In some ways the result on the pitch in today’s 1-1 draw between the United States Women’s National Team and South Korea was beside the point.
It was the end of the USWNT’s World Cup victory tour, but, more to the point, it was Jill Ellis’ last game as head coach. That feeling of melancholy, bringing a huge project to a close, of knowing that this was the end of an era for American WoSo, permeated the room in Ellis’ final press conference. Her love for this team and her job radiated off of her during the nine-minute presser. Whatever happens next, this team is going to look, and feel, very different without Ellis.
Here’s a smattering of quotes from Ellis’ last presser.
On her experience of the game
“It’s really about emotions, that’s why you do what you do. That’s why, especially those last 23 minutes, it was exciting, fun-filled, edge-of-your-seat, frustrating. [...] It just epitomized what this team is about: pushing on the edge, trying to make it happen, always fighting until the end.”
On disappointment about not getting one last win
“It was honestly never about a number. I’m privileged to have done this job for so long and played so many games. It’s just been an honor. Numbers and all that kind of fade away, it all becomes about players and staff and people, just, the memories. I’ve got a trunk full of memories.”
Thanking the media
“For all you guys who cover it: keep making our sport great. Without the coverage, without your interest, without your passion, y’know, we’ve got to continue to build what we’ve got here. It’s special.”
What parts of today were unexpectedly emotional
“When you’re in the moment you just try to push through. But, I think when I was hi-fiving the players on my way out to the field, I got a little choked up. They’re a good group.”
What she wants her legacy to be
“I kinda feel like that’s someone else’s narrative to write. It’s not mine. It’s not about me writing my legacy or what I hope it will be. I’m trying to do the best I can, I’ve tried to always give everything I have to this job.”
On the people she’s worked with
“I’ve had an amazing staff in the back of the room who mean the world to me. And I’ll miss them, because as I’ve said, they’re almost like an extended family. Not even extended family, they are my family. My other family on the road. The players, everybody, that’s been the best part of this job. I’m not going to remember games so much as I’m going to remember all these people. They helped me get where I am.”
What’s one piece of advice she has for her successor
“Chart your course. 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 expectations are so high and the margin for error is so small, but you really have to stay true to the course you want to chart. Sometimes there’s going to be highs and lows, but I would just say, be sure you do it in the way you want to do it.”
Favorite memory as USWNT head coach
“I’ve got so many. My dad’s 80 [years old] and he always says, life is about making memories. I feel like I’ve had an amazing experience. To single one [memory] out would be incredibly tough. I think, honestly, Dan Flynn calling me to tell me I’ve got the job, it was an incredible honor and high, having [my daughter] here at my final game, but I would say everything in-between has been tremendous.”
On her current emotional state
“It’s a sense of feeling like, it’s a story written, it’s a chapter closed, and now it’s on to other things. But it’s been an unbelievable journey. I said to the players, this is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had and the hardest job I’ve ever had, and the job that helped me grow. And I think that’s what I want, that’s what I want for my family. It’s not regret, it’s not relief, it’s honestly a big smile on my face. It’s saying, I’ve enjoyed this and I’m ready for what’s next.”