Refraining from food and water for approximately 18 hours a day, every day for a month, could be somewhat difficult for just about anyone, specifically for practicing athletes like Aboubacar Traore and Lassina Traore.
Fasting for Ramadan is a shared experience for those in the Muslim community, but it can affect everyone differently, especially athletes.
The Traores, who are not related, are sophomore forwards for CSULB’s men’s basketball team. Growing up proudly practicing their Muslim faith, they have both participated in Ramadan since they were around 5 years old.
However, the years of practice have not made fasting any easier for them, as they have faced more challenges with fasting while playing basketball.
“I love eating, so when Ramadan comes around, and I start fasting, it really affects my performance,” said Lassina Traore, who was recently named the Big West Newcomer of the Year. “I won’t perform at a high level; it just won’t be the same. I try not to fast on game days or when I know practice will be too hard.”
When Lassina Traore feels he needs to skip a day of fasting, he makes it up on the days following the month of Ramadan. He explained how on the days following Ramadan, one can still fast and catch up with the days they missed, which is what he often finds himself doing.
“I do that because I cannot go a day without eating or drinking, then come perform at a high level. If I know the day will be hard, I won’t even fast,” Lassina Traore said.
On the other hand, Aboubacar Traore, recently named the Big West Hustle Player of the Year, finds the fasting process somewhat easier to accomplish, yet at times difficult when it comes to playing.
“It doesn’t really affect my performance because I’ve been doing it basically my whole life, but sometimes it’s hard because the more you play, the more tired you get, and when you can’t drink water, it gets hard,” Aboubacar Traore said. “If I had to fast during the season, I don’t think I’d be able to play for more than 30 minutes at a time.”
Since the date for Ramadan changes every year due to Muslims following a lunar calendar, the Traores luckily don’t have to fast during game season. They said right now, they are mostly playing pick-up games or just practicing.
Associate Athletics Director Roger Kirk says that among the Muslim student-athletes he has worked around, he notices that they’re able to plan and be aware of how their bodies are going to react to fasting. So there have been no major difficulties with anyone’s overall athletic performance during Ramadan that he’s seen.
“They’re still able to have success in what they’re doing athletically and work around it,” Kirk said.
Ramadan has not always been bearable for both the Traores; it was something they learned to gradually accomplish throughout their childhood by fasting for only a few days at a time to get familiar with the process.
As they grew older with more of an appreciative understanding of the importance of Ramadan instilled within their religious households, the process got easier and now feels more like a habit once it comes around.
While Aboubacar Traore expresses how some days are easier than others, fasting as a whole is still difficult in the end, particularly as an athlete. “The more you play, the more tired you get and the weaker your body will feel,” he said.
But at the end of the day, it is still very much worth it for the Traores.
“My parents taught us it’s the month for forgiveness…this is the time to ask God for forgiveness by fasting,” Aboubacar Traore said.
For Lassina Traore, Ramadan is also about seeking forgiveness from God, as well as asking for ease of the stressful obstacles in one’s life.
“It’s about asking God to give you strength to get through any situation in life, to be able to succeed, or realize your dream,” Lassina Traore said.