The Village of Palmetto Bay celebrated “Jill Ellis Day” on Saturday, Nov. 16, with a special ceremony naming the soccer field at Coral Reef Park “Jill Ellis Soccer Field.”
Ellis, a Palmetto Bay resident, is the most victorious coach in United States soccer history and is the only coach to win back-to-back Women’s World Cup Tournaments. A special sign naming the field in her honor was unveiled in an event featuring speeches by village officials and by Miami-Dade District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava.
Mayor Karyn Cunningham praised Ellis and described her accomplishments.
“Coach Ellis finished her remarkable career with a record 106 wins — those of you that have been playing in the field know that’s a big deal — and only seven losses overall in her whole career,” Mayor Cunningham said. “She has coached 132 international games, more than any U.S. national team coach in history. She closed out her career with a 17-game win streak, the longest she had ever had. Pretty amazing. She went undefeated in World Cup qualifying and World Cup games, 23 wins and no losses, and most impressively, she never lost a World Cup match, going 13 and 0, which is really amazing.”
Mayor Cunningham pointed out that Coach Ellis never played organized soccer until she moved to the United States from the United Kingdom at the age of 15. Her high school in Fairfax, VA won the State Championship and she went on to play as a forward at William and Mary College where she was named Third Team All American.
Collegiate coaching was next for Ellis and she chalked up an all-time record of 248 wins, 63 losses and 14 draws, compiled over 14 years with the Illinois Fighting Illini and UCLA Bruins. Other victories followed, and she went on to coach the United States Women’s National Soccer Team.
Coach Ellis next came to the microphone to accept the honor, with her wife Betsy and daughter Lily watching.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had anything named after me, as I recall, so it’s pretty exciting,” Coach Ellis said. “Thank you very much to the mayor and council, and to the commissioner.
Actually, when I first moved here this is where Lily played, and I remember sitting here watching her and all the kids train, so it does feel kind of fitting that I’m connected to a field that’s somehow…when I became a coach I realized that my life was going to be pretty nomadic, you travel and you move from job to job, but it wasn’t until I moved here five and a half years ago that it truly felt like home.
“We made our roots here; we‘ve made some wonderful friends; our daughter goes to school here. We feel so connected to this community. We encourage everyone to play and experience this wonderful sport,” Ellis added.
She acknowledged the people who helped throughout her career, including her players, saying that she hadn’t achieved her accomplishments by herself.
Commissioner Levine Cava presented a county proclamation to Ellis.
“On behalf of the county we get to declare today Coach Jill Anne Ellis Day,” Commissioner Levine Cava said. “Because of the actions of this wonderful village not only will her name live on but she’ll continue to inspire generations of young people and especially girls as they seek their highest achievement.”
Village Councilmember David Singer also spoke.
“It amazes me that some events confirm that life comes full circle,” Councilmember Singer said. “My dad emigrated from Europe in the early 1940s and when he arrived the only sport he knew how to play was soccer.”
Singer said that his father had worked to increase awareness and interest in soccer to help it come into its own here in the United States.
An estimated crowd of 300 or more people turned out for the ceremony, many standing in line to have Coach Ellis autograph soccer balls, shirts and other memorabilia.