Jill Ellis has been making history since she started coaching the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) in 2014, but it hasn’t been an easy ride. On Sunday, July 7, 2019, Coach Ellis and USWNT won gold at the FIFA Women’s World Cup against the Netherlands, with a final score of 2-0. The USWNT also took home the title in 2015, making this Ellis’ second consecutive World Cup title.
Coach Ellis is the first coach to take home back-to-back World Cup titles – both men’s and women’s – since former Italian men’s national team, under coach Vittorio Pozzo in 1934 and 1938. Not only is Ellis the only coach in over 80 years to win two consecutive World Cup titles, but she’s also the only coach to not lose any games throughout the tournament.
Ellis is now the coach of the best team in the world. How did she do it?
Ellis started her career with the USWNT strong, winning gold at the 2015 World Cup. However, it wasn’t long before it all went south. In 2016, the USWNT had a huge upset when they lost against Sweden in the quarterfinals at the Olympics. This was the first time in the U.S. didn’t medal in Women’s Soccer and their worst finish ever.
This loss didn’t go over well with Ellis and her reputation. She faced massive criticism from fans, media and even players on her team. The criticism never truly ended. Veteran players attempted to get Ellis fired in 2017. Ellis has managed to brush off all of the hate and get the team back up to the top. Since the upsetting loss in 2016, every decision Ellis made was second-guessed. However, she continued to persevere and do what she thought was best for the team.
After last week’s win, she said, “I don’t care about that and I never really read what people thought,” she said. “I knew that after 2016 we had to deconstruct this and reconstruct. That was the plan that I shared with my bosses and they bought into it. I knew we had to continue to evolve.”
Ignoring the criticism
Ellis never let the criticism bother her and she continued to experiment and try new things. She decided to make Alyssa Naeher the starting goalkeeper, move attacker Crystal Dunn to left-back, move Julie Ertz to central midfield and more. These tactics all of proved to be successful.
The team has also gotten extremely close over the years, which is a result of Ellis’ coaching. Defender Becky Sauerbrunn said “In the past, the young ones have really had to earn it and sit on the bench for years before you get a few caps. But Jill shook that up and said ‘No, I’m trying these players out even if it’s their first camp.’ We had to change our mindset. That changed the chemistry and we folded the young players in a lot earlier.”