Willis - Messer

CCHS athletic director A.C. Willis (left) poses for a photo after formally naming Jamie Messer the next head coach of the school’s volleyball program.

NEWPORT—When the Cocke County High School volleyball coaching position came open, it wasn’t the first time Cocke County’s own Jamie Messer had hopes of securing the spot.

After applying many times before, this time was the moment he’d been waiting for.

Cocke County High School director of athletics A.C. Willis formally introduced Messer as the new head coach of the school’s volleyball program on Friday afternoon.

Messer succeeds former coach Jeremy Byrd, who announced his departure from the school to become the head coach of Jefferson County High School’s girls basketball program on May 22.

“This is such an honor,” Messer said after his introduction on Friday. “I know coach Byrd was an amazing coach, and did a great job while he was here. My hope is to continue to progress from where they left off last season.”

For Messer, the opportunity to lead the high school program is a dream come true.

After years of applying in hopes of getting the job he’s long sought after, the timing was finally right as he received the phone call he’s patiently been waiting for.

“I’ve been dreaming about this for years,” Messer said. “It was such an honor to finally get that call and be offered the position. I know things will be different for the girls under new leadership, and it’ll take some time for us to get used to each other. But I’m very excited about this opportunity and I can’t wait to get to work with this group.”

A CCHS alum, Messer is excited to not only get his first chance at leading a high school program, but excited to return to his old stomping grounds and make a difference at his alma mater.

“My four years here were the best years of schooling for me,” Messer said. “To be able to come back and now coach here is great.”

Messer’s background is an extensive one in the volleyball game. He’s been the head coach of Edgemont Elementary’s volleyball program for the last 10 years. During that time he amassed over 80 victories and had winning seasons in eight of his years with the Lady Panthers.

In 2014, Messer led the program to a season championship. He was also recognized as the Cocke County Elementary Volleyball League’s coach of the year in both 2012 and 2018.

“I’ve been around and watched many of these girls grow up through the middle school ranks,” Messer said. “Now getting the chance to coach them at the next level is really special.

Messer’s coaching experience reaches beyond institutional volleyball, though. He’s also spent time coaching travel clubs over the years, making him a candidate that stood out over the process of the program’s coaching search.

His two stops in the travel circuit included a year as an assistant with the Phoenix Rising Volleyball Club in 2012, as well as a two-year stint as head coach of the Revolution Volleyball Club in Dandridge, Tenn. in 2016 and 2017.

“Both of my stops (with travel ball clubs) gave me more experience,” Messer said. “I wanted to see what it was like to coach a higher level and older age group of girls, and both of my stints with those two programs afforded me that opportunity.

“It was a good way for me to further my knowledge of the game, while also allowing me to help the girls within our community more.”

Messer’s work will be cut out for him ahead of his first season with CCHS.

After his official hiring on Friday, he was only afforded one brief session with his new team before the mandated TSSAA dead period went into place. He and the team will be able to return to work on July 6, but will have just three weeks to finalize a roster before the first official day of practice.

“The first few practices will be really important,” Messer said. “We’ll have to get an idea of where the girls are in their progression and what they’ve been doing to get better. We’ll have to also get an idea of the systems they’re used to and then build on that.”

While there will be a lot of new and a lot of learning to be done between Messer and his team, he’ll have help in the form of experience and leadership within the program.

Cocke County returns a plethora of talent for the 2020 season, including the District 2-AAA Setter of they Year Gracie Gregg, and All-District Tournament representative Annie Wardroup.

“I know there’s a lot of talented girls here,” Messer said. “As a coach that makes me confident in what’s in store for us. The girls here are already playing at such a high level, and I expect that to make my transition into the program that much easier.”

CCHS is set to open the season on the TSSAA’s start of the season date for volleyball on Aug. 21.

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