For sports fans, the name Jill Ellis is synonymous with winning. As head coach of UCLA women’s soccer from 1999 to 2010, Ellis had 229 wins, including seven Pacific-10 Conference titles, making her the winningest coach in UCLA women’s soccer history. In 2019, Ellis made history again with the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT): She is the only coach to win back-to-back Women’s World Cups (2015 and 2019) and is the all-time leader in wins, with 106 during her five-year tenure as head coach.
“As hard as it is to coach at UCLA, it’s exponentially harder as the national team coach, so what Jill’s done is unreal,” says Amanda Cromwell, the head coach for UCLA women’s soccer who met Ellis in high school. “We were brought together by soccer, but we’re also friends who support each other. Jill is always willing to go above and beyond to help people achieve their dreams.”
As a coach, Ellis provided support on and off the pitch. “In college, you have the privilege of helping players work and aspire toward the goals they have set. And it’s not just on the field, it’s their growth as people,” says Ellis, who also coached former UCLA players Abby Dahlkemper ’14, Samantha Mewis ’14 and Mallory Pugh in the 2019 World Cup. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see them shine beyond Westwood.”
The 2019 World Cup cast an international spotlight on the U.S. soccer players during the quarterfinals in Paris. “It was the clash of the two biggest teams, and there was just so much at stake,” Ellis says. “The momentum the pro-France crowd gave our opponent was something we had to navigate. I’m incredibly proud of our players for being so resilient and so good in the execution.”
Although Ellis stepped down from the USWNT, she will continue to be an ambassador for the federation. On Nov. 1, she was inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame.
Ellis credits the family, friends, staff and players who helped her. “You just don’t get here alone,” she says. Her dad’s advice to follow her passion, and not a paycheck, was paramount. (Fact: Ellis’ first coaching job paid just $6,000 a year.) “I’ve always recognized [that] if you empower people and treat them well, that’s how you really get paid back.”