At midnight tonight, most high school football players will be in bed, getting much-needed rest for two-a-days tomorrow. In Dearborn, Mich., however, Fordson High School gridders will be on the practice field.
Profiled yesterday in the New York Times, Fordson has a student population that is more than 90 percent Muslim. This year, two-a-day practices start during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. Instead of having his players run sprints in full pads during daylight hours with no hope for water, Coach Fouad Zaban has moved practices to nighttime, from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. this week.
Muslims observing Ramadan are allowed to eat and drink only after sunset. By scheduling practices at night, Zaban gives his players a chance to eat before and after practice and stay hydrated during it.
Heat-related illness is a serious problem in high school football, having claimed the lives of several athletes already this year. "Honestly, it's more a safety issue than a religious issue," Zaban told the Times. "If kids were going to fast, and the majority are, it was much safer not to be outside in daylight in 90-degree weather for hours each day."
Nevertheless, practices will resume at normal times next week, and Fordson's Muslim players will have to adjust their routines through the rest of Ramadan. Ahmad Leila, a senior guard, plans to cut back his weightlifting through August. He said, "You don't have enough protein to repair your muscles." Although Leila might lose 15 to 20 pounds off his 275-pound frame, he believes he will be able to regain the weight after Ramadan.
Are you fasting for Ramadan or other religious reasons? Go to our Facebook wall and let us know what adjustments you've made to stay safe during grueling two-a-day practices.
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