Bazzi Breaking Barriers For Other Muslim Athletes
Noor Bazzi is a role model, whether she means to be or not.
The talented basketball player was the first St. Clair College player to ever wear a hijab on the hardcourt, and has been a key contributor for the Saints in her first two seasons.
By this point in her life, having played basketball for 12 years, and having worn her hijab for a decade, it’s nothing new to Bazzi. But that doesn’t mean putting her faith on full display every time she steps on the court isn’t inspiring other new athletes. She’s inspiring, and undoubtedly paving the way as a role model for other female Muslim athletes.
“It’s been a huge adjustment, but as the years went on, it got easier and easier,” Bazzi said of wearing her hijab, and following the expectations of her faith on and off the court.
“It was always difficult to look for tights or long sleeves that matched the colours I needed but, other than that, nothing else was too difficult for me to handle. I often get the question of “aren’t you hot?” I do get very hot at times but like I said, it gets easier and most of the time I never notice the heat.”
Those are small prices to pay for her faith.
“My faith means everything to me and every time I step on the court or I am associated with basketball especially, I am reminded of my faith because of my hijab and I immediately am motivated and it makes me want to push harder.”
Although things have gotten easier for Noor Bazzi, it doesn’t mean she’s been free of the barriers put up by systemic racism, whether direct or indirect.
“I am not the kind of person to expect the worst from people,” Bazzi said. And she holds that belief, that people are learning, and that she can show them who she is through her performance in the game.
“There have been some instances where people stare, but I’ll never call that an act of racism. It’s not something people are used to – someone like me traveling around Canada to play college basketball, it’s an unusual thing for them, but that’s not because they think it’s wrong, it’s just not something they see often which is fine. I take those opportunities and I make the best out of them, I show them who I am on the court and that’s all that matters.”
Entering her third season with the St. Clair Saints women’s basketball team, whenever OCAA sports return, Bazzi has never felt more comfortable, and has enjoyed every moment of her athletic and academic life at St. Clair College.
“After 2 years of playing basketball at St. Clair, I’d say it’s been a great experience. I have learned so much from not only the coaches, but my teammates as well. It was always a dream of mine to play in college and I really got lucky with such an amazing coaching staff and roster. These girls aren’t just my teammates anymore, I’ve created many long lasting friendships.
That time with the Saints has included a pair of OCAA silver medals for the Windsor product. This season, Bazzi averaged 12.2 points per game.
Her success on the court has been an example to what young athletes can do, especially to those who like Bazzi, show their faith openly in athletics.
“As someone who has always felt “different,” I would tell any young athlete to use that. Use that to prove yourself, to put yourself on the map, to make sure people know who you are when you step off that floor, use it as motivation.”
Bazzi has embraced the differences in culture, colour, and religion, and hopes other athletes and people will too.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong being “different,” that feeling should never stop anyone from doing what they love and enjoy, use it to push yourself.”
In particular, Bazzi hopes her success will encourage other Muslim women, who might not see themselves reflected in sport, can see her wearing her hijab and competing at a high level, and know that anything is possible.
“I would tell them that anything is possible. I would tell them that nothing and no one should stop them from doing what they love and enjoy. It’s important these days to remember why you started playing because things will come at you from all angles that will make you feel helpless, but always remembering why you started and using that as motivation will help you go a long way, especially as a young woman wearing the hijab.”