The holder of dual citizenship (US/T&T)—her dad is Trinidadian Mark Ellis who captained QRC in 1989—16-year-old football player Amaya Ellis chose to try out for T&T some years ago and has steadily progressed to becoming a key defender/ midfielder on our national under-20 team.
The 5’ 6”, 125-lb player, has represented T&T U15, U17 and U20 national teams at various CFU and Concacaf tournaments gaining more than 15 international caps in the last two years. She has also been able to maintain high honours in academics as she prepares for tertiary-level education.
Among her impressive list of football honours are: U-17 Bundesliga Champions—South Region 2014-15, 1. FFC Frankfurt; Concacaf U20 Women’s Championship participant —2015, Honduras; T&T National Women’s U 20 Team 2015 (4 caps); T&T Women’s Youth Player of the Year—2014; T&T National Girls’ U-15 Team 2014 (6 caps); Awarded “Player of the Match” Honors Concacaf U15 Championships T&T vs Honduras (10/8/14) ; Concacaf U15 Girls’ Championship Best XI Team Selection—2014; Concacaf U15 Girls’ Championship Third Place (3rd) Finisher 2014; T&T National Women’s U-17 Team 2013 (10 caps); Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women’s U17 Champions 2013—Haiti; Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women’s U-17 Best XI Team Selection—2013; Concacaf U-17 Women’s Championship participant—2013; Region 4 US Olympic Development Program (ODP) Region Team—2012; Illinois ODP State Team—2010, 2011, 2012. This interview was done via Skype.
Q: Tell us about your early years and your family…where you were born, where you grew up, schools attended/attending including primary, etc?
A: I was born in the United States to parents Angela and Mark Ellis. My father, born and raised in Trinidad, came to the States on a soccer scholarship to James Madison University in Virginia. My parents met in college and later had my older brother, Che. My family has raised my brother and I in Elgin, a small town in Illinois.
I went to a public school for all of elementary school. However, we have recently moved back from living abroad in Frankfurt, Germany, where I was attending Frankfurt International School for three-and-a-half years.
During this time, I not only aspired as a person but also as a soccer player as I was playing for Frankfurt Football Club (FFC). Now, I am currently attending Los Gatos High school in Northern California.
I am playing above my age group with the number one club team in the nation, De Anza Force. I am beyond excited for next year’s season as the club is getting the executive technical director from Barcelona, Albert Puig.
What led to you becoming a football player?
My dad who also represented T&T at a national level. Also, Che played football at a competitive level. When I was just learning to walk I was also learning to kick the ball. I naturally have a competitive drive and so, I tried to compete with my brother no matter the age difference. My parents made me defend him in the backyard and taught me all the basic skills. Not only do the genes of playing skilful soccer run in the family, but it was something that I simply loved doing.
I joined my first club team when I was six at Kicker United in Illinois and I can still remember those days as being so fun that I knew this is what I wanted to do. Excellent coaches, both in football and life, like Kyle Walter and Matt Ross have kept me focused on the game.
Which of your games do you rate as the most satisfying and memorable?
One of my more memorable games would have to be in the U-17 Concacaf in Jamaica. Trinidad played USA and even though the score didn’t reflect our potential, it was simply breathtaking to realise that we were playing at the highest platform. The captain, Mallory Pugh, played on the national USA Women’s football team and was the youngest player to do so. It is incredible to think that the people you play could be the next Mia Hamm or Arin King. My most satisfying game would have to be the finals against Haiti in the U-17 CFU.
Having a crowd of thousands of people was one of the most intensified and energetic atmospheres that I’ve ever experienced. Haiti is an extremely good team and Trinidad was winning by a goal so the tensions were high. But when that whistle blew, everything was forgotten—how sore our bodies were, how tired, etc. Winning the tournament and making my country proud was of course an experience that I could never forget.
What goals and or ambitions do you still have?
My primary goal that I hope to achieve in the near future is to have a verbal commitment to the college that best fits me. I came to America a few months ago, and I quickly realised that many of the girls get committed early in their high school years. I still have one more shot into helping the Trinidad U-20s team make it to the World Cup. I am very hopeful that we are determined and hungry to come out victorious in every game we play.
What are some of the challenges you face as a footballer?
Some challenges that I have faced as a footballer is learning how to manage my time between academics and football. I have missed school for weeks at a time and during these football trips I have to put time aside to focus on my studies. School is very important, and I need to be able to balance and manage my time as I wouldn’t sacrifice my education for anything.
What do you consider as your greatest achievement so far?
My greatest achievement so far would have to be winning the U-17 CFU in Haiti in 2013. Knowing that I was only 13 but played every minute of every game and got picked for the All Star team was definitely a highlight of my football career.
Also, coming third in Concacaf U-15 in Cayman Islands was a great accomplishment as we lost by one to Canada, the apparent “power house.” Not only was it a wonderful experience, I also earned a spot on the best picked 11 and felt rewarded for all the hard work I put in before and during this tournament.
What is your most treasured possession?
My most prized possession has to be my dog, Bruno. He is a Yorkshire Terrier and the fastest defender I have ever laid my eyes on. I can always count on him greeting me at the door with a wagging tail after a long day. He is my own personal stress reliever!
What do you see for the future of the sport of football in T&T, suggestions for improvement?
I see the future of T&T football improving as the coaches and ministries are working very hard to devote the resources for the chance to qualify for a World Cup. I suggest that T&T needs to start grooming the players at a youth level as well as finding other Trinidadians around the globe who are willing and talented enough to represent our country.
What makes for a really good football player?
The most important aspect for a football player is passion for the game. Without the passion you won’t get very far.
What are your hobbies and interests other than football, of course?
My hobbies consist of sleeping in, reading, and going on hikes with my dog.
Of all your prizes and awards which do you rate as extremely special?
Of all my prizes and awards I would rate my Player of The Year Award as the most special. I was completely surprised when I found out that I was chosen as T&T youth player of the year. It was such an honour watching my granddad be able to see me get presented with such a huge award.
What advice would you give to the young people of T&T?
To focus on and prioritise your education and then pursue any hobbies or ambitions. Education is a privilege and you need to get into the right mindset of prioritising because you are going to have to make choices that will affect your future. No one can be held responsible for those decisions but yourself.
Your favourite football players?
My favourite players would have to be some of my own teammates on De Anza Force. Tierna Davidson and Samantha Tran are both a part of the senior class of 2016 and are attending Stanford University. Tierna is currently at a U-20 national camp for US, and Sam has helped the team bring home another state cup trophy for the ninth year in the row. Also, Arin King on the national T&T team is an excellent defender, and I’m left speechless when I watch her clean, crisp tackles.
How nervous are you before you go into a game? Any routines?
I get pretty nervous before a game, whether it is an international match or a club game. I think nerves are a natural feeling and it doesn’t affect me playing, if anything it helps me focus on doing the small details right. I usually listen to music in the car rides, mentally preparing myself.
The primary focus currently are the play-offs in San Diego from June 24 to 28 and hopefully nationals on the 8 and 9 of July.
What can we expect from Amara Ellis in the future?
I think that you can expect a fitter, faster, and more technical player. I have been training really hard and focusing on doing the simple things even better. I have been working on attacking higher up the field. I look forward to scoring and assisting my teammates all the way to nationals!
Describe yourself in two words, one beginning with A, the other with E, your initials?
Ambitious and easy-going.