By SHANE STURTZ
When a coaching position became available on the University of Iowa field hockey staff over the summer, it was an opportunity for Hawkeye alumna Roz Ellis to return to a program that gave so much to her as a student-athlete.
From 2005-08, Ellis built a decorated resume, winning three straight Big Ten Tournaments and earning two first-team All-Big Ten selections. However, the leadership at Iowa gave her something greater — the passion and desire to coach once she was done playing.
“I consciously told myself I wanted to coach and help create alpha females during my time as a player at Iowa,” Ellis said. “I learned so much from the coaching staff during that era.”
Returning to Iowa City and Grant Field as a coach is a huge privilege for Ellis, who was a team captain on Iowa’s 2008 team that advanced to the NCAA Final Four.
“My first year at Iowa has been great. I love working with this staff,” she said. “We collaborate very well together. Everything we do is crucial to the success of the program. Coaching for your alma mater is like doing surgery on a family member, every thought and decision is decided with your whole being.”
Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci knew Ellis could be a great fit and a spark plug for a Hawkeye team that downed seven top 25 opponents, including two wins over nationally ranked Penn State, and made a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.
“She has been an awesome addition,” Cellucci said. “She knows all the stuff we do and has a lot of pride. She has great knowledge as an assistant coach and loves to put that out there to the girls. Anything she can do to help them get better. She brings a lot of energy and effort every day. It’s been a great asset to us.”
Ellis never shies away from pumping up the team or implementing the game plan, but her ability to connect with every student-athlete is what sophomore midfielder Ellie Holley quickly noticed.
“The one thing I loved about Roz is she got to know us all as individuals first,” Holley said. “She knew our weaknesses. She knew the way to speak to us personally and she’s taken massive steps from all three lines — defensive, mids, and forwards —working on how we can get better individually and create that into a team play. She’s awesome.”
“The feeling is mutual,” Ellis said. “I love connecting with them, it helps me coach them better when I know who each person is individually. I take pride in loving what I do. This is the best job in the world. I care deeply for each one of these athletes. I want them to be successful in the classroom. I want them to grow each day on the field and daily as a person. I will help them succeed any way I can.”
It’s no surprise that Ellis takes responsibility for mentoring the student-athletes on the field and beyond. It is a skill she benefited from as a student-athlete.
“Iowa City is a special place to me,” Ellis said. “The Iowa field hockey program is unlike any other in terms of the life lessons you are taught throughout your career. You are held to the highest standard and held accountable for every decision you make. You learn how to be selfless, make decisions based on what is best for the team and, most of all, you absorb confidence and belief in yourself.”