Tara Catone, Physical Education Teacher

Tara Catone teaches Ellis Middle School girls the ins and outs of sports by day, and practices what she preaches at night, as running back for the Pittsburgh Passion Women’s Football Team. A lifelong athlete who grew up idolizing Jerome Bettis, Tara’s passion for sports has taken her from the Slippery Rock University Track Team, to her full-time job as a physical education teacher at Ellis, to her current spot on the roster of the Pittsburgh Passion. Her commitment to empowering girls at Ellis through athletics goes hand-in-hand with the Passion’s motto of “Teaching positive life lessons through sport”—and this year Tara had the chance to bring her day and night jobs together, as the Passion practices on the Ellis Athletic Field. Every day at Ellis, Tara spreads the message of sports(wo)manship and proves to students that it’s not just men who are changing the game in sports, it’s women too.
Years at Ellis:One
Title:Middle School Physical Education Teacher
Sport:Running Back, Pittsburgh Passion
Education:B.S. Health and Physical Education, Minor: Coaching, Slippery Rock University

What inspired you to play women’s football?
I loved football from a very young age and I always wanted to play. I grew up rooting for the Steelers and playing with my brothers in the backyard. Since there was no official outlet for me as a girl, I played powder puff and pick-up in high school. After finishing college sports, I wanted to continue competing and stay active, so I decided to try out for the Passion in 2015.

How does playing for the Pittsburgh Passion supplement your work at Ellis?
Playing football for the Pittsburgh Passion has allowed me to be a role model for the community, and especially for the young fans that come to watch us. When I’m on the field with the Passion, I actually get to live our brand—More Power to Her. As an organization, the Pittsburgh Passion strives to advance women’s sports as a whole, not just football. As women, we should have the opportunity to play whatever sport we choose, regardless of our gender. The message goes hand in hand with what I teach the girls at Ellis—that they can achieve anything they set their mind to. I’m proof of it when I’m on the field, nothing is impossible for women anymore. I tell students they can pursue anything they want, whether in sports or in their everyday life, the sky's the limit.

Describe what your typical day looks like as a teacher at Ellis and a player for the Pittsburgh Passion.
After a typical school day in the spring, I finish up the day by coaching Upper School Track and Field. I eat a quick dinner before heading to football practice. Practice typically runs for about three hours, sometimes we don’t finish until around 11 p.m. I try and get as best quality sleep as I can, then start all over again the next day. On days that I don’t have practice, I finish up coaching and hit the gym for a workout.

For Ellis students and particularly athletes reading this: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?
Believe in yourself. You can achieve anything you set your mind to. But don’t expect anything to come easy. The belief in yourself, the goals you set, and the hard work you put in will lead you anywhere you want to go in sports and life.

How are you bringing the traditionally male-dominated sport of football to Ellis girls in physical education?
I’m teaching the girls the game from the ground up. For a lot of them, it’s a completely new sport and challenge. In the football unit, we focus on the importance of building strong bodies, so students have been learning to throw and moving on to flag football from there. I want the girls to know if they enjoy it, they can play it.

Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
My Dad. Growing up he taught me a lot about sports and life, and pretty much all of his life lessons transferred over into sports. He would tell me, “work hard and the success will come.” In every sport I’ve ever played, I’ve had to overcome obstacles to be successful. But those obstacles didn’t scare me away from the challengethey just made me work harder. It’s the same thing in life, if you work hard at what you want and give it your all, success will come your way.

What are you proudest of?
Being a role model in the Ellis Community, in the Passion Community, and to my younger sister. Every day I get the chance to make an impact in people’s lives whether it is through teaching or sports. And I am very lucky to still be doing both.

How would you describe yourself?
Positive. I always strive to be moving forward, never backward.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Live with the relentless pursuit of better.”

Piece of technology you can’t live without?
My iPhone.