I saw this story on Twitter yesterday afternoon and had to write something about it. If you're like me, you could probably name several common barriers to involvement in sports for youth/adolescents. Time, access to facilities/equipment/coaching, money, the sport you love not offered by your school district, etc. But growing up in out-state MN also means my sports experiences took place in a fairly homogeneous sports culture. This also means there is a barrier I never really considered until yesterday...the impact of religious/cultural clothing standards on athletes, particularly female athletes. Which is why I found what I read to be so interesting.
When Muslims on the Cedar Riverside Community School girls’ basketball team in Minneapolis found their traditional clothing interfered with sports activities, they sought a solution.
With the help of students at University of Minnesota's College of Design and the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport, the girls designed their own sports attire that met both religious and cultural standards.
One of the coaches at Cedar Riverside had a pretty succinct explanation of the issue in The Minnesota Daily:
As a coach and behavior specialist at Cedar Riverside Community School, Jennifer Weber witnessed East African girls struggling to handle their skirts or keep their hijabs intact while playing sports"Teams were forming, the girls were being active, but there was nothing for them to wear," Weber said. "You can’t cross over a basketball to a hand that’s got a skirt in it or holding a scarf."
This isn't an issue for all female Muslim athletes. Adult Muslim female athletes have options, likely due to wider involvement at the Olympic/international level. That diversity in clothing hasn't extended into the youth/adolescent market though. Creating this new sport hijab was no small process. The girls of Cedar Riverside worked with members of the U's Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport and students in the College Design over the past two years. Four prototypes were created and last fall the athletes and their parents voted on the best one. It's a really cool result, because as Coach Webber from Cedar Riverside notes:
"We wouldn’t be able to do it [without the uniforms]. There’s nothing else out there,"