You’ve probably heard the names of the 3 women profiled below, because of their notable accomplishments as coaches. I don’t blame you- they’ve had some great careers leading national and collegiate teams. What you may not know (but should), is that before they became coaches, these 3 women in sport were NCAA Division I college athletes. That’s right, they played in the highest division of college sports in the U.S.
Not all great coaches have played the sport they coach, but being an athlete was an integral part of the journey, for these current coaches:
1. Dawn Staley
A 2012 inductee into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (WBHOF), Coach Staley was a decorated college athlete. As part of the University of Virginia women’s basketball team, she led the Division I squad to 3 Finals Fours and was chosen as the 1991 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. In addition, she was the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Year twice, holds ACC records and was picked as a member of the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Women’s Basketball team. Other honors included being named the 1991 Sports Illustrated Player of the Year and a Kodak All-American three times, among others.
After college Staley was a WNBA All-Star five times, an important member of the USA Women’s Basketball Team that won 3 gold medals, and was picked USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year twice. She is currently the head coach for the University of Southern Carolina women’s basketball team, WBHOF reports.
2. Jenny Allard
According to Go Crimson, “Jenny Allard, the Ivy League’s longest-tenured coach and one of its most successful, enters her 23rd season as head coach of the Harvard softball program in 2016.” Among her career highlights, the softball team has won 6 Ivy League titles, achieved 6 thirty win seasons and 5 NCAA Championships, under Allard. In sum, she has led the team to unprecedented success .
Before her time as a Harvard coach, Allard was a third baseman and then pitcher at the University of Michigan, an NCAA Division I school. During her time as an athlete there, she was selected as the Wolverines’ Most Outstanding Player, Most Outstanding Pitcher, and in 1989 was picked the Big Ten Player of the Year. That same year, Allard was also named a Division I All-American and was nominated for the Honda Broderick Award. Other awards include earning the Conference Medal of Honor, the University of Michigan’s highest award for a female student-athlete.
3. Jill Ellis
The current soccer coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team, Ellis played at the collegiate level at the College of William & Mary, for four years. She was a third team All-American at the NCAA Division I school, according to the Washington Post. Prior to the USWNT head coaching job, Ellis worked as a soccer coach at another Division I school, UCLA; within 12 years, she led the team to 8 Final Fours. Other coaching jobs included being the head coach at the University of Illinois, and assistant coach at the University of Maryland and the University of Virginia.
On a personal level, Ellis comes from a soccer family. She is the daughter of John Ellis, a former soccer player and coach in England. Later he moved the Ellis family, and opened a soccer camp and training company in the US; her brother now runs that business. According to Jill, her father’s role has been key in her success.
Bio: Mariela Santos-Muniz has an M.A. in International Relations and International Communications from Boston University, and a B.A. in Humanities from the Universidad del Turabo. A sports fan, she blogs at WMN Sports World, about women in sports. You can follow on Twitter @WMNSportsWorld.