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Teacher by Day, Wide Receiver By Night

April 9, 2024

football player holds a helmetMs. Ellisyn Mularski teaches physical education and health at Pine-Richland High School, but when that final bell rings for the day, she trades her whistle for a football helmet for her unique side job: playing wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Passion. On May 4, the Pine-Richland community will have an opportunity to see the Passion play at Pine-Richland Stadium.

This is Ms. Mularski’s seventh year with the Passion, though she notes that prior to trying out, she was not very familiar with football at all. “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.”

Ms. Mularski said not knowing much about football put her out of her comfort zone. Prior to her first preseason, she researched the game and watched film to prepare. She also relied on veteran players and coaches to help her learn. “It really helped me to grow as a player,” she said. 

Though new to football, it did not take Ms. Mularski long to find success on the field. Last season, she was selected to the All-Americans First National Team and had the opportunity to compete against the All-Americans First American Team during championship weekend at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, which she notes is one of her biggest football achievements. 

Ms. Mularski has always lived an active lifestyle, playing varsity volleyball and basketball in high school along with participating in javelin and triple jump in track and field in high school and college at Slippery Rock University, where she majored in school wellness education with minors in adapted physical activity and aquatics. 

New to Pine-Richland this year, Mrs. Mularski is in her fourth year of teaching. Having always lived a very active lifestyle, Ms. Mularski says that her primary goal is to influence 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, Ms. Mularski coaches middle school girls’ volleyball and varsity girls’ wrestling. 

Being part of a team helps Ms. Mularski communicate to her students that games and sports are so much more than games and sports. “They’re a tool to build characteristics and to build the ability to overcome challenges,” she said. 

Formed in 2002, the Pittsburgh Passion is part of the Women’s Football Alliance, which includes 56 teams throughout the United States in three divisions. The Pittsburgh Passion is one of 14 teams in the Pro Division. The team is comprised of more than 70 players, who, Ms. Mularski shares, “are extremely diverse. They range in age from 18 into their 50s, there are different cultures and races, some drive in from out of state for games and practices, all have full-time jobs.” Some played football in high school and others, like Ms. Mularski, were brand new to the sport.

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

Mularski instructs students in the gymnasiumBetween teaching, coaching, and playing football, Ms. Mularski’s days can be 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.” 

The team practices a minimum of ten hours per week and watches film two hours per week. Preseason practices start in January, and the season often runs through July with playoffs and the championship. Ms. Mularski said that after she leaves Pine-Richland High School for the day, she eats dinner, then heads to practice, for which she usually arrives early and often stays well past 11:00 pm.

The Pittsburgh Passion will face the D.C. Divas at Pine-Richland Stadium on Saturday, May 4. Kick-off is at 6:00 pm and gates open at 5:00 pm.

Ms. Mularksi hopes that her students will watch her play and be inspired. “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 for the May 4th game at Pine-Richland Stadium is $18/person; $12 for students, seniors and first responders. Visit pittsburghpassion.com for more.