Pictured above: AO Akron's Stephanie Duffy attends the 2015 Women's World Cup final in Vancouver.
During Women’s History Month, we’re recognizing women who are making a difference through the game we all love, whether they’re AO members, chapter leaders, players, or women helping in their community. Nominate somebody here.
“Stephanie is an absolutely great representative for the American Outlaws and American soccer fans in general. For as long as I’ve known her, she’s been passionate for her fandom for the USWNT as well as the USMNT. Whether it was attending the Women’s World Cups or when Cleveland or Columbus have hosted games, she’s always there helping others have a great time. I am so thankful to know Stephanie and be able to call her a friend.”
– Brian Shaw, AO Akron president
As usual, we’ll start at the beginning: How did you get into soccer and the U.S. national teams?
I've played soccer since I was little! My love was really renewed when my parents started the girls’ soccer team at my high school, because there wasn't one.
My USWNT obsession came from my mom. We went to our first game after the 1999 World Cup win. I got back into the Columbus Crew when they won the MLS Cup in 2008, and also both the USWNT and USMNT. My mom, sister and I went to the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany and 2015 in Canada; plus, we try to go to any other USWNT games within five or six hours.
My mom always kept track of whatever form of women's soccer was happening in the US, and I've tried to keep up. I became more invested in the NWSL around 2018 when games were on TV more.
My husband, Larry, also loves soccer. When we started dating, I learned a lot more about the English Premier League and other leagues around the world. We were also season ticket holders for the Crew for a few years, and we still try to go to a few games a year. Soccer is constantly on TV in our house.
And how did you get involved with AO?
By accident, honestly! Anyone who knows me knows I can literally talk to anyone – I will find something in common. Larry and I went to the men’s Olympic qualifiers in Nashville in March 2012, and after the game, I started talking to a guy at the bar (hi, Kevin Glenn!) and found out he was from Akron and lived blocks from Larry. Kevin and Aaron Matti, the founder of the AO Akron chapter, told us about AO and AO Akron, and they were stuck with us. I loved the idea of getting together to watch soccer.
"AO Akron has had a co-rec league team for almost a decade. It wouldn't exist without her (frankly, it would have scored as many goals, either)." – Brian Shaw
“Stephanie turned a bunch of people’s mutual interest in soccer into a soccer team and a great group of people who will still love one another long past our playing days. She’s gone from a great teammate to a great friend and makes any new team member or even a one-game sub feel like family.” – Dave Sterling, AO Akron co-rec teammate
Tell us more about the AO Akron’s co-rec team.
Aaron was our team manager in 2012 and brought us all together! In 10 years we've won a few sessions? But hey, we have fun, even if we have to play high schoolers at 11 p.m. on Saturday night. As much as I love playing, the players on the team are basically all my best friends (including my husband). We've had relationships come out of people who have met on the team, I've seen their kids grow up, we've been to one another's weddings, birthday parties, you name it!
What do you see – and what do you hope for – for women in soccer in the years to come?
Do you have hours? Just kidding, but really there's so many layers to women's soccer - from leagues to fans. As a chapter leader, I strive to make sure women feel welcome and comfortable enough to come out and watch the games by at least saying “hi” and asking what they are interested in regarding soccer. It was promising to me to see the larger crowds for the Women's World Cup, and I hope they only get bigger!
For the game overall, I hope it continues to become more accessible to ALL women. Not just the ones who have the money and resources. This can only help the national team long-term. As the changing of the guard happens within the USWNT, I hope we can continue to let the game move forward with a larger, dynamic player pool, especially giving those who impress on the club level a chance, too. We've seen so many amazing players like Shannon Boxx who wouldn't have been in the picture without a club team. I hope the support of the NWSL continues to get bigger and bigger.
Steps have been made to give the women the money and recognition they deserve, but my hope is that we can see a diverse group of players as the spokespeople for the women's game to relate not only to young girls looking for role models, but to people like me who love the game and want to see AMAZING talent on an international stage. So much amazing work is being done, and I hope I can at least help to amplify those voices.