United Soccer Coaches Women’s Award of Excellence: Jill Ellis

Baltimore, Maryland: United Soccer Coaches Convention

The Coaches of Women’s Breakfast at the United Soccer Coaches Convention is many people’s favorite event at the epic, multi-day, super-event. This is about as start-studded a coaches event gets, with the likes of Anson Dorrance, April Heinrichs and John Daly, to name just a few, the gathering always puts in to perspective how far the women’s game has come, AND how far it still has to go. This year was no different. Hosted in part by WAGS (Women and Girls in Soccer) with United Soccer Coaches, they know how to curate just the right mix of kick-ass spirit and heart-tugging emotion.

The featured speaker this year was soccer royalty Kely Nacimento-DeLuca, eldest daughter of futbol legend, Pelé. Make no mistake, she wasn’t there just because of her dad. Kely is an accomplished photographer, creative director and film producer. During the 2014 World Cup, hosted by her native Brazil for the first time since 1950, Kely documented her father in a video blog for which she created daily content chronicling his experience and giving the world a peak at The Real Pelé (FB @therealpele). It was hugely successful, and lucky for us, the film bug didn’t go away.

Kely’s latest project us called Women Warriors of Football, We were treated to a preview of it and there’s no question that when it lands on a streaming platform, it will rise to number one on our watch list! The film spans the global revolution of women in football and the barriers they are breaking around the world. Everyone from Julie Foudy, Martina Navratalova to Billie Jean King are featured, but it also follows the story of a girl from Brazil who dreams of making it out of the favela. This is a film that’s sure to inspire fans, players and even those (crazy) people who don’t follow the sport.

Next up was Leslie Gallimore to introduce the 2019 United Soccer Coaches Women’s Soccer Award of Excellence to a very deserving Jill Ellis. Leslie’s intro was beautiful and spoke to the friendship the two have developed during their careers as coaches. It’s important to note that for years they were rivals, with Ellis at UCLA and Gallimore at the University of Washington, but that clearly didn’t get in the way of their mutual admiration for one another. When women lift each other up in positive ways, their world, and ours, becomes a better place.

Ellis accepted the award with the kind of humility and eloquence we’ve come to expect, appropriately punctuated with an occasional f-bomb. She started with, “soccer is not a sport, it’s a gift,” and proceeded to touch on the meaningful episodes in her life, both ups and downs, that have taken her to the place she is now. What may be most surprising about her journey was the lack of confidence she once felt, and how walking through difficult doors, with the support of her family and close friends, is what made her the person that is is today; a mother, a wife, a two-time Word Cup winner.

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