By Steve Weeks
Jill Ellis, former head coach of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team (and the winningest coach in U.S. soccer history), visited Morocco to promote leadership, teamwork, and communication skills among young women, May 20–23.
Ellis was the guest of honor at the final soccer competition in the “She Plays Football” program, organized by LEAD Africa and funded by Embassy Rabat’s public affairs section. The project used training sessions and friendly soccer matches with 12 female coaches and 60 female high school students to share important lessons for sport and life.
“Spending these days with Jill Ellis helped me believe in my dreams,” said one young participant. “Now, I want to become a coach myself and teach young players.”
Ellis spoke to the young participants on “self-realization through sports,” emphasizing how soccer teaches life lessons and builds character.
“If you love the game, step forward,” said Ellis. “Participate and play with confidence. Ultimately, it’s a team game, but bringing your personality to the pitch is important.”
Both Ellis and the coaches trained by LEAD Africa served as strong female role models for the young athletes, who displayed enthusiasm and energy during the program, and began demonstrating its impact—on and off the field.
Ellis coached the U.S. Women’s Soccer team to two FIFA Women’s World Cups in 2015 and 2019. She is currently an ambassador for the United States Soccer Federation, where she works to increase the number of female soccer coaches.
While in Morocco, Ellis also participated in a Pride Month reception at the chief of mission’s residence, attended by local LGBT activists and embassy officials.
Steve Weeks is an assistant cultural affairs officer at Embassy Rabat.