Jill Ellis, Former Head Coach, U.S. Women’s National
Soccer Team

Leadership: One GOALLLLLL!

June 09, 2020 | 30:09

Strong leadership, especially during uncertain times, is more important than ever. Join our moderator, Hugo, for a conversation with former U.S. Women’s National Soccer Coach, Jill Ellis, on creating a dynamic environment, making sound decisions, and working with diverse personalities.

Meet Our Moderator

Hugo Scott-Gall, Partner

00:49 Introduction to today’s guest, Jill Ellis
01:30 When and how did Jill develop her love for soccer?
02:30 When Jill was 15, she was able to try out for a girls team when she came to the United States.
02:51 “Coaching was never on the radar.”
03:20 Jill describes what it was like when she started coaching, finding ways to help people grow.
04:11 Hugo asks Jill her views on talent identification.
05:16 The trifecta—athletic capacity, mental capacity/strength, and the technical/soccer component.
07:39 How does Jill navigate working with different personalities on her team?
08:57 Creating an environment where everyone feels comfortable to be themselves.
10:19 Hugo asks Jill how much of her coaching strategy was in her original plan.
13:35 Jill describes some of the tough decisions she had to make throughout the years.
18:25 Using certain moments as an opportunity to experiment.
19:35 When there is an issue with leadership, it normally involves communication, strategy, and/or culture.
21:11 Jill shares some of the managers/coaches that she admires.
25:44 How to manage pressure.
26:25 What does Jill think about the future of soccer in the United States?

Hugo Scott-Gall: Today I am delighted to have with me Jill Ellis. Jill was named head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team in 2014. Like me, Jill was born in England and supports Manchester United. But there the similarities end. She has won not one, but two Women’s World Cups in 2015 and 2019. Making her the first coach to win the Women’s World Cup twice.

Before becoming the national team coach, she had a highly successful 12 year run as the head coach at UCLA. She was a player herself, playing up front for the College of William & Mary. Jill, thanks so much for being here.

Jill Ellis: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, let’s get going on. Let’s go back. You didn’t grow up when you were living in England playing on a soccer team. Now, part of the reason — well, the reason you didn’t play on a soccer team is because outrageously there wasn’t any organized soccer for girls. So, how did you develop a love for soccer and when did you realize actually you wanted to be a soccer coach?

Jill Ellis: Yeah, no. Absolutely right. I mean, you can’t, you know obviously yourself — growing up in England, you can’t help but just be entrenched in the sport. It’s everywhere. You know, it really is a national passion. Right?

And so, just growing up I remember as a young kid, my mom was Scottish, my dad was English, I remember watching the England Scotland derbies. And sort of always kind of following the game. Interested in the game. And while I was a big sports athlete playing different sports, netball, field hockey, I always ended up in the schoolyard playing with the boys. Playing football, soccer.

So, it was always something I loved. I loved the sport. My father was doing some coaching as well. He worked for the FA and also was in the military. So, it was in my family. It was in my blood. I was exposed to it. But it wasn’t truly until I came to the U.S., that I was almost 15, that I actually got the opportunity to go out and try out for a girls’ team.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah.

Jill Ellis: And I remember when I made this team, I put my jersey on. It was, you know, it just — it felt amazing. It was truly the ability to kind of follow a dream. It was ironic that I had to leave a country that was so entrenched in it to do that.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah.

Jill Ellis: But the reality was I got to come over and play. Coaching was never on the radar. It was something that — soccer was almost a vehicle for my education.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Uh-huh.

Jill Ellis: I went into the business world for a couple years after doing some graduate work. And then, I got offered this job for minimal pay and I just — whatever reason, I think I just followed my heart. I say passion over paycheck, but I just jumped at the chance to go into the coaching ranks. And I loved it. I love everything about it.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And as soon as you started being a coach, did you notice right away that, “Actually, this is for me”?

Jill Ellis: I did. Once I was actually in coaching, it was just so gratifying. You know, I’m connecting with people. I’ve said that I think in coaching you’re a caretaker of dreams. Right? You’re helping to facilitate people achieving something. I think parents also are coaches, you know.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Mm-hmm.

Jill Ellis: It’s working with people to try and sometimes you have to push them. Sometimes you have to encourage them. It’s finding out ways to help people grow and achieve their best. So, when I got into it, I loved it. Wanted to kind of stay in it. But again, there was still very few female coaches. And it was still not really a viable pathway in terms of a career. But again, it was kind of a leap of faith.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, one of the many things I find really interesting about successful coaches is you have to access people through a number of different lenses. You’re looking obviously at the raw physical talent, but you’re also looking at the mental side. So, maybe we can just talk a bit about talent identification.

Jill Ellis: Yep.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Is this something you can twin science and art? Or do you actually think at a very high-level everyone’s really good anyway, so it becomes much more assessing the person? The character. How do you think about putting data plus intuition together?

Jill Ellis: I actually will start by answering that and saying people say, “What were the qualities you selected for your World Cup roster, 23 players?” And I always say that at the base, players have to have ability. But having said that, I’ve also had a lot of players that are incredibly talented that didn’t have the mental fortitude.

Either the pressure was too much, the stress, the ability to perform under pressure, the ability to day — and I mean, our environment with the Women’s National Team, it’s so competitive. To day in and day out grind and have to prove yourself over and over and over again. So, I think it is a combination. You certainly don’t make a U.S. National Team, you don’t make a high-level elite team, unless you have the ability.

And I always say to win a World Championship, a team has to have kind of the trifecta. They have to have the athletic capacity, they have to have the mental capacity and strength, and they also have to have the technical and the soccer component. And I think for a long, long time the U.S., we had kind of a monopoly on all three.

But I also think that’s characteristic of individuals coming into that environment. They almost have to have all three. Certainly, when a player comes into the environment, you can work on the tactical side of it because it might be specific to what their role is. But if they can’t have a base level of technical proficiency and they don’t have the mental capacity to be able to function in that environment, I think it’s very hard.

Talent identification. We have a massive scouting network. When I was first hired, I actually hired a guy to be our head of talent identification, because that’s your lifeblood. Right? And he always asked “What are you looking for?” I said, “Give me one more as good as our best.” And that was kind of the guideline. And then you’re looking at profiles of players and very specifics.

So, he went out. You identify players, but ultimately you have to bring them in and vet them in your environment. That’s where you really truly see if they sink or swim. And I think as a coach, what you have to manage is the ability to say if a player has one bad game… I mean, Rose Lavelle is one of our fantastic young players. Her first game, flashes of brilliance, but was okay.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Mm-hmm.

Jill Ellis: You know, not fantastic. But that’s where you have to use your gut instinct to say, “Okay. She has these elements. It needs more time, more investment.” And I think that’s sometimes a coach — you can’t write a player off too early, but then on the other side, you can’t hang in there and wait and wait and wait if it’s not going to happen.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, things like grit.

Jill Ellis: Mm-hmm.

Hugo Scott-Gall: It’s teachable or not teachable?

Jill Ellis: I do not think it’s teachable. I think it’s something that you can expose players to hard situations and see how they respond. And I think over time, young players harden themselves. You know, for example, a simple fitness test. When a player goes out and runs the first time a fitness test, they’re going to struggle because they don’t know the dynamics of it.

Over time, can they improve at that? Certainly. But that competitive instinct I truly don’t think it’s something that you can teach. I’ve had players that are phenomenally talented, but you just want to be like, “God. I just want to light a fire under them.”

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah, yeah.

Jill Ellis: And that’s that element that you just can’t teach. Can’t coach.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And how do you, when you have a squad of clearly different personalities and very loud, gregarious extroverts, how do you make sure you’re giving everyone enough attention, equal attention, or the right sort of attention? Because it may the person who is the quietest that has the biggest needs or maybe isn’t the most nervous, or it actually could be the extrovert that actually secretly gets the most nervous.

Jill Ellis: It’s a fantastic question. And I think the beauty of what I had in my most recent team was we had an extreme in that. I have a goalkeeper, Allyssa Nair who plays a high-pressure, high-profile position who is a natural introvert.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Hmm.

Jill Ellis: And then you have a player like Megan Rapinoe who thrives and gains energy from being in the spotlight. And I think when you build a team, I think two things are important. You kind of have to have a sense of the fabric of the people you’re around. So, you need to have a sense that this player responds better when she’s called out in a group. This player does much better in a one-on-one meeting.

That’s truly knowing the individual and knowing how best to reach them. I think that’s part of it. I would also say that your ability as a coach to allow people to be who they are is important. So, I have some players that, again, are outspoken and other players that keep to themselves. You’ve got to create an environment where people feel comfortable being themselves.

And I always said I would never step into a situation or mute my player from speaking out, whatever the issue is, social issue, politics, unless something spilled over and negatively affected either our performance or another player. But for that matter, you have to see players don’t just matter to you between the white lines.

They’re not just a commodity. They’re human beings. And so, allowing them to have a voice or to have the capacity to be who they are I think is critical. And then, I think the final part to that is you have to value. — I had a Roster of 23 Players, all very different and diverse in their personalities. You have to show value in all.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep.

Jill Ellis: You have 11 starters, but you need 23 people to feel valued and important. And we had certain strategies in which to do that. One of the most base-level things, when we would put up the starting lineup for the game, we would then put the starting 11. And then, instead of putting up the substitutes or the benchwarmers, we actually said, “These are our game changers.” And we did this five years ago.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah.

Jill Ellis: And it immediately sent a message that, “My role coming in off the bench is to impact the game. I’m not just filling in — I’m actually strategically there for a reason.” And it also sends a message to your starters that, “It takes 23 players to get this result.”

Hugo Scott-Gall: And you’re obviously saying this with the benefit of hindsight. How much of this was your plan going in? And how much – how you operated at the end of your time at the national team versus the start?

Jill Ellis: I certainly think overall in my coaching persona, I’ve evolved. I think when I was young, I was very independent and demanding, is how I’d probably characterize myself. And then, gradually over time you realize that you’ve got incredible people around you. Especially your staff. I mean when I was young, I probably didn’t maximize and utilize my staff.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep.

Jill Ellis: But over time, yeah, you certainly recognize the value. But I think with the women’s team, I had the beauty of having been an assistant for two Olympics. So, when you’re in that environment and you see — when you’re working with elites, what they ultimately want is a challenge.

So, that means you want to do a drill that has familiarity so they’re learning the elements within that drill or the principles, but you also want to slightly tweak it. So, there’s a different wrinkle. There’s a challenge in something. The very first time I met the team, very first meeting, I put up the quote, “Even if you’re on the right track, if you sit there, you’ll get run over.”

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep.

Jill Ellis: I could have gone into that meeting and been like, “Oh, you guys are awesome. You’re fantastic.” But I truly felt like connecting them, establishing credibility on a professional level was important. So, I kind of threw down a challenge. I said, “Where we are today is not good enough to win next year.” And when you know your audience and you know that that’s kind of going to evoke a response from them….

I mean, my first meeting with Alex Morgan, “How are you going to help me get better?” That was kind of her question. So, I think it’s truly about knowing your audience. Knowing the people around you. But I did definitely over time evolve in how I promoted or attacked the challenge of coaching such a high-level group.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And that’s a really interesting comment. “How are you going to help me get better?” Is that something that most of the athletes you work with say? Is it everyone — do all — in your experience, all sort of elite sports people have this common, “How are you going to make — help me get better? Make me better?” Or is it not all of them say that. Some of them actually are less secure, because it takes a strong person to say that.

Jill Ellis: Yeah. I mean, no. I would say my take on it has been, first of all, they understand that it’s helpful if they’re going to continue to evolve. Because they know there’s young players coming behind that are incredibly talented. So, that — I think that is what I’ve seen as a very common thread in the women that I’ve worked with is whether they articulate it, I think they truly know that they have to continue to grow and evolve.

And that’s what I’ve spoken to guys who are Navy Seals. Like when you work with elites, they’re always looking — my friend said to me, “Well, I was looking for the next ridge line. The next mountain to climb. The next technique to master.” They were always trying to achieve more.

So, I think that’s not something that, and I think again, the reality is if a player comes into that environment and thinks, “I’m good enough and I’m done learning,” there’s going to be someone chasing them down. That’s just the reality of sport.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And when you backup some of the toughest decisions you’ve made. I mean, often when you read or hear leaders say — when faced with a tough decision, once they’ve made it, they almost always wish they’d made it sooner. Did you feel that with some of your decisions? When it came to leaving people out. Or we were talking earlier, before we started, that in 2017 you said, “Actually, let’s rip it up and start again.”

Jill Ellis: Right. Yeah. I mean, I think in terms of my decisions, I just always felt that when the decision was there it was the right time to make the decision. If that makes sense. So, and you don’t want to make a decision too early. So, if you have a veteran player that potentially their role is going to change from being a starter to a nonstarter.

If you make that decision too early, potentially you pick up an injury in your starting group, and now that player’s role has to shift. So, timing of decisions I think is important. Coming out of the Rio Olympics, what essentially was our lowest finish ever in a major world event, and I think — in failure you get feedback. And the instant feedback was that we’ve got to be better.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep.

Jill Ellis: And then it was in that moment I literally, after the Olympics, flew to New York to meet with my bosses. And I said to them, “We need a reboot.”

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep.

Jill Ellis: “We need to kind of shake things up.” And so, I think when you make decisions, you’re constantly getting this flow of information and feedback with which to arm yourself to make, I think, an educated decision. When I make those decisions with players, I think I approach all decisions with a truthfulness and empathy.

I never candy-coat things. I never delay things, because I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. If there’s a delay in a decision, it’s because it’s the right decision to delay it.

But for the most part, I think the most respectful way you can treat people is with honestly and telling them straightforward. So, I think that was something. I mean, you make hard decisions. You leave people off of rosters. I at one point had to fire one of my close friends, not because they did anything wrong, but because the team needed something different. And I made the decision what was best for the team.

I think when you’re a leader, if you can kind of shy away from making it about person — people or independent — it has to be about the collective, then there’s a certain, let’s say, relief. But there’s definitely a certain sense of, “I’m making the right decision for the whole.”

Hugo Scott-Gall: And did you have key people around you to use in the decision-making process or did you go for a run on in the woods on your own? I mean, how did you get to the…?

Jill Ellis: Yeah, no. it’s a brilliant question. No, as I said, when I got older I definitely — I think when I was younger me, I was kind of like, “This is my decision.”

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah.

Jill Ellis: But, as again, I’ve matured. And you realize there’s so much talent when you’re working with elite coaches and support staff. I mean, I’m not a sport scientist, but I work with probably the best sport scientist in the world in the women’s game and I’m going to listen to her input. When she says, “Hey, listen. We should customize this training for this player on this specific day,” I’m going to listen.

But when it came down to big decisions, roster decisions, who we start, those kinds of things, certainly I would take the input from my coaches. And I think when you’re a leader, you sometimes have to almost endorse or encourage people to be honest. Because sometimes your subordinate is kind of like, “I don’t want to give them my opinion, because it might be wrong.”

And I always say, “Listen, nothing is off the table. Give me your craziest thought and idea.” And then, I would always say, “Okay. Thanks.” And then, I would — generally — go away back to my hotel room and sort of either sleep on it or think about it. And I think when you make decisions, someone once said this to me, “You have to make a decision that you’re comfortable with it failing, because then you’re truly understand you’re owning it.”

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep.

Jill Ellis: Because if it goes wrong, are you comfortable owning it? Or if you suddenly listen to somebody else and you made the decision based on just what they thought, and it goes wrong, are you going to blame them? Ultimately, you have to be comfortable with owning that decision and especially if it’s the wrong one.

Hugo Scott-Gall: I will say, it’s an easy thing to say. “I’m happy to make decisions and then own the failure.” But it’s very hard when failure hits you. It’s a very hard thing.

Jill Ellis: Oh, absolutely.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And we talked about you ripping up, starting again in 2017. A reset. You’ve got some — I don’t know — criticism is too strong a word. You certainly got some —

Jill Ellis: Oh, absolutely. Valid.

Hugo Scott-Gall: You got some real time feedback.

Jill Ellis: Yes. No question.

Hugo Scott-Gall: From your players.

Jill Ellis: Yes.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Not just your players, but it’s easy to say in hindsight and it’s easy to say ahead of the event, but when you’re in it, it doesn’t feel good.

Jill Ellis: No. I mean — and again, I think if you always have your compass being, “I’m doing what’s best for the team,” I’d say alleviates the personal feeling. But you can then look at the bigger picture. But for sure. I mean, when you’re going to make a big decision, sometimes you have to either get ahead of it or you have to involve the shareholders in the outcome from that decision.

So, when I told my bosses, “Listen, I want to increase the depth of the roster,” that means I’m going to leave players off. That means we might have some tough results, because I really wanted to play these young players in tough situations. A lot of coaches will bring in a young player and they’ll play them 10 minutes at the end of the game.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah.

Jill Ellis: Well, you don’t learn anything about them. So, in that period — because in 2017, we weren’t preparing — we weren’t close to a major world event. So, I looked at that period as a development period. So, I tried new players. I tried different systems. We played a back three. I experimented in that period. And when you do that and you can say to the media, “This is what I’m going to do.”

I stood in front of my players and I said, “Guys, this is my priority. How does it impact you? Some of you might be left off of a roster. Some of you might not be on this journey. Some of you might get your salaries lowered (because I always had to do salaries). Because I had to tier the contracts. “But, ” and that’s what I said to them, “at the end of the day, being on this team shouldn’t be any other way.”

Well, you can say all that, but to your point, then when you drop a couple of games or a player’s income is affected, then you have to be prepared to deal and live with the fallout from that. And that is hard, because as much as you’ve said, “This is what’s going to happen? Who is it going to…?” And it comes, ultimately, people resort to kind of what protects them.

And so, yeah. Several of the older players in there that were impacted by losing games, it’s a financial impact, it’s a branding impact, being left off of rosters. And generally, when people have an issue with leadership, it’s always going to be three things. This is what I — I don’t know. Maybe I should write a book on this. But I always feel it comes down to three things. It comes down to communication or lack thereof.

That’s what they’ll go to. It comes down to strategy. And it comes down to culture. I think when you’re in it — I mean, one of the complaints levied against me was I didn’t ride the bus to training with my team. I wasn’t connected to them. And, you know, the reality is I go out early so I can set up. Right?

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep. Yep.

Jill Ellis: So, there’s always going to be these things levied against you. And what I did at that moment, as tough as it was, I just said, “You know what? This doesn’t seem right. I’m going to…” And that’s when you dig into the competitor in you and you push back. And I did.

I mean, I fought to keep my job because I thought I was the right person with the right plan, and even though I had prophesized this happening, everybody had to kind of either stay with it or not. And I remember in one press conference a guy from the media said, “Hey, Jill. Are you worried about losing your job?” And I said, “You know, I’m not coaching to keep my job. I’m coaching in what I believe.”

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah.

Jill Ellis: I think that’s ultimately what you have to have. And listen, when I got into coaching, I – like literally the day I got into coaching — my dad said to me, he was a coach, and he said, “Jill, never been a coach until you’ve been fired.” And I was like, “God. That’s a bit harsh.” You know?

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah, yeah.

Jill Ellis: But what he was trying to say to me is its part of our domain in coaching. We know wins and losses are a big part of what we do. But always coaching what you believe, not because you’re trying to adjust or figure something out to keep your job.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep. Yep. So, I can tell that you’re — and I know from doing the research on you — you’re interested in sports very generally.

Jill Ellis: Yes.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, can you talk a bit about, I guess within soccer, the managers, coaches you really admire? And then, maybe we can go a bit broader. We’re both, as I said, at the top of the show, we’re both Manchester United fans. And so, Alex Ferguson…

Jill Ellis: Yeah. A legend.

Hugo Scott-Gall: A legend. One of the best soccer coaches ever. We had great days under him. We were spoiled. He must be one of your heroes.

Jill Ellis: Yes.

Hugo Scott-Gall: But — and if you’ve met him, certainly talk a bit about him, but also just who else in the soccer world. And then, let’s go broader.

Jill Ellis: Yeah. I mean, I have. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him. And yeah, I mean, I was a Manchester United fan since I was 7. So, all those players. But actually what I — well, you know, when I read about him and learned about him, and actually when I was going through this in 2017 when I decided to blow it up, is what I saw in this guy — and I think what he recognized is having a fluid environment, meaning it’s never static.

There’s change and that’s a good thing. I mean, you want consistency. It’s a balance, right? You want consistency, but you also don’t want something to become stale. Is he made a lot of his massive change decisions at the height of a successful season or a successful run?

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah, yeah.

Jill Ellis: And there’s something to be said in that. You know, I think that he recognized that I think when you’re at that pinnacle, it probably is the time to kind of change things. I mean, when you’re a college coach, you constantly have a dynamic environment.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah.

Jill Ellis: There — seniors are leaving, freshman are coming in. So, your team is always changing. It doesn’t mean you’re maybe changing your principles, but the dynamics within your team is always different. Other coaches that I’ve been fortunate (to meet). We went and trained actually before we went to the World Cup at Tottenham. And so, I met Mauricio Pochettino.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep.

Jill Ellis: And just what I liked about this guy was I liked the way he conducts himself. I like the way he approached his job. Showed great loyalty. Obviously tactical acumen, phenomenal player management. But just I always liked his demeanor and how he conducts himself.

But to be honest, yes, I have looked at outside of soccer in terms of looking for people to learn from and grow from. I think, listen, the day you stop learning, is the day you’re over. It’s just you’ve got to continue to evolve just like you do your players.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And so, what about outsider soccer? Are there any coaches that standout for you I guess in any of the great American sports? So, baseball, football, hockey, basketball.

Jill Ellis: Certainly. I mean, actually when I first took over at the — my first head coaching job was at the University of Illinois and there was a basketball coach there named Lon Kruger who also coached in the NBA. And actually, when I went to Illinois, one of the first things I did is actually go to every single different sport and watched their training.

Because you can always learn something about your own sport from watching others. And I went and watched Lon. First of all, like even in the office environment, this was a guy that knew the janitors’ names. He knew the secretaries’ names. He knew every coach. This was a guy that I just realized he acknowledged and recognized that everybody around you has a part to play in a team’s success.

If everybody is maximizing, whether it’s the trainer or whether it’s the academic counselor, if everybody is bought in to what you’re trying to achieve and you make people feel valued, I think that can help in terms of all the people around a team. I mean, I had a staff of 32 with the women’s team, so I think that was something I took away from him.

But when I went and watched these other coaches work — when I watched Lon — when you go and watch a basketball training, everything is done on a clock. Right? There’s always a clock on the training. And it just made me realize how much dead space there was at training. At soccer trainings.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep. Yep.

Jill Ellis: You know, people are like, “Okay. Go get a drink.” And then the coach is going to set up and the players are standing around. And what I decided was I want my environment to be so fluid, I don’t need a two-hour training session if I can do it in 70 minutes and have it be efficient and intense.

So, it was a matter of having just the efficiency of our practice run by watching Lon work. I was very blessed that I was at UCLA when Coach Wooden was there. He obviously was long since retired, but several times I had conversations with him. I actually had him do a Q&A with my team one time.

But my second year at UCLA we went from kind of being a mid-range team to being a team that went to the National Championship. So, my third year in coaching was actually probably the hardest because you suddenly go from being off the radar to suddenly now there’s a target on your back. Everybody’s gunning you. And it’s different. It feels different.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep.

Jill Ellis: And I remember saying to coach, I said, “Coach, how did you manage pressure?” And he kind of said something, I’m paraphrasing, but he essentially said, “It is a privilege, because it means you’ve done something that’s got people’s attention. Meaning now there’s an expectation on you and that’s a good thing and you should embrace that.” And so, it really was a good lesson to know that — I mean, coaching the Women’s National Team, it’s a pressure cooker. A silver medal is not good enough.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah.

Jill Ellis: You lose a game and it’s the end of the world. Right?

Because the expectations then are so high. But I felt it helped me be ready for that environment by — you know, I used to say to myself, “Everything I’ve experienced to this point has prepared me for this moment.”

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep.

Jill Ellis: And that was kind of just trusting yourself.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And so, here’s a question that an English person or a European person would ask, which is, “What’s the future for soccer in the U.S.? Why isn’t soccer bigger than it already is?” Now, it’s big and it’s definitely big on the women’s side, but the country probably overall doesn’t punch its weight.

Jill Ellis: Yeah, it doesn’t. The beauty of what Europe has is it is the sport in every country.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep.

Jill Ellis: So, that means it’s the sport maximizing the television time. It’s the sport that people are going to go watch and be a fanbase to. Whereas here, we’re kind of sharing that stage. And we’re kind of almost pushing ourselves onto that platform.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yep.

Jill Ellis: And certainly, I mean, Atlanta United has 70,000 people every home game. So, we are — there’s definitely waves being made and you’re building a fanbase. But when Sundays are owned by NFL and the NBA plays 150 games a year, all of which are televised, you’re trying to break into a market that is in essence saturated.

But I do think that as time has gone by, our sport, the profile of it has grown. The participation certainly is there. And Americans are falling in love with our game. I mean, we’ve now just added three more teams to our MLS. Our women’s professional league is now the longest we’ve ever had it. I think I’ve seen it’s going into its sixth year I believe.

So, it’s definitely here to stay. And I think over time when you get a sponsorship… Right? I mean, it’s viewership and sponsorship. And with that comes investment. I think over time it will continue to grow and potentially push aside some of those sports. Not to slag other sports but push aside some of those sports that maybe are a little less intense and exciting. I mean, most people watch baseball during the playoffs. Otherwise, you know, it’s probably not a sport I even kind of glance at.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Well, for what it’s worth, I think you should definitely write the book.

Jill Ellis: Thank you.

Hugo Scott-Gall: You really should. And I just want to say thank you very much for joining us. For coming on. It was a pleasure, a treat, and I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

Jill Ellis: My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Thank you.

Jill Ellis: Awesome.

Meet Our Moderator

Hugo Scott-Gall, Partner

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