The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, October 7, 2019
Farewell Jill Ellis, thank you for always being the consummate professional. Plus links galore and comments from Jill's last press conference
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“It’s a story written and a closed chapter, and it’s on to other things.’’ — Jill Ellis
Last year, back when the U.S. team was in Frisco, Texas, for World Cup qualifying matches, I sat down with Jill Ellis to talk to her about the journey forward.
But first, we exchanged pleasantries and I asked her about her daughter (as a mom, it’s a natural inclination).
“She’s awesome, she’s going into high school next year so that’s frightening,” Ellis said with a laugh.
I made the comment about how Lily was just “a little sprite’’ when I met her following the World Cup in Canada, mentioned how my own daughter Evelyn was embarking on college and added a rather cliched comment about how `they grow up so fast.’
Ellis replied: “Yes they do.” But her reply was almost wistful. At the time I noted it to myself, perhaps relating to my own experience, that sometimes for working moms our kids indeed seem to grow up too fast. There’s always that lingering maternal pull that we don’t want to miss anything, or perhaps even the guilt that we’re missing too much.
Maybe Jill felt some of that, too.
I wasn’t able to attend Jill’s final game, I had obligations back in Oregon with the Ducks and MLS Decision Day. But I watched her final press conference and have to admit I was touched, especially when Lily spoke through her own tears. Excerpts are below.
As a reporter, Jill was always wonderful to deal with, the consummate professional. It was hard to hold back and not pounce on her internet critics throughout the years, because those of us in the media understood that Jill had a plan. It might not always work, but everything she did was methodical and thoughtful. She was almost masterful in building toward a crescendo — twice — in winning the World Cup. You can disagree, of course, but I think the results speak for themselves.
And with that said, I too thank Jill for taking (and ignoring) my calls, indulging my really stupid questions, and generally just being a pleasant and decent person. Here’s to the next journey.
And with that, I leave you with my favorite thing about the week: Meeting Jill’s new puppy. Thanks to Alicia DelGallo, editor extraordinaire at ProSoccerUSA for the video:
I’m getting misty. Now on to the links!:
This Week in Women’s Soccer
Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m not going to include all the Jill links this week, because they are many. I just selected a handful that caught my attention.
Before you do anything, read Alicia’s story on Jill, which includes mention of Ian the puppy. And peacocks.
I was busy at 6 a.m. with this bit of breaking news: The UWSNT files a response to last weeks U.S. Soccer motion against class certification. The USSF story is here.
The Wall Street Journal’s Rachel Bachman is all over the lawsuit developments, too.
Caitlin Murray on soccer’s concussion problem for Yahoo Sports.
Speaking of Yahoo, here’s Henry Bushnell on Jill’s final match.
And, of course, the incomparable Graham Hays with his take on Jill’s legacy for ESPN.
Meg Linehan looked at Jill’s last days as coach in a nice story for The Athletic.
The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf looks to what’s next for the USWNT.
Tweet of the Week!
The Five at The IX: Jill Ellis
Here are excerpts from Jill’s final post-game press conference:
Intro from Aaron Heifetz, the USWNT’s longtime press officer:
It all started back in 2012 with Jill with a few games as the interim coach and of course all the way till today. A historic run, unprecedented run. Two time World Cup champion, 106 wins the all time winningest coach in U.S. history and I know I speak for the entire staff, both team staff and U.S. Soccer staff, that don’t get the chance to say this publicly, but thank you Jill. Tremendous, legendary run, tremendous legendary contribution to a legendary program, and for the insane amount of passionate work behind the scenes that no one sees, the countless days on the road, the late hours with our coaching staff, all to keep this team on top of the world. So Jill, thank you from the bottom of our heart. I know after this press conference, Lily will take over as her press officer and she’ll do a great job. But for now the first question.
Question: Walk us through how you experienced the last 20-30 minutes of that game.
Jill: I’ve talked a lot about how it’s really about emotions, and that’s why you do what you do. So I think honestly that last 23-minutes, it was just fun-filled, exciting, on the edge of your seat, you know frustrating, and don’t know I’ll look at it, there should be VAR on it, I think. But anyway, it just kind of epitomized what this team is about like pushing on the edge,trying to make it happen, always fighting to the end. I always say to the players you know we want to play well, we also want to entertain. I think the fans got a pretty thrilling last 20 minutes of that game, in terms of just the excitement level. But yeah for me personally it’s in the moment I wasn’t thinking about else but trying to win, so that’s why we hurled everybody forward. But yeah it’s it was a pretty pretty emotional 23 minutes. It was great.
Question: Was there a small part of you thinking like, oh now I’m really glad I got 106 in Charlotte.
Jill: No I mean it never honestly was about a number. I’m just privileged to have done this job for so long, and played so many games and yeah, it’s just been an honor, and numbers and all that kind of fade away. It becomes about the players and staff and the people and just the memories. So I’ve got a I’ve got a trunk full of memories from this for sure, and it’s been fantastic. And I’d like to take a second and thank the media because, know you guys are on the road with us a lot as well. Heif’s practically my roommate, but I know for all you guys that cover it, keep making our sport great because without the coverage, without your interest, without your passion. This sport, we’ve got to continue to build what we’ve got here special.
Question: Was there any part of today that was unexpectedly emotional?
Question: No, I mean I think when you kind of get in the moment and you kind of push through. But I think when I was high-fiving the players on the on the way out to the field, I got a little choked up. (voices catches). But they’re good group.”
Question: It looks like you got a lot of family members or a few family members with you today. Can you say who was here and then what do you feel like you want your legacy with this team in the team to be when people look back on it years later.
Jill: My my mom and dad were here, and my wife and my daughter and my brother and his wife were all here and numerous other friends. You know, I don’t know, I’ve been asked that question before and I kind of feel like that’s someone else’s narrative to write. It’s not it’s not about me writing my life legacy or what I hope it will be. I’ve tried to do the best I can. I’ve tried to always you know give everything I have to this job, and with passion. So I think you know that’s I feel good about that, what people think of that is gonna be their story right. But it’s yeah, it’s been it’s been great. I’ve had amazing staff who are in the back of the room, who mean the world to me and I’ll miss them because, as I said to them last night, like a an extended family — not even an extended family, they’re my family, my other family on the road. And the players and everybody. I think that’s just been the best part of this job is building relationships and I’m not I’m not going to remember games so much as I’m gonna remember all these people that helped me get where I am.
Question: What’s one piece of advice you give to your successor.
Jill: Chart your course. I think there’s been a tremendous legacy, before me, of coaches and it’s a lot. I think you go into this job and you know the expectation is so high, and the margin for error is so small, but you really have to stay true to to the the course you want to chart. And sometimes that’s going to be highs and lows. But I would just say make sure you do it in the way you want to do it. Because then you own it. At the end of the day it’s yours to own and freel proud about it.
Question: What would you say your favorite memory has been throughout your career on the USA soccer team?
Jill: My favorite memory? I honestly couldn’t. I’ve got so many. You know my dad’s 80 and he always says: Life is about making memories. And I feel you know I’ve had an amazing experience to experience a lot. So to single one out would be incredibly tough. I think honestly you know Dan Flynn calling me and telling me I got the job, was an incredible honor and high, and having him here at my final game was was pretty special, but I would say everything in between has been tremendous.
Question: So we can see that you have various emotions right now. Can you put into words kind of what those are? You’re sitting here just give me your last press conference are you feeling any amount of relief over that, and then can you just kind of describe what else you might be feeling. And you too Lily, because this is kind of an end of an era for you as well.
Jill: I mean no relief because I always love my pressers (Laughs) No, it’s a sense of feeling like it’s a story written and it’s a chapter closed and it’s it’s it’s on to other things. But it’s been an unbelievable journey. I said to the players it’s been the most rewarding job I’ve ever had, the hardest job I’ve ever had, and the job that has helped me I think grow. And ultimately that’s that’s what I want, what I want for my family. I always want to take one day and be one day better and continue to grow as a person. And this job has stretched me. And it’s been … It’s not regret, it’s not relief, it’s honestly a big smile on my face and I’ve enjoyed this and I’m ready for what’s next.
Lily: I would like to say thank you to all the people that made better for my mom … Heif you’ve been such a big part of my life, I’m going to miss you a lot. I just want to say thank you for making this journey easier for my mom, because it’s really tough. And you’re amazing mom and I love you. Thank you, and thank you to everyone in the press and everyone. Thank you. (sobbing)
Question: Everything that this team has accomplished, everything you’ve accomplished with this team, looking back what are you most proud of having done with this team.
Jill: I mean two stars is not too shabby. You know, but obviously that’s part of a journey. But I feel like we’ve taken, you know with my staff and everybody, we’ve taken this program — I think you know from 2015 to 2019 I think what most proud of is, after 2016 we made a decision, we want to be the trendsetters we want to be the leaders in 2019. I think that journey, and say modernizing the team, but it’s just evolving our team and helping it grow, whether it’s roster depth, whether it’s tactical, whether it’s you know everything. I think that as a coach is a really rewarding part of this journey. So I think I’m really proud of the job myself, my staff, has done in that regard. But you know in terms of everything else, I think it’s just been it’s been the ride. I mean I’ve just been so thankful for having been on this ride. It’s been great. Crazy Train.