Get in the game: new uniforms help Muslim girls stay active
Muna Mohamed’s goal is a lofty one — to break the barriers and misconceptions of Muslim women in sports. And she plans to do that one basketball practice at a time. Mohamed, an exercise science major at Augsburg College and a Phillips Scholar, is working to help young girls be active. The Phillips Scholar Program, funded by the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation and coordinated by the Minnesota Private College Fund, recognizes and rewards students who strive to make life better for people with unmet needs in Minnesota communities — Mohamed is one of six Minnesota college students doing their summer community projects around the state.
The University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center and the College of Design collaborated with Brian Coyle Center’s GIRLS (Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports) Initiative to design and create culturally appropriate sports clothing for Muslim girls allowing the girls to play sports in more comfortable uniforms than their traditional clothing — many Muslim women cover all but their faces in front of men in public. Various members of the community collaborated on the project to sew the new uniforms. The girls, ages 10 -13, have girls-only gym time every Wednesday and Sunday at the Coyle Center where Mohamed coaches basketball and works with families encouraging healthy lifestyles.
“When I first started coaching basketball, all I could see were girls fixing scarves, tripping over skirts and making sure all their clothing was intact,” Mohamed said. “But the minute they put on their new sports uniforms, they were just girls playing basketball. They were smiling and focused. No complaints. I can see so much progress.”
While Mohamed’s project focuses on keeping the girls active and providing education surrounding the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, she knows first-hand how hard it is to make a lay-up while adjusting clothing. “I did play sports in middle school. It’s hard for us humans to multi-task like that! I want to give these girls the opportunity I did not have, for them to see how much I enjoy playing and to inspire them,” she said. “I want to start with this generation so they can learn what it means to be healthy. The sports uniforms are just one step toward a lifelong goal of girls continuing to play sports.”
Mohamed hopes that the sports uniforms can be available for all Muslim girls across Minnesota and the country. “Girls like me can continue to play. They can play for their high school. And even play in college,” she said. In the meantime, she will be coaching her team this summer, getting them ready to play in basketball tournaments.