Pure Pittsburgh Passion

For a serious fix of girl power, look no further than the Pittsburgh Passion, the area's all-female football team that draws thousands of supporters and fans around the region.



Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Passion

(page 1 of 2)

Football is a game of forces.

A linebacker crashes into a running back and the football falls to the ground. A quarterback completes a third-and-long and an old man hops up from the couch, sprints across the room and high-fives his son, his steps and stride seemingly two decades lighter. A football team wins a few playoff games and an entire city gets swept up, waves of hope, happiness and hysteria carrying it toward a Super Bowl across the country. A high school senior loses his last game and tears streak down his face as an empty feeling settles into his stomach.

The forces in the game of football start building on the field, but extend far beyond it. It’s a ripple effect that never ends, each game a giant rock tossed into a limitless body of water.

Shawna Rouse felt it in the bleachers one day. She was watching her friend play for the Pittsburgh Passion, a full-pads, full-contact, all-female football team. And something inside Rouse kept tugging her toward the field, pushing and pulling until it became impossible to ignore.

“I just loved everything about it,” said Rouse, a 29-year-old Grove City, Pa., resident who plays wide receiver. “All through high school I played sports, but once you graduate, there’s not a whole lot out there. It was a great opportunity. Of course I loved the intensity and the contact, too.”

It didn’t seem to matter that Rouse was only 5-feet, 6-inches tall, that she only weighed 115 pounds or that she worked during the day as a photographer, a job that requires loads of creativity, but not exactly any aggression. Rouse had to play for the Passion. She spent the next several months training for her tryout, running laps and lifting weights, recruiting muscles that had started to become dormant. Finally, a few days after tryouts ended, she got the e-mail that she had been waiting for.

Congratulations. You’re a member of the Pittsburgh Passion.
 

Taking the First Hits

Nicole Steele remembers the first time she got hit. She wasn’t like all those other people in Pittsburgh who were raised on football and spent much of their childhood years in helmets and shoulder pads. Steele was a 25-year-old female. It was her first full-contact practice. And some girl leveled her.

“I remember it being kind of scary that first hit. It was kind of frightening,” said Steele, a 28-year-old Lawrenceville resident who works as a music therapist at Children’s Hospital. “I hit the ground and thought ‘Oh my gosh, what just happened? But she grabbed my hand and shoulder pads and helped me up.”

It was a fitting introduction to Passion football. The approximately 60 players are tough and talented, winners of a national championship in 2007. They practice three nights a week, three to four hours each time January through March. They gather a few other times each month for community service. Somewhere between all those hours and commitments, they stop being players or teammates; they become like family.

“We’ve stood in weddings together and baby showers together,” said head coach and owner Teresa Conn, who spent six seasons as a player. “It’s a big sisterhood.”

Surely, something special must be taking place to keep the players together year after year. One player is 49. Her teammates affectionately call her “grandma.” Conn said there are three attorneys on the team, along with a college professor, an executive director, teachers, coaches and a host of other professions.

“I’d say the biggest motivating [factor] is you definitely have a fierce love of the game, but I love the team even more,” Steele said. “It’s a really strong network of women and men (coaches). They are wonderful. I like everything that comes along with the game. I thought I was signing up to play a high level sport—and it is. But it ended up being so much more than I signed up for.”

In football—and, often, in life—adversity can be the strongest force.
 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Review: Salt of the Earth

Review: Salt of the Earth

Brandon Fisher is the latest chef behind Salt of the Earth’s modern-American dishes.
2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

Sharing the DNA of the father of children’s television, the Fred Rogers Company reinvigorates a beloved legacy while creating new hit characters and content that help children to grow, giggle and learn.
Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Jamie and Ali McMutrie were PM's 2010 Pittsburghers of the Year after airlifting 54 youngsters to safety. Now, they have forged a relationship with a major global player to continue their work to prevent struggling Haitian families from surrendering children to orphanages.
PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

Four ways to make the city even better in 2015.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Must-See: Pittsburgh's Holiday Displays

Must-See: Pittsburgh's Holiday Displays

Get yourself in the holiday spirit in just over a minute.
Destined to be a Classic: Pittsburgh Penguins 'Christmas Vacation' Parody Video

Destined to be a Classic: Pittsburgh Penguins 'Christmas Vacation' Parody Video

Evegeni Malkin is priceless at the end.
This Weekend: Chris Jamison & the Steelers, Pens & Ugly Sweaters, Mayor Undercover

This Weekend: Chris Jamison & the Steelers, Pens & Ugly Sweaters, Mayor Undercover

Some cool things to watch out for this weekend in the ’Burgh.
#Oops — Or, About that Headline . . .

#Oops — Or, About that Headline . . .

Once in a while, no good deed goes unpunished.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Review: Salt of the Earth

Review: Salt of the Earth

Brandon Fisher is the latest chef behind Salt of the Earth’s modern-American dishes.
2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

Sharing the DNA of the father of children’s television, the Fred Rogers Company reinvigorates a beloved legacy while creating new hit characters and content that help children to grow, giggle and learn.
Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Jamie and Ali McMutrie were PM's 2010 Pittsburghers of the Year after airlifting 54 youngsters to safety. Now, they have forged a relationship with a major global player to continue their work to prevent struggling Haitian families from surrendering children to orphanages.
PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

Four ways to make the city even better in 2015.
Penguins Profile: The Fearless Patric Hornqvist

Penguins Profile: The Fearless Patric Hornqvist

The Penguin winger fits in easily with the team, thanks to his infectious personality and his mad dedication to confounding opposing goaltenders.
Rev It Up: This South Side Pittsburgh Loft is Unique and Unusual

Rev It Up: This South Side Pittsburgh Loft is Unique and Unusual

This three-story home melds all of the comforts of home with the sleek look and efficiency of industrial design.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags