Passing the passion

Mizzou women's volleyball head coach Dawn Sullivan
New Mizzou volleyball coach Dawn Sullivan. Photo by Abbie Lankitus.

Published on Show Me Mizzou April 27, 2023
Story by Joe Walljasper, BJ ’92

As a Minnesota farm girl, Dawn Sullivan never felt more at home than when she was on a court with a ball. She pursued that feeling with all she had. If that meant joining the boys teams because there were only three girls in her elementary school grades, she would. If that meant petitioning to join the girls high school varsity teams as an eighth grader, she would do that, too.

“Sport allowed me to be who I am and be a little more free and find joy and feel accepted,” Sullivan says. “It allowed that aggressive side to come out.”

She carried that passion for the power of sport to Kansas State, where she became an All-American volleyball player, and then into a coaching career. Sullivan accepted an offer from athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois to become the head coach at UNLV in 2018. After five successful seasons there, she heard again from Reed-Francois, who was now Mizzou’s AD. 

The chance to work with Reed-Francois at a school with a strong volleyball tradition was too good to pass up. Sullivan was announced as Mizzou’s head coach on Dec. 18. Her belief in the power of sport hasn’t dimmed, and she hopes to instill her love into the Tigers.

“I want to impact people the way I was impacted,” she says. “I think sport allowed me to become who I am as a person.”

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