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Passionate player: A teacher at Pine-Richland is great at professional football

Ellisyn Mularski teaches physical education and health at Pine-Richland High School, but when that final bell rings for the day, she swaps her whistle for a football helmet for her unique side job:

Ellisyn Mularski is a physical education and health teacher at Pine-Richland High School. When the school day ends, she switches from being a teacher to being a football player for a unique side job:

She plays as a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Passion.

On May 4, her students and the local community can watch the Passion's 2024 season opener at Pine-Richland Stadium.

Mularski has been with the Passion for seven years, even though she didn't know much about football before trying out.

“I wanted to try something new,” she said. “I try to take every opportunity I can. I saw a flyer for tryouts and made the team.”

Before her first preseason, Mularski researched the game and watched film to prepare, since she was not very familiar with football. She also got help from experienced players and coaches to learn.

“It really helped me to grow as a player,” she said.

Even though she was new to football, she found success on the field quickly.

Last season, she was selected for the Women’s Football Alliance All Americans-First Team, and her team beat the opposing American squad, 26-17, at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

Mularski has always been active, playing varsity volleyball and basketball in high school, as well as participating in javelin and triple jump in track and field. She continued her active lifestyle at Slippery Rock University, majoring in school wellness education with minors in adapted physical activity and aquatics.

New to Pine-Richland for 2023-24, Mularski is in her fourth year of teaching. She aims to impact the next generation.

“In college, I realized the impact I could have in a health setting,” she said of the opportunity she has to make a difference. In addition to teaching physical education and health, Mularski coaches middle school girls volleyball and varsity girls wrestling.

Being part of a team helps her show her students that games and sports are more than just games and sports.

“They’re a tool to build characteristics and to build the ability to overcome challenges,” she said.

The Pittsburgh Passion, established in 2002, is part of the Women’s Football Alliance, which has 56 teams in three divisions throughout the United States. The Passion is among the 14 teams in the Pro Division.

The team has over 70 players, who “are extremely diverse,” according to Mularski.

“They range in age from 18 into their 50s,” she reported. “There are different cultures and races. Some drive in from out of state for games and practices. All have full-time jobs.”

Some players have prior football experience in high school, while others, like Mularski, are new to the sport.

“Passion is my family,” she said. “It’s an entire support system. It’s more than just a game. It’s a lifestyle and community and everlasting friendships.”

Managing teaching, coaching, and playing football makes her days long.

“It requires a lot of learning how to delegate and how to manage our time to be able to show up for the team,” Mularski said.

Passion players practice for at least 10 hours and watch film for two hours each week. Preseason practices begin in January, and the season often continues until July with playoffs and the alliance championship.

Mularski mentioned that after she finishes her day at Pine-Richland High School, she has dinner and then goes to practice, where she usually arrives early and often stays well past 11 p.m.

For the Passion’s May 4 game against the D.C. Divas at Pine-Richland Stadium, the gates open at 5 p.m. and the kickoff is at 6.

Mularksi hopes her students will observe her play and feel motivated.

“I think often, others think it is just a hobby or something I do on the weekends,” she said. “Or that is not real football — that because it is women’s — the time, strategy, intensity or athleticism is less. But I hope those who come to the game learn that it is real.”

Admission costs $18 per person, or $12 for students, senior citizens and first responders. Visit pittsburghpassion.com for more information.

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