at home with: PITTSBURGH PASSIONat home with:
Teamwork. Honesty. Responsibility. Leadership. Integrity. Sacrifice. Hard Work. Loyalty. Dedication. Courage. For some, these are just words. But for the Pittsburgh Passion Women’s Pro Football Team, these words are a way of life. Literally.
Just ask Teresa Conn, the team’s co-owner and head coach. “If you want to be champions on the football field,” she says, “you have to truly understand what it takes to get there. Our players understand the power of those words, and they take them very seriously. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been so successful.”
The Pittsburgh Passion was formed in 2002 as part of the National Women’s Football Association, which was comprised of more than 45 teams across North America. The 2011 season will be the team’s first in the newly formed Women's Football Alliance, a full-contact American football league with 62 teams across the United States and Mexico.
In the Passion’s first season in 2003, they played their home games at Belle Vernon Area High School, where they had no indoor practice facility and held practices outside all winter. “It wasn’t always comfortable being out in the elements,” says Conn, “but I think it made us tough. And in professional football, tough is good.”
In 2004 the team moved to Moe Rubenstein Stadium in Ambridge, where they led the National League in attendance. The following year the Passion was named as the league’s Team of the Year and was even featured in Sports Illustrated.
The following year, and the team moved into George Cupples Stadium (aka, South Stadium) on Pittsburgh’s South Side. In 2007, the team launched the “Passion for Life Foundation,” which, through recurrent, direct, and on-site educational outreach, offers youth sports camps, motivational speakers, and more. Today the team is involved in over 250 community service events annually.
It was also during 2007 that Comcast began airing the Passion’s home games, bringing even more attention to this growing team. By the end of that season, they were crowned as undefeated National Champions. This year, after playing its last two seasons in Wexford, the Passion is returning to its home field of Cupples Stadium on the South Side, where it should be big year for the team. New deals with cable channels like ESPN 3 will help introduce the Passion to a whole new audience by making the games accessible to over 72 million homes across the country.
The team’s first home game for the 2011 season is set for April 30 against the Columbus Comets. The last time the two teams met was in the National Championship in 2007—so it should be an outstanding home opener. In one of the more exciting developments for the Passion’s 2011 season, Pittsburgh Steeler hall-of-famer Franco Harris has joined Conn as a co-owner of the team.
In a recent Pittsburgh Business Times article by Malia Spencer, Conn touched on what Harris’ involvement will mean for the team. “For us, Franco has been a help from day one,” said Conn. “He has believed in us, mentored the program and just been outstanding to our team in every way a person could be.”
Harris, who is most remembered for his “Immaculate Reception” in the 1972 the AFC divisional playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders, is a football legend, and his involvement should bring even more attention to the team this year.
“I was really surprised by the talent and the level of play,” said Harris in the January 3, 2011, Pittsburgh Business Times article. “One of the things that sold me on it was Teresa herself, not only the level of play she expects on the field — Pittsburgh Passion is always a top team — but the commitment to the community off the field.”
“We’re just so excited to have Franco as part of our team,” said Conn. “He’s a football legend, and I know he will have an overwhelmingly positive effect on our players this season and beyond.
What’s truly amazing about the Passion and its success over the years is the fact that its players are just normal people with real 9-to-5 jobs during the week.
“These women are professionals,” says Conn, “but they still have normal everyday lives, too.” Conn says that the Passion roster is made up of women ages 18 to 49 from all lines of work: stay-at-home moms, nurses, college professors, lawyers, waitresses, and everything in between. The team often practices late at night, from 8-11 p.m., since it’s the only time most are available.
And on top of all that, they also do volunteer community service all year long. Talk about dedication. “These women love football, but they have lives and families, too,” says Conn. “I think the commitment they show, day in and day out, is remarkable, and I’m very proud of them all.”
One of the things Conn is most proud of is the team’s diversity. “Our team is full of very different people,” she says, citing things like ethnicity, education level, and backgrounds. Conn is quick to point out, however, that this diverse makeup only makes the team stronger.
“We have found a way to work and grow, day by day, shoulder to shoulder, supporting and inspiring each other,” she adds. “And because of this, we have had a great deal of success.”
Conn believes that sports, directed the right way, can have an amazing impact on lives. “It may look like we are training for football,” she says. “However, we all know that we are training for life, and the football field is a very symbolic representation of life.”
For more information on the Pittsburgh Passion and to view the team’s complete 2011 schedule, visit www.pittsburghpassion.com