BREAKING BOUNDARIES
Slam|November - December 2020
MEET THE SALAM SCHOOL STARS—AN ALL-MUSLIM GIRLS’ TEAM THAT’S CHALLENGING GENDER-NORMS WITHIN THEIR COMMUNITY.
HABEEBA HUSAIN

WHEN AN all-Muslim high school girls’ basketball squad on the southside of Milwaukee suited up for a scrimmage against their alumni, the last thing they expected was four-time WNBA champion Sue Bird to pop her head into their team huddle.

“You would never think somebody like her would come all the way to Milwaukee, WI, just to play with us,” says Safiya Schaub, alumna and former team captain of the Salam School Stars.

Schaub, now a student at the University of Milwaukee, joined the Stars as a seventh-grader—her second year at the Islamic school.

The reputation of the team at the time was far from glorious. Finding players was like pulling teeth. Support in the crowd? Even rarer.

“We never really won a game,” Schaub says. “The hype wasn’t there back then because we didn’t win.”

Fast-forward to Schaub’s sophomore year in 2016, and there was a new head coach in town—former University of Wisconsin player Kassidi “Coach Kass” Macak.

Macak saw potential in the girls, but she needed more gym time to tap into it. Salam School had one elementary-sized gym that nine competitive teams rationed out throughout the week. Macak managed to get the girls a slot to practice every day instead of the 2-3 times a week they were accustomed to. As she expected, the girls improved quickly.

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