More high school girls are playing competitive sports than ever before. But for some devoutly religious girls, balancing faith and athletics can be a challenge. Last month in Washington, D.C., a Muslim high school track star was kicked out of a meet because her special uniform violated competition rules.

Last month in Canada, the issue made national headlines when a 14-year-old soccer player was ejected from a game for wearing her hijaab head scarf. Here in Connecticut, a unique girls basketball team has so far managed to skirt the controversy. The girls practice lay-up shots before the evening game. They call themselves the BCA Skirts. BCA for Beth Chana Academy, a private Jewish school in Orange, Conn., a Chabad-Lubavitch run school. And Skirts for the traditional long dress the girls wear off the court ... and on. "It's my religion and I wouldn't give it up for anything. So had I had a choice between religion or basketball, I would definitely pick religion. So now that I have a chance to combine the two and have religion and basketball, it's just a very good opportunity," says 16-year old Ariella Hecht.

When in public, Jewish law requires young women to dress modestly – with skirts that fall below the knee. They also cover up from their neck to their elbows.

"It's to show the world out there that I have more to me than what meets the eye. And I'm gonna cover my body because if you want to get to know me, you're going to have to get to know my insides," says Hecht.

Four years ago the school decided to organize a girls basketball team, and name it after their unorthodox uniforms. The BCA Skirts aren't part of an established league but they compete informally against many New Haven area schools. Principal Jeanne Rice believes the girls can remain true to traditional Judaic principles and still do just about anything.

"Initially, it was kind of, let's get together, let's have some fun you know and meet some other schools and play together. But along the way the girls have developed this amazing tenacity. They're just spectacular athletes and people don't expect that, you know, from these girls," Rice says.

Some girls wear ankle-length skirts with their Nike's. 17-year-old point guard Batsheva Levine prefers to wear leggings with a skirt that falls just below her knee. She says the team's unusual outfits can be an advantage.

When Skirts Are Still Competition

With their full-length skirts, the Beth Chana School's basketball players are a modest addition to the high school hoops circuit.
With their full-length skirts, the Beth Chana School's basketball players are a modest addition to the high school hoops circuit.
"Sometimes when schools come in, they'll like give us looks you know, and they'll be like, 'Aw, like you know, we have this game in bag" and like "short little Jews in skirts? We're gonna do this real well,'" says Levine. "We've surprised ourselves, actually, that we've had an undefeated season so far."

Tonight's game is against their toughest rival – an urban charter school in New Haven, Amistad Academy.

Its' their second match-up, so players Shahara Murphy and Jasmine Ramirez say they weren't as surprised this time by the Skirts' uniform. Amistad won the game.

"My only problem is like them tripping over and then the ball, they lose the ball and it goes out. But I think they're really fast on the court to have skirts on," says Ramirez.

The National Federation of State High School Associations allows students to modify athletic uniforms for religious or medical reasons, as long as it doesn't create dangerous playing conditions. Officials say there's no hard data, but anecdotally they're hearing that more students are asking for uniform modifications nationwide. BCA coach Jamie Bartone says she never expected to be working with players in skirts.

"The way they look at the game, it surprises me how like, it doesn't even come into consideration. They have skirts on and that's what they're used to and that's how they play. A few of them actually want to try and pursue basketball at the college level," says Bartone.

And the girls say they're not afraid of what will happen when their colleges find out they can't dribble the ball between their legs. The BCA Skirts say basketball's taught them that when you're rooted in tradition, you can aim high.