Jill Ellis has the U.S. Women’s National Team humming again at the World Cup. The 52-year old has sported a 96-7-18 mark in her career with the squad, including a record-shattering 13-0 obliteration of Thailand in the first game of the Group Stage.
Her list of accomplishments with the team is long. She guided them to the 2015 World Cup title in 2015, as well as the program’s 500th all-time victory last November over Portugal. Before the USWNT, she led the UCLA Bruins to eight NCAA Final Fours during her 14-year tenure.
She also gets press for her relationship with her wife Betsy Stephenson. The USWNT is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly teams in American sports, with Ellis and several players in same-sex relationships.
Here’s what you need to know about Stephenson.
1. Ellis & Stephenson Married in 2013
According to Grant Wahl at SI.com, Ellis and Stephenson married in 2013. Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage, was decided on June 26, 2015. It’s unclear where or how the couple got married two years before the ruling.
When the decision was made, the USWNT’s Twitter posted a message of support, stating that “More than ever, today we are #OneNationOneTeam. #LoveWins.”
“I was actually very honored with what U.S. Soccer put out,” said Ellis at the time. “When I saw it, I was very moved. Our players, they’re great role models, and to have that now be something that all of us can embrace, no matter where we live in the country, I think it’s tremendous. It’s a tremendous step for our country, and certainly, as somebody who benefits from that I’m extremely pleased for everybody in our nation in the LGBT community.”
2. Stephenson Works in Sports Medicine at the University of Miami
According to her LinkedIn page, Stephenson is a Senior Director of Development at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
She has responsibility for creating and implementing the overall strategy for fundraising for three medical specialties (sports medicine, psychiatry and otolaryngology) within UHealth and the Miller School of Medicine. During her development career, she has overseen campaign management, capital development, major gifts, annual fund, grants, events and communications.
She has worked in Miami since Dec. 2013. Before that, she was the Director of Development at the Marlborough School, an all-girls college preparatory academy in Los Angeles, from 2010-13. She also served as the Assistant Vice President of Foundation Giving at the Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.
She started her career working in college athletic departments. She was an associate athletic director at her alma mater Kansas until 1996 and UCLA until 2004. She led the AD at Emory University in Atlanta until May 2007.
She graudated with a Bachelor’s degree in Personnel Administration in 1983.
3. Betsy & Jill Moved to Miami From Los Angeles in Dec. 2013
Coinciding with Betsy’s hiring at Miami, she and Ellis moved to South Beach in Dec. 2013. According to the Miami Herald, both lived in Los Angeles before then. Ellis originally hailed from England.
“I just needed to be in one place for a while, for my family, and myself,” she said, a hint of her British accent still intact. “I had been on the road for too many years.”
Soon after Stephenson and Ellis planned the move, former USA Soccer president Sunil Gulati reached out to Ellis about becoming the national team head coach. This meant that constant travel was back on the schedule, though she states that doing it from Miami is easier than Los Angeles.
“Opportunity only knocks so many times,” Ellis said. “It’s easier to travel from the East coast. Living in Miami is a calmer pace, especially the area we live in. Lily’s like, ‘We don’t ever go on highways anymore.’ In L.A., there’s so much traffic, faster pace.
“I knew I wanted to live somewhere warm, close to the water, I liked the diversity of L.A., and it’s similar here. It seemed like a really good fit, all around. Plus, I was already a Heat fan, even though I lived in L.A. I always liked the Heat. So far, it’s been fantastic here.”
4. They Have a Daughter Named Lily Stephenson-Ellis
The couple are parents to one daughter named Lily. As of 2016, she was a fifth-grader at Coral Reef Elementary School in the Miami-Dade County Public School system.
According to the Cutler Bay News, Lily has the last name Stephenson-Ellis. She won a creative writing contest in June 2016.
Lily Stephenson-Ellis, a fifth grader at Coral Reef Elementary School, has been named the winner of the American Immigration Council (AIC) Creative Writing Contest for Fifth Graders. This is the first year that Miami-Dade County Public Schools participated in AIC’s annual contest.
The winner was announced during a recent luncheon at Jungle Island. One hundred thirty entries were submitted for this year’s contest, which had the theme, “Why I Am Glad America Is a Nation of Immigrants.”
Lily and her teacher, Yolaluis Perez-Padgett, were awarded a plaque and a cash prize.
Lily’s winning essay was about how she spent the first three months of her life in an orphanage in Puebla, Mexico. She also wrote about Ellis.
5. Ellis Cut a Player from the 2019 World Cup Roster That Refused to Wear Pro-LGBTQ Uniforms
According to Out Sports, Ellis didn’t include star left back Jaalene Hinkle from this year’s World Cup roster. While a poor workout may have compounded factors, it was widely believed that the main reason for the snub was Hinkle’s Christian beliefs.
She refused to travel with the team in 2017 to Norway and Sweden when they wore rainbow-colored, pro-LGBTQ uniforms.
In June 2018, Hinkle was called up for camp before the Tournament of Nations, but out coach Jill Ellis cut her three days in. Outsports writer Katelyn Best outlined the possible reasons: Hinkle had played poorly, the USSF hugely underestimated the backlash from LGBTQ fans and allies, or that that she was only invited to camp to briefly quell speculation she was kept off the team because of her religious objections.
“I just felt so convicted in my spirit that it wasn’t my job to wear this jersey,” Hinkle said in an interview with the 700 Club.
She also didn’t show solidarity with the team, and Ellis was pretty adamant that Hinkle didn’t have enough positional flexibility.
“One of the things our staff and I do is, we go through worst-case scenarios over and over and over again,” said Ellis. “So, looking at depth and versatility is a big part. And it becomes harder, I think, for a player that plays one position… a player that’s locked to one position — I do think that’s part of the decision-making.”