When Morgan Mammosser was a volleyball star at Rock Falls, she essentially served as a second coach on the court for her mom, longtime Rockets head coach Sheila Pillars.
But it wasn’t until college that Mammosser realized she really wanted to follow in her mom’s footsteps on the sidelines.
Now, she has her own varsity volleyball program.
The 2011 Sauk Valley Media Player of the Year has been hired as head coach at Linn-Mar High School in Marion, Iowa, which is located right next to Cedar Rapids.
Of course, the first person she called to deliver the good news was her mom.
“My boyfriend was there with me when I got the news, so he’s the first one who knew,” Mammosser said. “But it was cool to kind of surprise my mom with that first phone call. She’s been a great role model the past 24 years, and it was amazing to be able to talk to her through the whole process and then give her the great news at the end.”
Pillars was just as excited on the other end of the call.
“I love it,” she said. “I’m more thrilled with the fact that I get to share something I’m passionate about with my child; she loves it more than I do, actually. She makes me proud no matter what – all three of my kids do – but to see her take the steps she needs to go where she wants to go is special, and to do it of her own accord and merit – and to have someone recognize what she has to offer – is truly great.”
Mammosser found her way to Iowa thanks to her boyfriend, Elven Walker IV, who is the linebackers coach at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. She served as the freshman coach at Cedar Rapids Washington last season, after a year as an assistant coach at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin in 2018-19.
After a 4-year varsity career at Rock Falls, Mammosser was an all-conference performer at Sauk Valley for two seasons before attending Illinois State and serving as a defensive specialist for the Redbirds. After graduating from ISU in 2017, she spent a year away from volleyball.
“That’s really when I realized I wanted to coach,” Mammosser said. “After I stopped playing, I started to miss it, and I wanted to be around the game I love. I started coaching club, and I just fell in love with it, and realized I can’t live without being coaching.”
Mammosser works at a Stuff, Etc. store in Cedar Rapids, and also co-owns a fitness business called ICANFLY Performance with Walker.
After her stint as freshman coach at C.R. Washington, a couple of the coaches she worked with there – including head coach Olivia Pikokivaka – reached out to Linn-Mar when Teresa Bair resigned after last season. Linn-Mar associate athletic director Tonya Moe then contacted Mammosser to set up a meeting.
“That interview went great, and it all happened very quickly and unexpectedly,” Mammosser said. “I love Tonya’s energy, and how she backs her coaches, and Olivia was nothing but supportive and pushed me to take the job.”
Bair went 192-84 in 7 years at Linn-Mar, leading the Lions to the state tournament three times, including runs to the semifinals in 2017 and 2018. She stepped down after an 18-18 campaign last fall.
And even though Mammosser hadn’t had any experience coaching against Linn-Mar, she still knew about the Lions’ volleyball program.
“There are two sides to the [Mississippi Valley] conference, and we didn’t play Linn-Mar last year. But I knew their record, I knew they were a good team and were bringing back a lot of good players next year,” she said. “I knew they had been to state a couple of times and were stacked, so I knew what I was getting into.
“Plus, the school has amazing facilities and resources, and the coaches there just want nothing but the best for their athletes, and I felt that was a good match for me.”
Moe is just as thrilled about how well Mammosser fits into the Linn-Mar family.
“I am excited for her energetic and enthusiastic approach she will bring to our program, but also know she is super-knowledgeable when it comes to volleyball,” Moe told Jeff Linder of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “I know she is excited to work with all of our student-athletes here.”
Pillars noted that the Lions are going to get a passionate, dedicated coach who knows the game inside and out, having been around it her entire life.
“She doesn’t coach like me, but she’s got her own style from all the different coaches she’s played and coached under,” Pillars said of her daughter. “I stand the whole match and yell a lot; she’s calmer, and assesses things probably better than I do. I’ve just told her to find her own niche, and just take what she’s learned and give it back to her players. If she sticks to her guns and preaches what she believes, the kids will respond no matter what.”
While the decision to take the Linn-Mar job was an easy one, the transition will be a bit more difficult than what a normal first-year coach would usually encounter. As with most of the country, Iowa schools are shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and there is no contact with students until April 12.
“It’s just a very weird situation right now,” Mammosser said, “and I’ve got to figure out what to do and how to take over a program with the quarantine.”
Still, when she does get into the gym with her new players, Rock Falls volleyball fans might see a pretty familiar style of play at Linn-Mar.
“I find myself the spitting image of my mom,” Mammosser said with a laugh. “She always preaches that offense sells tickets but defense wins matches, and I’ve always been a defensive-minded player.
“I never took what she taught me for granted, and now that I’ve coached, I understand where she was coming from. I definitely repeat her and say a lot of the same things she did. I took little things from every coach I’ve come across, but it means a lot to me that so much of the stuff I do and say comes from her.”
Pillas has little doubt that Mammosser can run a successful high school program, and eventually follow her dreams of becoming a head coach in college someday.
“She’s had so many opportunities to play the game and learn the game and teach the game, through club and at Carroll and now at the high-school level,” Pillars said. “She aspires to run a college program, and I can definitely see her as a college coach; I just hope she believes in herself enough to know that she could run a great program.
“It’s just fun to see your kids grow up and find the thing that makes them happy and be able to do it; that’s all you want as a parent. But then to get to share it with them … that’s just really special.”
Hometown: Rock Falls
School: Rock Falls High School, class of 2013; Sauk Valley Community College, class of 2015; Illinois State University, class of 2017
Job: Co-owns a fitness business; varsity volleyball coach at Linn-Mar High School in Marion, Iowa
FYI: Daughter of Jay Mammosser and RFHS volleyball coach Sheila Pillars. … Led the Rockets to regional titles as a sophomore, junior & senior at RFHS, and a sectional title in 2012. … Was Sauk Valley Media’s Player of the Year in 2011. … Has coached at Club No Limits, and was also an assistant coach at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis. (2018), and the freshman coach at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (2019).