CHICAGO (October 6, 2020) – U.S. Soccer has announced the details of the Jill Ellis Scholarship Fund and the launch of the SheChampions Mentorship program, both of which will benefit, empower and advance female coaches through financial support, mentorship and community building. The Jill Ellis Scholarship Fund and SheChampions Mentorship Program will combine to assist U.S. Soccer in achieving its goal of doubling the number of elite professional female coaches by 2024.
In the fall of 2019, as the USA was coming off its historic win at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and Ellis was nearing the end of her almost six-year tenure as head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team, the U.S. Soccer Board of Directors voted to establish the Jill Ellis Scholarship Fund, a unique endowment to support, honor and celebrate her extraordinary legacy.
In line with Ellis’ demonstrated passion for mentorship, the U.S. Soccer Coaching Education department has developed a complementing mentorship program for professional female coaches that follows the same themes as the SheBelieves movement, which was established in the lead up to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup by the U.S. players and U.S. Soccer to encourage young women and girls to reach their dreams, athletic or otherwise. U.S. Soccer coaching educator Karla Thompson, who heads the Coaching Education Department’s diversity initiatives, will lead the mentorship program.
Through the SheChampions Mentorship Program, U.S. Soccer will facilitate a mentorship opportunity for each female Pro and “A” license candidate. The mentor and the mentee will share monthly calls, be available for questions and guidance and (if possible) will have an in-person event around the annual SheBelieves Cup.
“Every year we ask, ‘why do we not have more females in coaching? Why are the percentages so disproportionate?” said Ellis “We want to stop asking and commit to change the ratio and significantly grow those numbers. With the amazing group of people we have involved in both these programs, I know we will make a significant positive impact on a lot of young female coaches.”
Every year, the Jill Ellis Scholarship Program will provide 50% of the tuition (which includes in-person meetings, accommodations & meals, instructor time and materials) for female Pro, “A” and “B” License candidates. It is projected that 15 women will pursue their “A” and 30 will pursue their “B” in Year 1. In Year 2, the Mentorship Program will also be extended to “B” License candidates.
The mentors, who will provide hands-on support to accompany the financial aid, will feature some of the most accomplished coaches of women’s soccer in the United States. The list of mentors includes Jill Ellis, Under-20 USWNT head coach Laura Harvey, long-time college coach Lesle Gallimore, Lauren Gregg, an assistant coach on the 1991 and 1999 Women’s World Cup champions, and legendary UNC head coach Anson Dorrance.
WATCH: Introducing the Jill Ellis Scholarship Fund and SheChampions Mentorship Program
“SheChampions is our initiative to drive change in the soccer landscape,” said Thompson, herself an elite college player in the late 1980s before embarking on her coaching career. “This is a program designed to tackle the challenges that affect females who are looking to get into coaching or wanting to stay in coaching and advance their careers. Whether it is a lack of financial resources, lack of awareness, or lack of role models, we are committed to providing viable and sustainable solutions.”
These programs will create a unique opportunity for a culture shift in the coaching industry and help grow the sport by investing in and supporting more female coaches. U.S. Soccer aims to empower and advance the current generation of world-class female coaches, inspire the next generation of female players and coaches through critical representation and exponentially grow the beautiful game in the United States through these first-of-their kind programs that directly target and tackle the challenges women face in the coaching industry. The goals of the Jill Ellis Scholarship Fund and SheChampions Mentorship Program will include:
Eroding financial barriers for women participating in higher coaching education.
Creating meaningful support, advocates and resources for individual female coaching candidates through their mentorship program.
Developing a community of professional female coaches.
Showcasing examples of top-quality female coaches as models for other women by promoting the program.
Elevating important conversations about diversity in the soccer community by promoting the programs.
“As world leaders in women’s soccer we demand a lot from ourselves and we see these programs as an opportunity to continue to advance the women’s game and opportunity for women overall,” said U.S. Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone, a World Cup and Olympic champion as a player who is a part of the North Carolina FC Youth program as the Girls’ Director of Coaching for the Durham/Chapel Hill teams. “When I’m coaching, I’m often the only female coach on the field and I’m excited to see that change.”
WATCH: Program Overview
Philanthropic donors have been instrumental in establishing this inaugural program. U.S. Soccer is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that receives no government funding. Passionate donors who care about the sport, coaching and women in-leadership are helping provide critical resources for current scholarship awards and SheChampions activities, as well as build a formal endowment for long-term financial support.
“It takes commitment, and resources, to solve problems and create change,” said Dr. Patti Flint, a program Founding Donor from Scottsdale, Arizona. “It’s an honor to join Jill and support something that will impact and inspire so many girls and women across the nation. Particularly as a mother of daughters who play, I want to help to build the community of women in soccer and see more women in leadership roles in this sport.”