Striker FC’s Marissa Peña On the Growth of Women’s Soccer
The WPSL continues to provide aspiring women soccer players with the opportunity to remain on the soccer field long past their collegiate careers. With over 110 teams competing across the United States, the WPSL has been a strong force in the grown of the women’s game. We salute Jerry Zanelli, WPSL Commissioner and those others, like Marissa Peña, who have helped grow the beautiful game.
WPSL Soccer News: The 2017 Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) season is right around the corner as players, coaches and fans gear up for another year of amateur women’s soccer in the USA.
The WPSL is dedicated to growth of the women’s game and is proud to have more teams owned by women than any other league on the planet.
GoalNation’s Diane Scavuzzo spoke with Strikers FC South East LA owner Marissa Peña on her inspiration for growing the game and the team’s goals for 2017 and being a woman in a male dominated sport’s world. Peña is a working President of a prominent Southern California Youth Club with 20 Teams, and also runs 2 UPSL Teams, 1 WPSL Team, and 4 private companies abroad.
Diane Scavuzzo: As one of the few women owners of a WPSL team, how did you first get involved in soccer?
Marissa Peña: I first got involved with the WPSL from a mental point of view — many years ago when I realized that our girls grew up, went to college and then needed to continue to play.
However, with Academy youth soccer programs — and other clubs who earn large incomes and build their reputation solely on their girls program — we would lose our older age players to these organizations, losing connection with the girls until recently.
When Omar Lopez and Jay Yañez called me to head their women’s team, I jumped at the chance to further our own girls program and provide a very well structured home for his girls — many of whom have ties to our club.
Diane Scavuzzo: How has soccer changed, if it has, since you became involved?
Marissa Peña: Soccer has changed — it is far more competitive. In one single square mile, there are numerous youth soccer clubs fighting for the same resources: fields and players.
This in turn has done one of two things — you either pack it up and go home — maybe giving up your club to a bigger name — or you become more educated, better prepared to compete and teach soccer.
We have chosen the latter.
Diane Scavuzzo: What influences you?
Marissa Peña: What most influences me is international fútbol.
I am a big fan of European and Mexican Soccer, and I am constantly learning through these established clubs and coaches.
Diane Scavuzzo: What about you surprises people the most?
Marissa Peña: Most people find it surprising that I actually know about soccer.
Its story, its schools, its influences, its systems and development.
I am also quite good at taking on challenges that are meant for everybody else. I find it hard to take no for an answer.
Where there is a will, there is a way. But the will is pointless without knowledge.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you think is the most challenging or infuriating part of being a woman in the world of soccer?
Marissa Peña: I have absolutely no problems being a woman and working in soccer. Maybe it has do with my personality and character.
I have never looked at myself as the weaker sex mentally.
I have always pursued top positions in leadership roles. If anyone has a problem with that, as an educated neuro-cognitive psychologist, imagine what I can diagnose! I am happy and I love what I do.
Diane Scavuzzo: What can be done to encourage more women to be involved in soccer?
Marissa Peña: First of all, follow your dreams. And then know that the only way to grow in anything you want to do is to really understand that powerful lessons are learned through hardship.
We must never seek to shortcut the process of struggling.
Everyone experiences struggles and they’re meant for a specific purpose… to make you stronger and wiser. Never give up, in other words.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are your goals for the 2017 WPSL Season?
Marissa Peña: Our goals for the WPSL season is to win! These girls are not in development, they must perform. We understand that our program is in for the long run and running the team in a professional manner is vital in order to obtain what other women in soccer obtain in other parts of the world: a career!