Palmetto Bay resident Jill Ellis, head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team that won the 2015 World Cup in Vancouver on July 5, was honored by village officials during a unique event at Coral Reef Park on Saturday, Sept. 12.
Hundreds of residents turned out to greet Coach Ellis and cheer as she was driven by Village Mayor Eugene Flinn in a mini-parade around the perimeter of the park’s soccer field.
Ellis, along with her team, had been in a tickertape parade in New York City shortly after the victory, America’s first World Cup title win since 1999, but her hometown tribute had special meaning for her.
“It’s tremendous because I really feel like we’ve put roots here,” Coach Ellis said just before the ceremony. “The community’s embraced us and it’s been great. My daughter loves her school and we just really have felt very welcome, and this is just kind of the cherry on top in terms of this event. It’s humbling and I’m very honored to be here and have this happen.”
Ellis’ daughter, Lilly, attends Coral Reef Elementary School, adjacent to the park. Originally from England, Ellis is a naturalized U.S. citizen and has been living in America since her father, John Ellis, relocated the family here. With the World Cup win behind her, Ellis is looking ahead to the Summer Olympics next year in Brazil.
“I’m certainly on board for the Olympics,” Ellis said. “We have to qualify in February and once we move forward with that, I’ll definitely be amped up all over again.”
After the turn around the soccer field in a vehicle supplied by Cutler Bay Carts, Ellis took the stage to address the crowd of fans. Mayor Flinn introduced her and her family as well as Vice Mayor John DuBois and council members Karyn Cunningham and Tim Schaffer.
“Do we have any soccer fans here?” Flinn asked jokingly drawing a round of cheers. “How many of you play girls soccer? We’re here today to honor Coach Jill Ellis, and since we know she spends a lot of time out of the city and sometimes returns late at night, we want to give her something special.”
Flinn then presented her with the key to the city, framed under glass, on behalf of the village council. Ellis then moved to a tent where she signed autographs, posed for photos and spoke with fans who lined up to meet her.
She offered one bit of advice for everyone there, young and old alike, before leaving the stage: “Whatever your passion is, follow it.”