I streak down the field, bright orange and purple cleats tearing up the soft grass and dirt. Arms pumping, long legs stretching out in optimum running form, my body is pointed towards one thing — a white flying plastic disc. The other girls around me converge almost in slow motion as they all crowd to jump in an attempt to snatch the disc from the sky. My brown arm peeks up higher from the rest, my fingers curling around the edge of the disc as I rip it elegantly from the air. Legs brace for impact into the ground and I chop my feet into the dirt and grass to stop running.
The opposing team member sucks in a steadying breath and gets into a defensive position. I straighten and then my body easily slips into throwing form. Nothing else matters besides the seconds ticking past, the positions of my teammates and the accuracy of the throw I am about to let loose. I am in the middle of an intense game of Ultimate Frisbee and the last thing I’m worrying about is my scarf. My Sukoon Active TechnicalUp Do Hijab has made sure of that.
My name is Ayah and I am Sukoon Active’s Operations & Marketing Intern for the summer. I play competitive Ultimate Frisbee, and if you’ve never heard of it or tried it, you are missing out. Ultimate Frisbee is like a super salad — it combines all the best parts of other competitive team sports and then adds a dash of cranberries. It includes running at top speeds for flying discs to score in an end zone like in American football, passing from teammate to teammate like in soccer, and defensive positioning that resembles basketball. Whenever I go out to compete I am usually the only African American girl on the field, and I am always (with the exception of two times) the only hijabi.
Facebook must be credited for my Sukoon Active discovery (btw).
At some point in 2016 I was scrolling mindlessly and I came upon a kickstarter campaign that caught my eye. It was for two reasons: (1) it was a Muslim woman starting a business (2) the product had my name written all over it. I clicked to see more information and sat back, astonished. This was an activewear hijab made just for girls like me. It ticked all my boxes. Stylish? Check. Made with serious fitness activity in mind? Check. Owned by a Muslim woman? Check. I watched the video, read all the information and decided that I would donate enough to get myself a sample.
After a while I finally got the Up-Do Hijab in the mail and unwrapped everything carefully, admiring the packaging, the notes, everything about it. It took me a few hours to get the wrap right, but after that, I was doing it like a pro. My Sukoon Active Hijab now comes with me to every Frisbee game, every tournament, and every gym session. Whenever I put it on I know it won’t be coming off anytime soon.
Before I stumbled upon Sukoon Active I was wearing buffs as sports hijabs. If you don’t know what a buff is, a buff is a long tube of fabric, sometimes seamless, sometimes with a single seam down the center. I found them randomly one day in Dick’s Sporting Goods, decided to give it a try and concluded that it would work. The way I put it on made sure it never moved no matter how hard I was running or how high I was jumping. I got the buffs in different patterns to coordinate with my Ultimate Frisbee outfits or uniforms. I was always the most color-coordinated player on the field.
But if my hair was unkempt underneath, sometimes the buffs would come undone and I’d have to adjust it on the sidelines instead of watching and cheering on my teammates. I was doing the best with what I had so I wasn’t complaining, but I knew there were products out there for active Muslim women that were made for instances like this. What I had found previously was always disappointing. Either it was expensive, horribly unfashionable, uncomfortable, or it made me look like I had a pea-sized head. So I stuck to buffs until that one fateful day in 2016.
I have been playing Ultimate Frisbee competitively for over five years now. I’ve been blessed to compete overseas, join amazing Frisbee communities and go to tournaments all over the world. I’ve competed in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, UAE; Medellín, Colombia; Amman, Jordan; New Jersey and Washington D.C. One thing in common with all those experiences was that I was the only hijabi on any of my teams. I looked and dressed differently than my peers and I stepped out onto the field amidst stares and questioning glances. Ultimate Frisbee is a predominately White, male sport. I play on mixed gender teams and sometimes defend other men. I challenge the status quo every time I lace up my cleats and jog onto the turf.There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing surprised gasps when as a modestly, stylishly dressed Muslim athlete catches and throws frisbee after frisbee. No matter where I go, I can’t hide the fact that I am a woman who practices her faith AND also loves to get a good sweat in - but that doesn’t mean I can’t look good while I’m at it!
Ayah Rashid is a student at NYU Abu Dhabi