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Heyl: Soccer moms just kickin' it

| Tuesday, May 20, 2014, 11:18 p.m.

You can't spend every waking moment trying to protect America from Chinese cyber-snoops.

So in her spare time, Lorrie Cranor plays soccer.

Cranor, a Carnegie Mellon University professor, is director of the CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Laboratory and co-director of CMU's Master of Science program in information technology-privacy engineering.

But at the Schenley Park sports oval in Oakland, she perhaps is best known as being the brain behind Dynamoms, an instructional soccer program for women over 30 who have little or no experience playing the sport.

About to conclude its second season, Dynamoms is an adult offshoot of the Pittsburgh Dynamo Youth Soccer League, which has more than 1,000 players ages 4 to 19. Cranor conceived the program as a natural extension of Dynamo's traditional season-ending games that pit the kids against their parents.

“At the end of those games, a number of moms would say, ‘Well, that was fun. If we only knew what we were doing out there,'” said Cranor, 43, of Squirrel Hill. “I started talking to some of the other moms about the need for a soccer clinic, and then I read a book about a woman in New Jersey who had started a soccer club for women.”

Cranor approached Dynamo's board of directors about the idea, and they were receptive. The initial season last fall was so successful, Dynamoms rented the gym at the Ellis School in Shadyside to continue learning the sport during the winter.

Since April, 30 Dynamoms ranging in age from 30 to their mid-50s regularly have strapped on their shin guards and gathered at the Schenley Oval's grass fields on Saturday afternoons.

With two coaches doubling as referees supervising the proceedings, their 90-minute sessions are divided equally between drills and instruction and scrimmages.

“The coaches are ladies with substantially more soccer experience than the players,” Cranor said. “They double as referees. Sometimes, they'll stop us while we're playing to explain what should have just happened on the field.”

Cranor acknowledges the scrimmages lack the fierce competitive spirit of a typical World Cup match.

“I don't know there's what I would call a killer instinct,” she said. “When someone scores a goal, everyone cheers no matter what team they're on.”

Veteran Dynamo coach Kitty Julian, whose day job is marketing and communications director at the Ellis School, raves about the Dynamom experience.

“Even though none of us are very good, it's exceeded my expectations,” she said. “The fun and the camaraderie and the pleasure that comes from being (in Dynamoms) has been a huge positive influence in my life. I hope to be playing for as long as I can walk.”

Even with the program's initial success, Cranor said there are no plans for the Dynamoms to evolve into a competitive adult women's team.

“We started this as a program for people who don't know what they're doing,” she said.

“That's our niche, and we're sticking to it.”

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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