As happens in most families, sometimes the children shrug off the parents’ opinions in the Mammosser household. And inevitably amongst the Mammossers, the discussion always turns to sports.
But Jay and Sheila Mammosser have an interesting way of handling situations when daughter Morgan, 17, or twin sons Jake and Matt, 16, tell their parents that they just don’t understand – especially when it comes to sports.
“Jay will ask how many people in the house have played college football or basketball or softball,” Sheila says with a laugh, “and he and I are the only ones raising our hands. That puts an end to a lot of the discussion.”
It’s Sheila’s past prowess as an athlete that has helped her become such a good volleyball coach for the Rock Falls Rockets. So good, in fact, that she led Morgan and the rest of her de facto daughters to the Elite 8 in Class 3A this season, one step away from the state tournament berth the Rockets so desperately wanted to attain.
For the third straight season and fourth time since 2003, Sheila Mammosser is the Sauk Valley Media Volleyball Coach of the Year.
The word “competitive” gets thrown around a lot, but Sheila Mammosser is the epitome of it. The ninth of 10 children born to Betty Bullock and her late husband, Ralph, the fire to be the best burned from an early age.
Even in such a big family, Sheila’s natural talent and work ethic shined through. She learned to ride a bike without training wheels before she was 3. She was one of the best volleyball, basketball and softball players during her time at Visitation Middle School, a Catholic school that repeatedly churned out some of the best athletes in her hometown of Elmhurst.
“Whenever someone graduated from Visitation and went on to high school, everybody knew where we were from because we were so far ahead of everybody else,” Mammosser said. “We were the kids who got moved up to play with the older kids.”
Sheila Bullock was no exception. She earned nine varsity letters at York High School, was a two-time all-state selection in softball and was captain and MVP of the softball, basketball and volleyball teams. She led her team to the Elite 8 in basketball her senior season, and played in a pair of supersectionals in softball, as well. She was also named the senior athlete of the year in 1987.
“At that age, you’re just totally thinking about yourself the whole entire time; you’re never looking big picture,” Mammosser said.
When it came time to pick a college, Sheila had a lot of choices, but only one that really mattered to her: Indiana University. After accepting a scholarship offer to play softball for the Hoosiers, however, things fell apart.
When Indiana’s coach left for a job in California, the school refused to honor the agreed-upon amount of scholarship with the young Sheila Bullock, and her plans to play in Bloomington evaporated.
“Indiana was my dream school, and I was devastated,” Mammosser said. “But it worked out in the end.”
That came in the form of Aurora University. Hooked up with the school thanks to her high school softball coach’s wife, Sheila ended up becoming the first female athlete to earn 12 varsity letters for the Spartans. She was a 4-year starter in volleyball, basketball and softball, and was named captain and team MVP in all three sports. She was a two-time GTE All-American in softball, helping the Spartans to the Division-III national tournament her junior year.
Her accomplishments have earned her enshrinement in the Aurora University Athletic Hall of Fame.
“It took me a long time to get over not going to Indiana,” Mammosser recalled. “But my coaches told me, ‘You can be a big fish in a little pond here [at Aurora], you can be that game-changer.’ I never anticipated having all the accolades. I just put my brain into working hard, on the field and in the classroom, and doing whatever I needed to help the team win.”
Even before that standout athletic career, the desire to coach was instilled in Mammosser. Those years of success helped the idea blossom.
In middle school, thanks to a physical education teacher named Linda Roberts, the young Sheila Bullock knew that she wanted to help mold young minds the way her favorite mentor did.
“She was such an advocate of teaching basic skills, and her coaching style really turned me on to coaching,” Mammosser recalled. “It made me want to do the same thing and be just like her.”
That quickly faded upon her first coaching gig. After a short season of seventh-grade volleyball, Mammosser knew she needed to adjust her focus.
“I couldn’t do it,” Mammosser admitted. “I didn’t have the patience, I couldn’t deal with the drama. One 6-week stint was enough for me to know that junior high wasn’t my place.”
That turned out to be a blessing for the high-school game in the Sauk Valley. Upon graduating from Aurora, Mammosser returned to her alma mater, York High School, to coach freshman volleyball for 1 year and sophomores the next. She spent the next 2 years coaching varsity softball at Lake Park High School in Roselle, then took the next 3 years off after Morgan was born in the spring of 1995.
When she got back into coaching, it was as Rock Falls’ varsity volleyball coach in the fall of 1998. She’s been in that post ever since, amassing a 331-200 record in 15 seasons; she also coached varsity softball for 3 years (1994-96), leading the Rockets to a fourth-place finish at the 2004 Class A state tournament.
While the Rockets (29-11) couldn’t match the school record for wins (35) they set last year, this season saw them add a second straight Big Northern West title and 3A regional championship – then Rock Falls added the sectional title that had eluded them the previous 2 years.
“It’s the girls that have made this possible,” Mammosser said. “For me to experience this year with them, and now I get to have a little end result, too, as coach of the year, it’s just wonderful.”
The players are just as happy for their coach. Sheila’s competitive nature and hard work trickled down to her players, and they’re pleased to win the sectional plaque for a woman who says the hardest transition of her life was from athlete to coach.
“I just wanted so badly to keep playing,” Mammosser said. “I was 22 and fresh off the national tournament in softball, and I turn around and I’m on the sidelines as a coach.”
“She definitely wishes she was out there playing with us,” Morgan said. “It means a lot for us to do something to excite her so much and make her so happy.”
Sheila Mammosser’s coaching style reflects the attitude of her past athletic prowess, but was ingrained in her as a youngster at home. Her father was a big sports fan, and took the kids to Cubs games and Bears games whenever he could.
The talk in the Bullock house, however, had little to do with winning or ability.
“It was about going 100 percent, 100 percent of the time,” Mammosser said, “setting goals and doing whatever you gotta do to attain them.
“Through the years, I kind of plucked different things from different coaches and molded it into my own philosophy. But the one thing I had of my own was the hard work, the determination, the desire. All that stuff is going to carry you in life, and I preach that to all of my athletes.”
That dedication has moved from the Bullock household to the Mammosser home.
“I’m so proud of the way both Jay and Sheila treat their teams and their kids,” Betty Bullock said. “The lesson is to try and make your best effort and help the kids for the future, not just now. Sheila cares about the whole team, wants to motivate everyone, and gives kids a chance. She’s a team player and she doesn’t care if you’re not the best – but she can’t stand it when they don’t even try. That’s something she learned very early on.”
It’s now being passed on to the next generation. Sheila sees a lot of herself in her daughter, especially when it comes to competitive fire and the brutal honesty that some might find abrasive at times. Sheila’s mother sees it even more than Sheila does.
“Morgan is very competitive and aggressive, just like Sheila was and is,” Betty said. “Sheila was a little more outspoken, but Morgan’s got that ability to get her teammates revved up and motivate – and they’re both tough as nails during the game.”
While Morgan sometimes rolls her eyes when her mom brings up the glory days – “Whenever we talk about sports, we hear about it,” Morgan said – she’s bound and determined to live up to the expectations and standard Sheila has put forth.
“It means a lot when I hear people say I remind them of my mom,” Morgan said. “I know she was a great athlete at whatever she did, and if they compare me to her, it means I’m putting forth the effort and trying my hardest to get better at everything I do. I’m proud of that.”
Born: St. Louis, Mo.
Family: Husband Jay, daughter Morgan (17), sons Jake and Matt (16). … Ninth of 10 children, has six sisters and three brothers.
High school: York, class of 1987
Accomplishments: Senior athlete of the year in 1986-87. … Graduated with 9 varsity letters. … 4-year varsity starter in softball, where she was a 4-year all-conference selection, 2-year captain, team MVP, 2-time all-state (Tribune and Sun-Times) and two-time sectional champ. … 3-year varsity stater in volleyball, where she was 3-time all-conference, 2-year captain and MVP and Tribune all-area. … 2-year varsity starter in basketball, where she was captain of the 1987 Elite 8 squad.
College: Aurora University, class of 1991
Accomplishments: AU Athletics Hall of Fame. … 4-year starter in basketball, softball and volleyball. … 3-time all-conference, 2-time MVP, team captain in 1990 in volleyball. … 2-time all-conference, 2-time team captain, team MVP (1988-89) and school record-holder for rebounding (until 1995) in basketball. … 4-time all-conference, 3-time all-Region, 2-time All-American, conference player of the year (1989) in softball. … Was national Division III leader in RBIs, triples and slugging percentage as a junior (1990). … Played on national softball team that toured Holland, Belgium, France and Germany.
Varsity coaching: Softball, Lake Park H.S., 1994. … Volleyball, Rock Falls, 1998-present. … Softball, Rock Falls, 2004-06.