Stephanie Harrison Is Bringing the Women’s Game to Pittsburgh
Soccer is a sport that inspires people — and many dream of taking their talents to the next level. Gone are the days when there were few opportunities to play — today, no matter where you live, if you are a woman and are passionate about soccer, playing the beautiful game is a possibility on a WPSL team. With 110 teams across the USA, the WPSL helps grow women’s soccer.
WPSL Soccer News: The 2017 Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) season is quickly approaching as we highlight another year of the growing women’s game in the United States.
The WPSL consists of the highest number of women owners in sports by providing a path for aspiring players who wish to continue their soccer career following college.
GoalNation spoke with Stephanie Harrison, owner of Pittsburgh Steel City FC and WPSL Regional Commissioner Great Lakes on her experience in the game and the aspirations for the upcoming campaign.
Diane Scavuzzo: As one of the few women owners of a WPSL team, how did you first get involved in soccer?
Stephanie Harrison: I played soccer my whole life and felt that athletics were an instrumental part of my development.
After playing college soccer, I moved to Pittsburgh for graduate school and noticed there were no competitive women’s teams. I felt that there was too much talent and passion for soccer in this city to not have an outlet for women so I decided to reach out to the WPSL and start a team.
Diane Scavuzzo: How has soccer changed, if it has, since you became involved?
Stephanie Harrison: I’m not sure if I’ve noticed soccer change. I think the game is the same no matter who you are or where you go, and that’s what makes it so amazing.
Soccer has the ability to bring people from all walks of life together.
Pittsburgh is becoming an increasingly diverse community and soccer has an amazing way of bridging gaps between local Pittsburghers and newcomers to the city.
Diane Scavuzzo: What influences you?
Stephanie Harrison: The players and the young girls that come to our games influence me the most. I didn’t have the opportunity to see a women’s team compete at this level in my community.
When I see young girls coming and getting excited about our team, I know that we are doing exactly what we should be doing.
I’m very inspired by our players. Their passion and dedication to the game and the amount of work it takes to play at this level is amazing.
Diane Scavuzzo: What about you surprises people the most?
Stephanie Harrison: I’m not sure what surprises people about me the most — perhaps it would be my day job.
I’m currently finishing my doctoral degree in Psychology.
I’m a therapist by day, soccer club manager by night. Sometimes people might not see the immediate connection between the two, but I actually believe there are a lot of parallels between what I do in my day job and what we do with Steel City.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you think is the most challenging or infuriating about being a woman in the world of soccer?
Stephanie Harrison: I think what I find most frustrating is the gender inequality — it still exists. It’s extremely frustrating when you know the players who work hard for you and who deserve a tremendous amount of respect aren’t always treated with the dignity that they deserve.
Gender inequality is occurring at all levels of sport.
As you’ve mentioned, I’m one of the few female owners in a women’s league — and the WPSL has more women owners than any other league in the world. I think we need to do more to support women who are facing these inequalities and together change what we think about, talk about and how we behave toward female athletes, coaches and owners.
Diane Scavuzzo: What can be done to encourage more women to be involved in soccer?
Stephanie Harrison: I think one of the most effective ways is for women in soccer to support other women in order for them to get involved.
It can be discouraging and can feel like an uphill battle. However, whenever you have other women to help you navigate those difficult situations, it helps and I very much appreciate the other women in the WPSL for helping me navigate.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are your goals for the 2017 WPSL Season?
Stephanie Harrison: I have a lot of high hopes for Steel City FC this season.
The goal is to make the WPSL playoffs.
I’m hopeful that with the returning players from our squad last year and several new, talented players joining us, we can do it this year. We also have several off-field goals this season.
Using soccer to enhance the lives of youth in our community is a huge mission for our club.
We work to implement programming specifically for young girls in our community who may not have access to soccer training and development or strong female role models. It is our goal to continue fulfilling this mission and creating a positive impact on the youth in Pittsburgh.