficult because in the midst of wrestling, it would slip and pull.” Recently, Noorshifa discovered a Canadian company that designed sports hijabs, which although pricey, do not slip or require pins. “It lets me follow my religious beliefs without getting in the way of my athletic performance,” she said.
Junior Misbah Pochi, who considers herself a devout Muslim, runs cross country and track.
Track uniforms, which usually comprise of a singlet and spandex shorts, are designed to be lightweight to be less of a burden to a runner. For people of Muslim and Jewish faiths, showing skin in certain areas is forbidden, causing a conflict with the running attire.
Misbah has adapted to this by wearing leggings and a long sleeve shirt under her track uniform. “I believe it’s mental; [clothing] only affects my performance if I make it a big deal,” she said.
Sophomore track member Tamara Taklov, who is Jewish, dresses similarly. She explained, “In my religion, [women] have to wear skirts or dresses, not pants because it’s considered men’s clothing. I’m not really allowed to show my shoulders or elbows, but I’m not super religious to follow it so closely.”
However, in regards to her uniform modifications, Tamara thinks they actually improve her performance. “We have to keep our legs warm before a race, so the leggings serve that purpose.”
Junior Jagjot Singh is a practicing Sikh and wears a turban, a requirement for all baptized Sikh men. This obligation is sometimes inconvenient for Jagjot, who remarked, “Volleyball requires a lot of jumping, and that always loosens my turban so I repeatedly have to go to the bathroom during practice to retie it.”
Aside from clothing, a certain religion may prevent an individual from attending practice or cause them to miss a game. For example, one may be required to pray or attend a religious ceremony after school; many faiths enforce a rigid time schedule for their followers.
Junior Benjamin Pulatov, who strictly follows Judaism, is unable to participate in events scheduled on Saturdays because of Shabbat. This prevented him from participating in many track and field meets as a freshman.
“I feel as if it limits which sports I can participate in,” he mentioned. Missing many of the scheduled events even caused Benjamin to leave the track team.
Many of our sports teams obligate students to attend a majority of their practices, causing several religious students to think twice about whether or not they should even join a team.
Fulfilling both a religion and team’s requirements is a strenuous task, and may even be impossible in some cases. For some, it is possible to make appropriate adjustments, but for those who devoutly follow their religion, they can be limited and will need to plan accordingly.