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Ex-U.S. boss Ellis calls for more women coaches



Jill Ellis never left soccer, she just shifted focus.

The two-time World Cup-winning coach with the U.S. national team has turned her attention to making sure other women can pursue coaching careers in a sport where female coaches are rare.

After Ellis stepped down as coach of the national team last year, U.S. soccer announced it would endow an annual scholarship in her name to support female candidates pursuing elite coaching licenses.

On Tuesday, U.S. Soccer also announced the SheChampions Mentorship Program, designed to support women in the two top licensing courses.

Ellis said the idea is to create a community.

“As I look back on my journey, every female coach has gone it alone, so to speak. There’s been very few opportunities to be in a room, or be on a coaching license course, with other women,” Ellis said. “So I think that the idea of this mentoring program is to create a network that naturally exists for guys — because there’s a lot more of them. It’s trying to now provide not just mentorship, but create opportunities.”

Ellis is among those who will mentor the women in the program. Others include longtime North Carolina and former national team coach Anson Dorrance and Laura Harvey, former National Women’s Soccer League coach and current youth national team coach.

The idea is to double the number of professional female coaches at the elite level in the United States. Currently, there are only about 50 women with “A” and “Pro” level licenses.

The U.S. national team is an outlier internationally when it comes to female coaches, with three high-profile women serving in the role since the team was founded in the mid-1980s: April Heinrichs, Pia Sundhage and Ellis.

At last year’s World Cup in France, just nine of the 24 teams had a female coach. Two women, Ellis and Dutch national team coach Sarina Wiegman, faced off in the final.

FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, also has a mentorship program designed to encourage women in elite coaching careers as part of the organization’s global strategy for women’s football launched in 2018. Ellis, among 17 coaches involved in the program, has been mentoring Monica Vergara, Mexico’s under-20 women’s national team coach.

“That really left a mark on me, that suddenly that ability to care for somebody else and help them on their journey, was powerful. So that’s when this whole mentoring program came about,” Ellis said. “I believe that this is going to resonate tenfold in terms of just the impact it can have.”

It is undeniably difficult for a woman to reach coaching’s elite ranks. When Ellis completed the second U.S. Soccer Pro licensing course in 2017, she was the lone woman among 17 graduates. She remains the only woman to earn the license in the United States.

In the National Women’s Soccer League, there is only one female head coach, Sky Blue’s Freya Coombe, although Amy LePeilbet is serving as interim head coach of the Utah Royals. U.S. Soccer began offering C license courses to NWSL players at no cost in 2018 as a way of promoting women within the league.

At the college level, only 26.2% of all Division I women’s soccer teams were coached by women in 2018, according to the Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport. That number dropped from nearly 40% in the late 1990’s.

Ellis said she started thinking about the issue after U.S. Soccer announced the scholarship last fall.

“As a little bit of time went past, I thought, what are we actually doing with this?” she said. “And I sat down with the group up there and I said, ‘I really want to make a difference.’ Because every speaking gig I ever talked to of coaches, they’re like, `Well, where are all the female coaches? And why are the numbers declining?”’

Ellis stepped down as coach of the national team in July 2019, just over three weeks after she led the United States to a second consecutive World Cup title. Vlatko Andonovski was appointed the team’s new coach last October.

Named to the job in 2014, Ellis led the team to eight overall tournament titles. Over the course of her tenure, the United States lost just seven matches.

Since she stepped down as coach, Ellis has been enjoying time with her family while also riding out the coronavirus pandemic. She insists she’s not retired — she’s even entertained a few coaching opportunities that have come her way.

“I’m not saying I’m never going to end up back on the sideline,” she said, “but right now, this has my passion and my attention.”


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What Full Democratic Control Of The White House And Congress Would Look Like



In this episode of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew compares Joe Biden’s lead now with Hillary Clinton’s in 2016 and considers the agenda Democrats might pursue if they win the presidency, House and Senate in November.


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Struggles by Bills, Allen against AFC elite a cause for concern



ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Through the first four weeks of the NFL season, the Buffalo Bills looked like the league’s next-great offense. Powered by a potential MVP candidate in QB Josh Allen with a palpable connection between him and wide receiver Stefon Diggs, the Bills boasted the NFL’s fourth-best offense in terms of yards per game and fifth-best in terms of points scored.

Buffalo’s offensive success masked any concerns about its defense’s slow drift into a liability; or distracted from it, at least. But if the past two weeks are any indication, there is room for concern on both sides of the ball.

The Bills surrendered more rushing yards (245) than passing yards (221) in a 26-17 loss Monday to the Kansas City Chiefs. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s offense never got into a rhythm as Allen looked more like his rookie self than the NFL’s eighth-leading passer entering Week 6. He missed throws throughout the night and outside of an impressive touchdown throw to Diggs (whose catch was arguably more impressive than the throw), it was an utterly forgettable night for the Bills’ quarterback.

Especially after a humbling loss to the unbeaten Titans in Week 5, Buffalo needed a bounce-back game against another quality opponent to prove its blowout defeat was more of an anomaly than a regression to the mean. But Monday’s showing added more credibility to the argument that the Bills were fool’s gold to start the season.

Is that the truth? Reality might not be so dramatic. Buffalo has a get-right game against the winless New York Jets in Week 8 before hosting the Patriots in a critical AFC East matchup in Week 9. The season’s not over and the Bills’ outspoken goal of winning their division is still very much intact. But the talk of them as Super Bowl contenders appears presumptuous until proven otherwise.

Describe the game in two words: No energy. The Bills routinely credit the support they get from their fans for the team’s success, and the rest of the world might have underestimated just how serious they were. Monday night marked the second straight home game in which Buffalo played with a visible lack of energy and with no end in sight for New York state’s ban on fan attendance, this is an issue the Bills need to get over.

Promising/troubling trend: The Bills hadn’t allowed a ton of rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks entering Week 6 — just 84 yards, total, ranking 19th-most in the NFL. However, the yards they had given up were a back-breaking 6 yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks, which was fourth-highest in the league. That trend continued against Patrick Mahomes, who ran for 38 yards on 8 attempts, including a 9-yard scramble to convert a 3rd-and-7 on the Chiefs’ game-sealing possession late in the fourth quarter.

Biggest hole in gameplan: It’s reasonable to think the Bills picked their poison when developing their plan for Monday night, opting to sell out to limit the Chiefs’ passing game and sacrifice yards on the ground. But there’s a difference between sacrificing yards on the ground and opening the floodgates, and the Bills flirted with the latter for the majority of the game. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 161 yards on 26 carries as Buffalo allowed more than 200 rushing yards for just the sixth time under Sean McDermott. To their credit, the Bills clamped down on the run late in the game — but ultimately, it was too late to change the outcome.

Pivotal play: A momentum-swinging, three-play span put the game on ice late in the fourth quarter. After pulling within one score, the Bills seemingly forced and recovered a fumble on the third play of the Chiefs’ ensuing drive. However, Edwards-Helaire’s knee was ruled down and Kansas City kept the ball. Two plays later, on third-and-12, Mahomes completed a 37-yard pass to Bryce Pringle to put the Chiefs in field goal range. The drive ended in a game-sealing field goal but was nearly a game-changing defensive possession for Buffalo.


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In rarity, Chiefs turn to ground game in victory



To get the Kansas City Chiefs back in the win column after their first defeat in 11 months, coach Andy Reid turned his playbook upside down in Monday night’s game against the Buffalo Bills.

For only the second time in Patrick Mahomes’ 37 career starts, the Chiefs ran the ball more than they passed it. They were rewarded for the change with a 26-17 victory.

The Chiefs rushed for 245 yards on Monday, their most since 2012. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire led the way with 161 yards.

Kansas City also had 46 rushes, the most attempts by any Reid-coached team, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. (Reid coached the Philadelphia Eagles for 14 seasons before becoming the Chiefs’ coach in 2013.)

Mahomes was still efficient, going 21-of-26 with two first-half touchdown passes to Travis Kelce. But Mahomes threw for only 225 yards on a rainy night in Buffalo.

But days after signing veteran back Le’Veon Bell to provide an offensive spark, the running game was the star even without Bell. He can’t join the Chiefs until later this week because of COVID-19 testing protocols.

The Chiefs played most of the game without two starting offensive linemen. Guard Kelechi Osemele tore tendon in each of his knees in last week’s game while tackle Mitchell Schwartz left the game for good in the first half with a back injury.

The Chiefs led for a significant portion of last week’s game against the Raiders but Mahomes still dropped back 46 times with 43 passes and three sacks. Chiefs running backs had just 11 carries with 10 going to Edwards-Helaire.

The loss to the Raiders broke the Chiefs’ 13-game winning streak, including the playoffs and Super Bowl LIV last season.


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