FROM LEFT: ARSHIA HUSSAIN, ALISHA RAMTULLAH, HANNAN YUSUF.
IN BACK COACH LUKE SHAW
“This is the largest number of Muslim girls we’ve had [on the team]. Our team embraces diversity and I have hoped that our team could reflect our student body by recruiting girls who aren’t always reflected on the tennis court,” said Coach Shaw.
Being a full part of a team isn't just about playing well. It's also about looking and feeling the part. With four hard-working, Muslim hijabi teammates, and traditional uniforms that didn't align with their modest values, the Rebels tennis coaches needed to figure out how to help the girls feel their "Rebel Pride."
Meet the Champlin Park High School (CPHS) Rebels who are helping us imagine a more inclusive sports environment and a more meaningful high school experience.
All of the girls on the Rebels tennis team are good, normal kids- involved in sports, focused on their studies, close (beyond their time on the tennis court) with their teammates. The team "feels like family because we all connect on a level besides tennis and we're all super close," shares Arshia Hussain, a junior at CPHS.
Out of the sixty girls on the tennis team, four of those team members are proud Muslims who choose to wear hijab. Their names are Alisha Ramtulla, Hanaan Yusuf, Arshia Hussain & Fatema Nathu.
"When tennis season came this year," says Coace Judy Oliverias (referred to as 'Coach O' by her team), "It kind of dawned on me, the girls didn't have anything to wear," True to their values, the coaches partnered with Alisha, Hannan, Arshia and Fatema to learn about, and understand what the girls' tennis uniforms could look like. "We asked a lot of questions," said Coach Shaw, "It was about asking them to share their cultures with us."
This is the first year CPHS has implemented uniform policy changes that embrace the values of inclusion and understanding, creating custom Rebel Tennis sports hijabs that proudly bear the school emblem. This policy change comes as a result of our Sheroes: Four brave Muslim girls loved tennis enough to go out for the team, and now the whole team is stronger, more welcoming, and has learned an important lesson in inclusion, as a result.
“I feel really good about [the new sports hijabs] because I can wear hijab as part of my uniform, and I feel more welcome into the team, and it’s more accepting,” said Hanaan Yusuf, sophomore. “It makes me feel really welcome and part of a group of people that I belong with,” Alisha Ramtulla, freshman, chimed in.
Teammate Arshia Hussain agrees. Wearing a sports hijab with the school emblem changes everything for her and the other three muslim players. “This feels like we’re actually part of a team. It makes us look and feel like the other players.” And to their coaches, all four girls are just like everyone else, and they want the rest of Minnesota to see them as nothing but talented, strong and hard-working players.
“These players are just like every teenage kid. They do everything everybody else does. They just happen to wear hijabs while they’re playing. These are ordinary teenage girls doing ordinary teenage things. They are proud of where they come from and they are proud of our faith. And they are just like everybody else.” said Coach Shaw.
That show of understanding and inclusion was meaningful to the players. “It’s really important, especially now when people are so scared to show their identity. Now is the time for me to say I’m Muslim, I’m proud and I’m not afraid,” said Hussain. Her coaches have helped her make that statement.
Their coaches know that by wearing ‘Rebel Pride,’ the girls can and will inspire others far beyond the tennis courts. Coach Shaw believes that the sports hijabs are transformative. “It’s such a strong statement for the players to wear their sports hijabs to school. To have younger Muslim women see them [as role models]” is inspiring. “But also to have kids that are not Muslim see, and acknowledge, that our Muslim girls are playing sports - and are part of lots of different groups,” is even more meaningful.
The Champlin Park High School Rebels tennis players want us to know that readers (and fans!) can support them by taking the following action:
As aware and strong young women, and as our ‘sheroes,’ the Rebels tennis players aren’t naive. They know that Muslim women who wear hijab are particularly visible and under scrutiny in this harsh political climate. This hasn’t stopped them from doing what they love and transforming their school for future generations despite a climate that promotes fear and divisiveness. “To all hijabis out there,” exclaims Alisha Ramtulla, “don’t let your hijab limit you from being who you are.”
We couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Rebel Tennis players, for blazing the trail in our Minnesota schools, for pushing for policy change that will welcome more diverse young women into your sport, and for modeling exceptional citizenship and bravery as you fight stereotypes. You are our ‘sheroes’!