Soccer is a game of individual expression. While other sports require discipline and a rigorous commitment to procedure, soccer blends that commitment with the constant need to create and innovate, providing the opportunity for players to truly express different facets of their personalities.
That's the case with Cottonwood (Utah) High junior varsity girls soccer starter Serene Kergaye, too, but she tends to get noticed for a very different reason: Her unique uniform.
According to the Deseret News, Kergaye is a devout Muslim, and her religious beliefs call for her to be fully clothed all day. To conform with those standards, she wears unicolored clothing beneath her soccer jersey and shorts, adds on a similarly colored scarf and plays while wearing a hijab head covering.
You can see a wealth of photos documenting how Kergaye competes with her different uniform in a gallery launchable from this page.
"It's really thin and loose. It's not that hot, I don't think," Kergaye told the Deseret News. "Yeah, I look kind of weird on the field. I'll be dressed head to toe in one color, because we have to be either white or black, but oh well, I'd rather play."
Kergaye has stuck with her religious faith through thick and thin on the field. During Ramadan, the teenager fasted throughout daylight hours, including her after-school soccer practices and games. Still, her coach insisted that she never let the lack of food hinder her performance or her commitment to the team.
In fact, she helped build team unity by joking about her own inability to eat like her teammates.
"She would come every day, and she would say stuff like, 'I'm so excited for when I can eat again, because I'm going to take on all of you guys. I'm going to take you down!" recounted teammate Ali Bromley-Dulfano.
Small factors like that attitude help further mark Kergaye for distinction, even if it's hard for most onlookers to see past her unique uniform. While some states have been less accommodating of non-traditional playing garb, the Utah High School Activities Association made sure that her additional clothing didn't interfere with competition in any way, just as it once did for an orthodox Jewish wrestler whose religion called for him to wear a beard (he competed while wearing a special mask).
Because religion is an important part of Kergaye's personality, no one on the Cottonwood sideline would want her to not wear her religious garb. The player Cottonwood coach Angela Hamilton calls "just a very sweet person," is happy she can be so comfortable with her teammates, all while making opposing defenses as uncomfortable as possible on the field.
In Kergaye's mind, if she can help dispel some common myths about Muslims and their faith, all the better.
"We don't sit in our basements all day and make bombs," Kergaye told the Deseret News. "We play soccer, we play football.
"Pretty much, everybody thinks their religion is 'the religion,' but I think mine is right, so I'm going to follow it and I'm not going to go half way. I get to be different. I'm OK with that."