Holy Month, Hot Days Lead to Overnight Football Practices

Fordson High School in Dearborn, Mich., is holding preseason football practices in the middle of the night - between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. - to avoid scorching daytime temperatures and help the team's Muslim student-athletes practice both football and faith. Members of the school's predominantly Muslim squad say the nocturnal regimen is a way for players to eat and drink while observing the holy month of daytime fasting known as Ramadan, which started last week and will conclude Sept. 9.

Fordson, which is coming off a one-loss season, is situated in the Detroit suburb widely acknowledged as the capital of Arab-America. Head coach Fouad Zaban told the Associated Press that he proposed the late practices after realizing the rotating Ramadan would fall squarely during the start of two-a-days; it also helps beat the heat. (The holy month has not fallen during Fordson's preseason football schedule for more than three decades.)

Working out the logistics of nighttime practices meant obtaining the blessing of school and district administrators, as well as players, parents and police. Zaban also contacted neighbors around the school's illuminated football field via a letter. The coach told AP reporter Jeff Karoub that he is unaware of other teams switching their schedules as Fordson football has, although other teams at Fordson and in the district have moved practices to earlier or later in the day because of the high temperatures. But a strategy that allows players to honor Ramadan while still participating in sports is another example of how administrators can meet the needs of people of Muslim faith.

In Cary, N.C., for example, an aquatics center reflecting on the need for public prayer rooms in sports venues for years.

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