Women's World Cup: The English coaches driving USA success

Jill Ellis (right) congratulates her players
Jill Ellis (far right) is hoping to lead her side to a second successive World Cup final
Fifa Women's World Cup: England v USA
Venue: Stade de Lyon, Lyon Date: Tuesday, 2 July, kick-off 20:00 BST
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One or iPlayer, listen to commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, read live text commentary on BBC Sport website and app.

When England take on the world's number-one ranked side in Tuesday's Fifa Women's World Cup semi-final, they will also be up against two Englishwomen at the very top of the sport.

The United States' Hampshire-born head coach Jill Ellis and Newcastle-born high performance coach Dawn Scott are integral to the holders' bid for a fourth world title.

Ellis and Scott have worked together for nine years in varying capacities. Their childhoods lacked opportunities to play competitive girls football, so how did they progress to become global leaders in their fields?

If I'd stayed in England I might not be coaching - Ellis

Ellis, 52, grew up near Portsmouth, having being born when women's football was still banned in England by the Football Association.

"I grew up playing with boys in the yard: with my brother in the backyard and boys in the schoolyard. I just loved the sport, loved the game," Ellis said.

"I truly think if I'd have stayed in England, I'm not sure I'd would be in coaching.

"At the time, it was not even a career path. It was a rare career path in the States but it wasn't a career path [in England] for sure."

But that changed after she moved to the USA in the 1980s.

"I was just fortunate to move to the States and have an opportunity to play organised football as we know it," said Ellis.

"What America gave me was the dream, the opportunity and the ability to follow that path."

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Ellis is the best at the moment - Neville

Since taking full charge of the US national team, Ellis has overseen 2015's World Cup win and two wins at the Concacaf Championship. She was also the Fifa World Coach of the Year for Women's Football in 2015.

But having supported Manchester United since the age of seven, she believes her love for football would not be what it was if she had grown up in any other country than England.

"What America gave me was an environment to put on my first-ever team uniform in terms of soccer," she said. "I always loved the sport and then that just gave me a vehicle to experience it even more.

"But the whole British culture I experienced growing up is still with me. I'm very grateful for that.

"Had I grown up in another country, I don't think the passion for football would be what it is, for sure."

England boss Phil Neville has questioned the USA's 'etiquette' in the build-up to Tuesday's semi-final between the teams - after at least one member of Ellis' staff was spotted at his team's hotel in Lyon.

However, he made clear that he is a big fan of Ellis.

He said: "I have an unbelievable amount of respect for her. She is the best at the moment.

"As she is a Manchester United fan, that instant connection is probably because we both support the same team. We have a lot of respect for each other."

USA's sports science set-up 'second to none'

But while Ellis' leadership has been one key factor in the USA's success, they have also received widespread praise for their fitness and sports science expertise.

Former USA number one goalkeeper Hope Solo feels the team have been 'light years' ahead of the competition, thanks in part to sports science expert Scott.

Solo told BBC Radio 5 live: "The sports science aspect on the US team is second to none.

"Of course, we took Dawn Scott, our fitness coach, from you guys in England.

"We train at altitude, we train in humidity and we train in the heat, so we know how to take care of our bodies."

Scott worked within the England set-up from 2001 to 2009, before switching to the USA's programme in 2010.

So how did a Newcastle United fan end up with a gold medal sitting on a Los Angeles mantelpiece?

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'Ice tubs, pool session recovery and GPS data'

"I oversee everything in terms of physical fitness or physical status of players, monitoring physical training every day with GPS heart rates," Scott told BBC Sport.

"I oversee the recovery side in relation to hydration and nutrition, whether that's ice tubs, pool session recovery or stretching.

"And then a new area we are focusing on as well is monitoring menstrual cycles and paying attention to certain things in players' diets around that as well.

"When they players are not in camp, I prescribe their training loads and training programmes and then work in conjunction with NWSL clubs, minimising injury risk and then optimising physical performance."

Former Worcester University lecturer Scott worked under former England boss Hope Powell for eight years, culminating with the Lionesses' run to the final of the 2009 European Championships.

Times have changed since her arrival at the FA 18 years ago.

"In 2001, when I started working with England, there was no sports science programme," she said.

"Back then, sports science was even new in the men's game, and on the women's side it was non-existent."

A local radio plea that changed a life

Dawn Scott
Dawn Scott used to be a Newcastle United season-ticket holder

What was also non-existent was girls football near Scott's Newcastle home when she was growing up - at least not until a plea on local radio.

Scott recalled: "When I was 14, my Mum actually called up the radio station, Metro Radio, and said: 'My daughter loves playing football - does anybody out there know if there are any teams?'

"Through that way, we found a team, Whitley Bay Ladies, but we didn't have a car back then and it was two bus rides away and took about 90 minutes to get there.

"I would go but I was also at school, and I'd be getting back at like 22:30, 23:00 at night because it was so far away."

Proud of her Tyneside roots, the former Newcastle United season-ticket holder recalls being "gutted" when they narrowly missed out in the 1996 Premier League title.

She has gone on to have her own success, helping the USA win gold at the 2012 Olympics in London - where they played at St James' Park along the way - and then the 2015 World Cup.

Ellis 'trusts and challenges me'

"You don't get an Olympics medal [on the backroom staff] but all of the support staff received gold medals at the 2015 World Cup, and mine has pride of place on my mantelpiece at home, alongside a signed shirt from the team as well.

"I'm very fortunate to be working with this group. The drive of these players is so amazing.

"They still want to get better every day, whether that is technical, tactical, game understanding or the physical side of it.

"If you're not highly motivated and highly driven yourself, you could not work with this team, because they demand that from you.

"Jill and I know each other very well. I feel like she trusts me and challenges me, which I enjoy as well, otherwise you could become stale in what you do.

"We have a really good relationship and that is so important at the elite level, to have high-performance sports science and have a really good relationship with the head coach and the technical staff."

USA squad huddle
USA won the World Cup under Jill Ellis in 2015

BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women's sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women's sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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