Student Well-Being

How a High School Football Team Adjusts for Ramadan

By Bryan Toporek — August 15, 2011 1 min read
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What do you do when 90 percent of your school’s population can’t eat or drink anything before sunset and after sunrise for an entire month? For a high school football team in Dearborn, Mich., the answer comes in the form of midnight practices.

Fordson High School’s football team has started its second straight year of two-a-days—going from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.—because a majority of the players are observing Ramadan, according to the New York Times.

With the adjusted practice schedule, the players can break their fast at sunset, eat before sunrise, and avoid the heat wave that’s been claiming lives in the past few weeks.

“Honestly, it’s more a safety issue than a religious issue,” the team’s coach, Fouad Zaban, said to the paper. “If kids were going too fast, and the majority are, it was much safer not to be outside in daylight in 90-degree weather for hours each day.”

A senior tackle on the team, Billy Bazzi, told the paper that “you’d dehydrate or faint ... without water.”

The team gave players routine water breaks during the five-hour practice sessions, along with a mid-session break with nutrition bars and juice drinks. After practice concluded at 4 a.m., the coaches handed out meat pies and cheese pies, giving the student-athletes an hour or two to get home and eat before sunrise.

The Times also noted that the temperature at the end of practice clocked in at a “refreshing 73 degrees"—a stark contrast to the heat that was crippling the Midwest earlier this month.

At nearby Dearborn High School, the team has been practicing from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., with roughly one-third of the players fasting to observe Ramadan.

Ramadan lasts until Aug. 30, but Fordham’s season starts on Aug. 26. Some players told the paper that they’d break their fasts on opening day and make up for it with later fasting; others said they’d hold out until halftime, when the sun would be down and coaches would provide energy-boosting snacks to the players.

“You might not have a lot of energy that first half, but once you eat, you feel refreshed,” said senior guard Ahmad Leila. “After halftime, I’ll be coming after those guys.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.