Passion Makes All the Difference - A Team Effort to Empower Women On and Off the Field
By: Faith Jeffcoat
“It is about making women better, stronger, and healthier. It is about total wellness.” When you hear Teresa Conn, co-owner and coach of the Pittsburgh Passion, talk about her team’s mission, you quickly understand that she is leading more than a football team — she is part of a movement that is changing the face of professional football, for women in Pittsburgh and around the country
Pittsburgh Passion is one of 13 pro women’s football teams in the United States along with teams in Arlington, Texas, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Denver, Minneapolis, Reno, Nev., St. Louis, and Tampa Bay, Fla. They play eight games each season with three playoff games, culminating in a championship game at Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. Pittsburgh Passion, Pittsburgh’s only professional women’s sports team, is a women’s sports movement pioneer.
“Pittsburgh Passion is the first and only women’s football franchise featured in Sports Illustrated and on ESPN’s SportsCenter. We have been trying to lead the way. We were even the first team to get in an NFL stadium,” says Teresa, reflecting on their team’s significant achievements.
The women of Pittsburgh Passion navigate a demanding schedule during the season. Unlike their male counterparts in professional teams who are paid to play, the women of Pittsburgh Passion must balance the demands of the sport while managing other aspects of their lives. Every week, there are two nights of training, two practices, and a Saturday football game. “They’ve got their full-time jobs, families, kids, and everything else. And they are trying to do everything a well-paid professional athlete would do, which is very time-consuming. And all the training; they are doing all of it,” Teresa notes.
Pittsburgh Passion is more than a team of players. The eclectic group also shows up for one another as friends working together toward a shared mission. “We’re Black, white, rich, poor, fresh out of high school at 18, or almost ready to retire. It is a blend of everything. We are all from different walks of life. We have people that come together that become best friends,” says Teresa. “You learn a lot about each other. You gain respect and keep coming together towards a common goal.”
Over the last two years, Pittsburgh Passion and Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation (MWRIF) have partnered to help change the way the world treats women. “We are both fighting for women,” Teresa says, in reflecting on the MWRIF partnership. “Whether on the emotional, social, or physical end, it is about getting stronger and trying to bring out the best in each other. And that is just what Magee is about. Finding a solution and staying strong. Let’s surround ourselves with the right people who want to help you be your best, and those parallels between us are a natural fit.”
The partnership was made possible in part through Caroline Fitzgerald, owner of GOALS, the first-ever marketing and sponsorship agency solely focused on women’s sports. Caroline opened her business to help under-resourced professional women’s sports teams and organizations gain more resources through corporate partnerships. “Our goal is to close the gender sponsorship gap in women’s sports and to help create a more equitable sports world,” Caroline says.
Football today is male-dominated — not because women are disinterested, but due to barriers that prevent them from making the strides to play. Moreover, the female-dominated football teams championing the sport are faced with significant inequalities. Women’s sports get only 4% of total sports media coverage. They get only 1% of global sports sponsorship dollars. And the pay gaps across the sports industry are significant.
Caroline knew she wanted to use her platform to help close the gap — starting with Pittsburgh Passion. “We look for partners, not sponsors. Sponsors help pay for things; partners help build things,” Caroline says. When considering partnerships, MWRIF was at the forefront. As part of the initial partnership, Pittsburgh Passion and MWRIF co-branded a video interview series, The Women Behind the Helmet, to highlight the players and bring exposure to the team.
Even with the Pittsburgh Passion’s great strides, there is still much to accomplish. “It’s a joy and a responsibility to do what you can and move things forward,” Teresa says. “So, I see us continuing to put our best foot forward in every way that we can to represent women’s sports well and represent our city well.”
Want to join MWRIF and the Pittsburgh Passion for the Mother’s Day game on May 6? Check out the team schedule, sponsorship opportunities, and more at PittsburghPassion.com.
Ready to join the Passion? Open tryouts are held throughout the season. Email email@example.com for more information.