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Jamad Fiin went through a lot to get to where she is today. From getting herself in the habit of 6 a.m. gym sessions and keeping her focus on academics and her mental health to engaging with the sports world as a Somali Muslim woman athlete, each of those aspects are a lot to juggle in their own right and each comes with its own struggles.

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Knowingly or unknowingly at the time, Fiin was at the helm of building, creating, and organizing a network so other girls like her don’t have to recreate the wheel each time. The motivation to create a shorter path to the basketball dreams she had as a high school athlete continues to drive Fiin’s efforts.

“A lot of the refs would ask if my headscarf was for religious reasons,” Fiin said. “Why would I be wearing it if it wasn’t for religious reasons. It’s like at the airports too, like ‘is that for religious reasons?’ like duh what else is it for?”

Fiin’s teammates would step in when they noticed a ref was beginning to irritate her with the same old question of “why are you wearing that?”, despite having already signed the waiver stating her headscarf was for religious reasons. To Fiin, the question of “why are you wearing that?” felt steeped in arrogance.

“Why is it so new to them, it shouldn’t be in question to see a Muslim girl playing basketball,” Fiin said. “Maybe that’s because they’re never seen it before, but at least talk to the coaches or someone before asking me personally. That question before a game was irritating and affects the psychology of a player.”

Getting into the right headspace to play a successful game is part of the mental training it takes to be an athlete at the collegiate or professional levels, for athletes of all backgrounds. For a visibly Muslim athlete, it’s an added stressor to the usual pressure athletes face.

“It’s harder than people realize to play in college because it’s a whole different process — you have to keep up your grades, keep up with your practices for a full four years so people need to be more motivated and mentally be there,” Fiin said.

Fortunately, Fiin felt she was prepared for the demanding mental toll because, thankfully, she had people around her, like her teammates, who supported her as a college basketball player. But, Fiin still doesn’t see a lot of girls like her out on the courts to this day, especially in the WNBA, but she doesn’t think the reason all boils down to a systematic problem with a head-covering.

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“I think most hijabis don’t play a lot,” Fiin said. “I think there are a couple that wear it in college, and I think if there were more of us that played, it wouldn’t be such a problem. There are about 400 or 300 WNBA players, maybe less,” Fiin estimated generously.

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If only the number was that high.

Unfortunately, there are a lot less WNBA players — roughly143 women — versus the maximum 510 players in the NBA. Given those numbers, it would be rare, based on probability alone, to find a WNBA player with a headscarf. Especially since the WNBA has only in recent years been relieved of the FIBA hijab ban.

“[FIBA] didn’t have anyone actually step up to them and tell them to change it because there weren’t many girls who wore it,” Fiin said. “But when Bilqis [Abdul-Qaadir] pressured them, and when they got pressured, that’s when they started actually doing something.”

FIBA crumbled under the pressure of the challengers of the head covering ban, which under Article 4.4.2, said no head coverings were allowed. Women in headscarves like Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir fought to make sure women like Fiin would not be barred from playing professionally.

With the hijab ban out of the way, a new social and cultural climate surrounded Muslim women in basketball. All that was left was the right coach and training facility to get these athletes at the top of their game. That’s when Fiin came in to fill the gap.

“I wanted to create a space where that I own in that I can invite people to come in a gym or a facility, whenever they want to, and just have full control of a gym because I've always wanted to have full control,” Fiin said.

The Jamad Training Camps, a non-profit effort to train high school girls, is a step in the right direction. Fiin’s mother, Yasmin, who once hadn’t wanted her to play, is responsible for pushing Fiin to secure a non-profit status for the training camps in order to establish a sustainable source of funding through grants and sponsorships. Neither Jamad nor Yasmin want costs to be a factor of exclusion for high school girls who are serious about basketball.

Now that Jamad has finished out her season as a senior, she’s dedicating her energy to the next leg of her professional basketball journey with plans to play overseas and build up to her dream of opening her own gym. When she’s not running her own business endeavors, you can find Jamad courtside with Boston Celtic’s Jaylen Brown, or taking it to the Celtic’s home court to show off her moves.

Photo credits: courtesy of Jamad Fiin’s Instagram, Jamad Basketball Camps’ Instagram