Jill Ellis, US Soccer Legend, Speaks at PRS

Jill Ellis—twice FIFA World Cup Champion as head coach of the US National Women’s Soccer Team, and founding president of the San Diego Wave club in the National Women’s Soccer League—shared her experiences and insights with Upper School students at PRS.


photo by Kris Captanis (PRS Communications)

Jill Ellis at PRS Community Life (center) with student journalists (l to r) Ashay Kalthia, Hannah Tison, Nolan Agresti & Mykelle Brainard.

To celebrate Women’s History Month, the PRS Journalism students welcomed legendary soccer coach, Jill Ellis, to a Community Life event in the main gym attended by all students and faculty from the Upper School. The event was hosted onstage by current Journalism students Mykelle Brainard (’23) and Ashay Kalthia (’23), along with Hannah Tison (’23), co-captain of the PRS Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team and former Journalism student, and Nolan Agresti (’23), co-captain of the PRS Boys’ Varsity Soccer Team and current Journalism student.

Jill Ellis coached the US Women’s National Soccer Team to back-to-back World Cup championships in 2015 and 2019. As the head coach of the US women’s team, she had an incredible record of 106 wins, 7 losses and 19 draws. Before that, her career included being a College D1 soccer player at the College of William and Mary—and then a hugely successful college coach. For example, as head coach at UCLA, she had a record of 229 wins, 45 losses and 14 draws.

How was Coach Ellis able to win so many games and to lose so few?

We explored that and much more with Coach Ellis by asking her questions taken from Journalism class polls of the student body, along with a wide range of input from other student stakeholder groups like the varsity girls’ and boys’ soccer teams and their coaches, our friends at the Kibera Girls’ Soccer Academy in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Revere service learning group, which promotes women’s rights issues at PRS.

Below is a list of the questions that we asked Coach Ellis, with links to her answers during the long and fascinating interview that she gave to our PRS Upper School community. We have divided the long interview into five thematic parts, linked here to five separate web pages, while at the bottom of this page you can also find links to reflections from four different PRS student journalists about their experiences working to create this event with Coach Ellis.

Jill Ellis at PRS: Part 1

Winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup (Twice) & Preparing Players for Success.

Question #1 from Hannah Tison, on behalf of the PRS Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team.

What’s it like to win a World Cup?

Question #2 from Nolan Agresti, on behalf of the PRS Boys’ Varsity Soccer Team.

Was it more special to win the first time around or to repeat as world champions?

Question #3 from Mykelle Brainard, on behalf of Journalism Class (Year One).

As a coach, how do you prepare your players mentally to perform under pressure at the highest levels?

Question #4 from Ashay Kalthia, on behalf of Journalism Class (Year Two).

How do you create a team culture that is both competitive and supportive?

The answers that Coach Ellis gave to questions #1-4 are here.


Jill Ellis at PRS: Part 2

Player Development, Team Building & Education On and Off the Field.

Question #5 from Gwen Laats (’23), on behalf of Nikki Brooks, head coach of the PRS Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team.

Sierra Enge, who is a former PRS student, was picked by the San Diego Wave in the first round of the US National Women’s Soccer League draft this year. What are the main factors that you look for in an individual player when choosing them to join your team?

Next Coach Ellis responded to some questions from our friends at the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy (KGSA) in Nairobi, Kenya. The questions were sent to PRS Journalism class on a pre-recorded video and asked by Sylvia, one of the KGSA student soccer players, and Coach Moha.

Question #6 from Sylvia (KGSA student & soccer player).

Hey, Coach! I’m Sylvia from Kibera Girls Soccer and I’m a soccer player. I have a few good questions to put about girls. First, I’d like you to advise us on how to balance our education and play sports. And second, I’d like to know how teams and coaches from your place scout for players from Africa. And last, I’d like to know how you feel from being a soccer player to a coach.

Question #7 from Coach Moha (KGSA coaching staff).

Hey, Coach! I’m Coach Moha. I have a simple question. We have two kinds of players—some are good in books, some are good in soccer. What do you think can be done so that they all get the same opportunity? Those who are not good in books, they get opportunities in some of the colleges, maybe there, maybe here—what can be done? Thank you!

The answers that Coach Ellis gave to questions #5-7 are here.


Jill Ellis at PRS: Part 3

Women’s Soccer, Social Justice & Equal Opportunity.

Question #8 from Calista Lowery (’26), on behalf of the PRS Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team.

Women soccer players in the US have been leaders in the global movement for closing the gender pay gap in professional sports, along with addressing many other issues about diversity, equity and inclusion.  Have you ever experienced this discrimination in your career as a player, coach or administratorand, if so, how did you respond to that?

Question #9 from Elise Duffield (’26), on behalf of Revere service learning group.

Last October, Sally Q. Yates released a report on the National Women’s Soccer League, detailing systemic harassment and abuse of authority in some team organizations. Can you talk about what you’re currently working on, for example in your roles with the San Diego Wave and FIFA, to ensure that such harassment and abuse cannot occur in future?

The answers that Coach Ellis gave to questions #8-9 are here.


Jill Ellis at PRS: Part 4

Losses & Life Lessons, Failure as a Path to Success.

Question #10 from Ray Gonnell (’23), on behalf of the PRS Boys’ Varsity Soccer Team.

Who was the toughest opponent you have ever had to face in your careerand how did you deal with that challenge?

Question #11 from Karra Brunst (’24), on behalf of the PRS Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve ever learned from a failure or a loss?

Question #12 from Brian Buchholtz, head coach of the PRS Boys’ Varsity Soccer Team.

What’s the best advice you’ve received during your coaching career from other players, coaches, etc?

The answers that Coach Ellis gave to questions #10-12 are here.


Jill Ellis at PRS: Part 5

Starting a New Franchise in the National Women’s Soccer League & Building a New Future in San Diego.

Question #13 from Hannah Tison, on behalf of The Egg sports journalists of 2021-23.

Last season the San Diego Wave had the most successful first season of any new franchise ever in the National Women’s Soccer League. You made a deep run into the playoffs and set new attendance records for women’s professional soccer in the USA. As the Wave’s president, can you talk about how being a business leader, especially of a successful startup business, compares to coaching? What’s the same and what’s different?

Question #14 from Ainsley Cobb (’24), on behalf of Journalism Years 1 & 2.

How have you managed to deal with creating a healthy work/life balance, especially when you’ve had such a high profile and high pressure career?  And do you have any advice for young people like us about how to handle the work/life balance?

The answers that Coach Ellis gave to questions #13-14 are here.

That is the end of The Egg’s interview with Jill Ellis.  To read about the experiences of PRS student journalists when staging the Jill Ellis event, click on the following links for reflections by Gwen Laats, Mykelle Brainard, Nolan Agresti and Evan Buchholtz.

The crew for the Jill Ellis Community Life from PRS Journalism were Mykelle Brainard, Hannah Tison, Nolan Agresti and Ashay Kalthia (onstage hosts), Sam Steiger and Evan Buchholtz (event producers), Ainsley Cobb (video projection), Erick Maganda (audio), Gwen Laats, Elizabeth Thacker, Sammy Weitz and Reese Walsh (VIP guest and student stakeholder hosts).

photo by Kris Captanis (PRS Communications)

Special thanks from the whole PRS Journalism team to Jill Ellis for being our VIP guest at this Community Life event. And sincere thanks also to Joanna Gonda, this year’s director of the PRS Community Life program; Coach Don Collins, the PRS Athletics Director, and his team of coaches; Jeanne Theberge, Deanna Imfeld and Kris Captanis of the PRS Communications Department, Lauren Shanahan and her team from the Philanthropy Department—and to our onstage partners, Mr. Jason Gentile of the Facilities Department and Ms. E’lan Holman of the IT Department, along with all the other great staff from those departments who made our event with Coach Ellis possible. Finally thanks to the whole PRS upper school audience for giving such a great response to this event—and to everyone who is taking the time to read our report here.