Boise State athletes balance the importance of religion and sport

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Religion plays an important role in many people’s lives, and for some student-athletes at Boise State, it affects when they are able to train and compete.

Senior Falon Miller is an example of how religious practices can affect a student-athlete. Miller is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), and a forward on the women’s soccer team. The soccer team follows a routine schedule of playing games on both Fridays and Sundays during the fall, which can lead to a few issues.

“Sundays are a big deal for Latter Day Saints,” Miller said. “I try my best to live up to the 10 commandments, one of them being to keep the Sabbath Day holy. Keeping the Sabbath Day holy is a personal thing between you and God. I see it as a day to put away things that would distract me and focus on important relationships and serving others.”

Miller, who is from Las Vegas, Nevada, served a mission for the church and decided she did not want to continue playing soccer if that meant she would have to play on Sundays.

“(Sunday) is my favorite day of the week because I get to refocus on what is most important to me,” Miller said. “It is super challenging for athletes who are required to be game or practice ready on that day.”

Miller, who had previously played at the University of Washington, was contacted by head coach Jim Thomas to play at Boise State but said no to the offer, knowing she would have to play on Sundays. However, Miller and Thomas were able to come up with an agreement allowing her to not have any soccer-related obligations on Sundays at home.

“It was weird at first not being there for games,” Miller said. “But living that commandment has helped me remain consistent with my faith and allowed me to go to church and serve within my church calling.”

Miller, however, played in all six Sunday away games, as required of her. In the mornings before the game, Miller, and whoever else, is allowed to attend church. This has allowed her to visit a number of different churches around the western states.

“My teammates and coaches were very supportive of this, which was a huge blessing,” Miller said. “I just had to work extra hard on the other six days of the week to keep getting playing time and fighting for the starting position.”

Freshman Ahmed Muhumed of the Boise State cross country and track teams, a practicing Muslim, must also alter his training due to his religious beliefs.

Muhumed was born in Somalia and fled as a refugee to the U.S. when he was six, settling in Salem, Oregon. This fall, Muhumed joined the cross country team and has been a consistent scorer on the varsity team, recently winning Freshman of the Year honors at the Mountain West Championships.

This summer, however, Muhumed had to endure both training for the upcoming season and Ramadan, a month of fasting which falls in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this month, Muslims must fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from eating and drinking, including water.

“During Ramadan, which has been in the summer, I am usually on my break from running for the first two weeks,” Muhumed said. “The second two weeks, I will run about four to five days a week, for about an hour before I break my fast. After I will usually eat and then do general strengthening and stretching.

Muhumed said he rarely has issues, except during the end of Ramadan, when it can be difficult to not eat all day and then run.

What is a normal schedule for someone both practicing Ramadan and training for an upcoming cross-country season?

“I usually get up at around 3:30 a.m. to fuel up. I eat a lot, lots of carbs, protein and fruits, while also drinking lots of water,” Muhumed said. “Then at 4:15 a.m., I stop eating, the next meal isn’t until 9 p.m.”

During the day, Muhumed stays inside as much as possible, sleeping throughout the day.

“Anything to make the day go faster,” Muhumed said.

Ramadan will fall in the month of May this year, conflicting with the end of the track and field season. Muhumed said that Muslims are able to make up or move days of fasting if they have a conflict during the official month of Ramadan.

“I will probably just make up the days,” Muhumed said. “Or I will do it in the winter, making up time is not that big deal, the practice of fasting during Ramadan is, however ­­– anyone over the age of 15 does it.”

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