Mosers share special bond through basketball
Ellie Moser was accustomed to seeing her mom on the sidelines of her basketball games. Rhonda coached her daughter, in some form or fashion, starting when Ellie was in third grade.
But their mother-daughter, coach-player relationship moved to a new level in 2015, when Rhonda became head coach of the Glenwood Springs High School Demons, for whom Ellie plays forward. Rhonda had a chance to turn around a struggling program with her daughter by her side. Next season, she’ll add to that mix when her youngest daughter, Maddie, enters high school and comes out for the team.
When Ellie was a freshman in 2014, Rhonda was an assistant coach on the junior varsity program. The mother-daughter relationship wasn’t a problem over those years. But when Rhonda took the varsity job, the family assessed the situation.
“We had a big sit-down as a family after she took the job to make sure that this was something that was best for us,” Ellie said. “It was different having her as my JV coach my freshman year because she wasn’t really my main coach.”
But it’s a relationship that has worked as the family celebrates Mother’s Day today.
The pair capped last season with Rhonda guiding the Demons to a state playoff berth and a first-round home game and Ellie playing heavy minutes at both forward positions. Seeing a program that won just four games in 2015 win 11 and host a state playoff game in 2016 was special for the mother-daughter team.
“It was definitely a memory that I’ll never forget,” Ellie said. “It was my first year playing heavily on varsity, and I was contributing, so it was really cool to have that excitement. I remember winning our first game in the Demon Invitational and she [Rhonda] was the first person I ran over to for a hug. I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, we’re really doing this!’ We were at home every night during the season looking at rankings and calculating our state playoff chances, so having her as my coach added an extra dynamic to this process.”
For Rhonda, a standout basketball player at Basalt High School in the 1980s, coaching Ellie and Maddie is a chance of a lifetime. But pressures accompany the situation.
“The amount of time I’ve been able to spend with Ellie and watch her grow, not just as a player but as a person, has been a special gift. I feel very grateful to have the opportunity. Adding Maddie to the picture will be extra special, but I’m sure they’d both say that having me as a coach comes with its challenges,” Rhonda said. “I’m that much harder on them because you want that sense of fear in your other players. …
“It’s going to be super fun to have both girls in the same gym, but we have to find that fine line of when I’m the coach and when I’m just Mom,” she continued. “But when it comes to basketball, home is home. If it’s exciting stuff about basketball we’ll talk about it at home, but there’s no shop talk in the car or in the house. My job as a coach is a separate job from being a mom. I’ve always said if that line gets crossed, it’s time for me to walk away because my relationship with my daughters is way too important to me.”
Rhonda sometimes comes under scrutiny from those who suspect she favors her daughter over other players. The truth is, the assistant coaches — not Rhonda — select each game’s starters.
“When we make a decision about who’s going to start, it’s based on hours and hours and hours of what kids are doing in practice that week,” she said. “Plus, this year, who we started and played was based largely on who we were playing. And the girls knew that.”
Despite such pressure, Rhonda is excited to see her youngest join the program.
“I’ve missed out on most of her basketball career over the last few years at the middle school level because of what’s going on up here,” she said.
Seeing the sisters, who are already close, together during Ellie’s senior year will also be special. Maddie is likewise eager to join her family on the court.
“I think this set-up is going to bring us closer as sisters and as a family as well because we’ll be together almost every day,” she said.
Maddie also hopes to take cues from her mother’s coaching and playing careers. Neither is particularly tall, and like her mom, Maddie plays guard.
“That being said, I’m kind of nervous because my dad was a big basketball player too,” Maddie said. “I don’t want to say they’re expecting a ton out of me, they just want me to have fun, but I’m nervous to see what type of player I’ll be at this level.”
Ellie hopes to emulate her mother in another way. She’s a member of Glenwood’s mock trial team, which has competed on the state level. Rhonda is a former Judge Advocate General in the Navy and now has her own law practice in the valley. Ellie hopes to become an attorney, as well, and said she finds inspiration in her mom’s dedication.
“I’ve always told Ellie and Maddie to do something that makes you happy,” said Rhonda, who has been careful not to pressure her girls to become attorneys. “I’ve been a cheerleader for her and watched her. And I’ll tell you what: if she decides she wants to go to law school, she’s going to be so much better than I ever was. She’s really good. She’s quick on her feet and she’s just fun to watch doing that.”
Perhaps the future will see mother and daughter together in yet another court.
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