“Excessive spirits and pleasure:” The graduate from Calvin College is making a soccer dream come true
Chris Morrish led the Calvin Knights to a berth in the Division III NCAA national championship game. Courtesy Chris Morrish
In Kentucky, Calvin University graduate Chris Morrish was preparing for the Louisville City Football Club of the USL Championship when he received a call from Pittsburgh. The Riverhounds heard that Morrish was in Louisville. They wanted to sign it.
For Morrish, the deal he signed with the Riverhounds last month was an endorsement that he was good enough to turn a lifelong love of football into a real job.
“It was about five seconds of pure elation and joy. This is one thing I’ve worked all my life for – people have said I can’t – and by the grace of God I did it, ”he said.
The 23-year-old Morrish spent two seasons as a goalkeeper for the Calvin Knights, setting a 21-2 record with 10 failures in the 2018 season and reaching the Division III NCAA national championship game. In the title game he fell 2-1 against Tufts University. In 2019, he had a 12-2-1 record with six failures, which led his team to a semi-finals before losing again to Tufts.
“The 2018 team were incredibly talented,” said Morish. “I think it’s the best D3 soccer team that has ever existed.”
Leading up to the Riverhounds season, Morrish spent training sessions with his personal trainer in Memphis, Tennessee in early March, and according to the Riverhounds website, he is now anticipating the start of the preseason, slated for April 1.
According to the USL website, the Riverhound season begins on May 15th.
“Since I could walk”
Born in Bradenton, Florida, soccer was introduced to Morrish early on – each of his three siblings played soccer when he was born. When he was 2 he started kicking the ball. When he was 3, Morrish played with the 5 year olds at the YMCA.
“Football was just something I’ve breathed and loved since I could run,” he said.
Morrish said he doesn’t remember why his coach put him in goal as a young player, but he does remember how he rolled the ball, dripped it past each player on the opposing team, and shot at the opposing goal.
While Morrish was and is confident about his game, he said he doesn’t see himself as the most explosive player or the fastest reaction time. Rather, his talent lies in mastering the little things – footwork, handling, sales, etc. – and investing the time and effort required to do so.
“Anything you can control as a goalkeeper makes Chris good,” said Ryan Souders, Morrish’s coach at Calvin.
As well as being a talented player with a good work ethic, Morrish has the right mentality to defend a goal.
Morrish said he loved the pressure that butterflies are a result of his passion for the sport and stimulate his emotions before a game. Regarding a competitive mentality, he said that when it comes down to it, he’ll bet on himself over another team’s goalkeeper.
“There’s only one small factor of trust and arrogance that it takes to be a goalkeeper because every time the ball hits you it can win or lose you,” said Morrish.
“A knife to my heart”
Morrish faced a major setback when it was time to get involved in college. He was looking for a Christian school with good academics and – in the hope of playing professionally – a good football program.
Morrish picked a college that met his criteria: Emory University in Atlanta, his father’s alma mater. He called Emory’s head coach ready to sign up and looked forward to starting his college football career. Instead, the trainer informed Morrish that he could not visit Emory because his grades were not high enough.
“It was like a knife for my heart,” he said.
Morrish eventually attended his second choice, Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, where he played his first year as a substitute goalkeeper. The following year, when the previous goalkeeper graduated, Morrish expected to win the starting job but tore the labrum in his right shoulder on the first day of preseason.
On top of a recent injury, Morrish saw his grades drop and found he was dissatisfied with his recent lifestyle.
“The 2018 team was incredibly talented. I think it’s the best D3 soccer team that has ever existed. “
“I was terrible at this point on my grades, I don’t follow Jesus well, and I won’t be able to play soccer. What’s the point of being here? ” he asked himself.
After two weeks of trying to get well, Morrish got out and moved back to Florida.
Back in Bradenton, he took a semester off before going to a local junior college where he played soccer and earned his associate degree before going to another good soccer school.
After his first semester, he met with the head coach for an evaluation meeting at the end of spring.
“The coach looked me in the eye and said, ‘In the next school you go to, you don’t even think about football because you’re not good enough to go pro.'”
The coach went on to tell Morrish that the incoming freshman was better than him and would likely play over him.
Hoping to go to a good school after completing a two-year junior college degree, Morrish realized that his coach probably wouldn’t stick his neck out to help and began looking for colleges himself. He found two Christian schools that would allow him to play high-level football, Calvin University and Messiah University in Pennsylvania, and he planned visits to each.
Grow as a soccer player
While visiting Calvin, Souders, a former professional goalkeeper, told Morrish they needed a goalkeeper. If they had one, they would have a good chance of winning a national championship.
Morrish said he liked the idea of an immediate move and liked that Souders was a former goalkeeper himself. Morrish also saw Calvin prioritize “building Christian followers and integrating them well in their callings.” He felt that it was the place for him and canceled his visit to the Messiah.
At Calvin, Morrish found a radically different team culture than he was used to. He saw seniors wearing equipment – usually a job for newbies. He saw a kind of servant leadership in which the boys looked after each other in a practical way.
Morrish said the team was tight, there was no one he couldn’t go to, and said, “Hey, I’m struggling with this, I need you.”
In addition, Morrish experienced a freedom in Calvin that he did not have in other schools. Coach Souders told him to experiment and make his own decisions and gave him the freedom to fail.
According to Souders, Calvin was the perfect setting for Morrish.
“It allowed him to grow as a football player without worrying about growing as a football player,” said Souders. “At the end of the day Chris had to go and perform, and I think Chris would tell you that if those doors had opened in his sophomore year at Calvin, hadn’t he had the ability or the ability to go through them – he has two Done years later. “
In his last two years of college, Morrish focused on daily improvement rather than a long-term goal. He made friends as a valued part of a community and based his lifestyle on his passions.
“Chris couldn’t turn a pro in his sophomore year with Calvin. No matter how much he wanted it, it wasn’t possible, ”said Souders. “The opportunity was not there; He hadn’t proven himself as a college goalkeeper. I said, “Chris, you have to worry every day. What is your job to do here? And if you do these things, I promise you, you will be in a position to have these opportunities. “