NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Soccer coach wasn’t the first choice of a career for Lipscomb men's soccer head coach Charles Morrow. Soccer wasn’t his first choice as a sport either during his childhood though he did play the sport along with the American version of football.
He spent his early years in a small town in South Texas where he was one of four children in the school district that were not Hispanic. He played soccer with his friends beginning in kindergarten and would watch the sport on TV at the homes of his friends.
“We didn’t play pick-up football on the play grounds,” Morrow said. “We played soccer. It wasn’t love at first sight. I enjoyed playing it, but didn’t really get an appreciation for soccer until high school.”
That was when his family moved to Carrollton, Georgia and he traveled an hour each way to Atlanta to play club soccer.
“I had also played football but I realized I wasn’t going to be big enough to play football in high school,” Morrow said. “I made the decision to play soccer year-round.
“Outside of the high school season there were no clubs in the Carrollton area. I played club soccer in Atlanta. That was my first taste of true competitive soccer. That is when I fell in love with it.”
But between those stops in Texas and Georgia Morrow became a competitive gymnast. He was inspired by the U.S. men’s team which won the gold medal in the 1980 0lympics.
“I did all of the men’s events until I hit puberty and got too tall to be as competitive as I needed to be,” Morrow said. “Gymnastics was every day, five days a week and sometime on Saturday. I thought I was going to be the next great Olympic gymnast for America.
“During that time I almost cut one of my fingers off on a bicycle chain. I had to take a long time off from gymnastics. When I came back I had grown a lot and lost flexibility so I got out of it.”
No chemistry formula
Morrow opens his 10th season as head coach of the Bisons Friday night at Xavier. His team is the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Ironically, Morrow didn’t decide to be a soccer coach until after spending time in organic chemistry class at Lipscomb. He thought about medical school or physical therapy training.
“My first semester at Lipscomb I was a junior and a chemistry major,” Morrow said. “I like science and, in particular, I liked chemistry. But it wasn’t something I was passionate about and that I loved doing.
“One of the big things I got from my Dad is that work should be about something more than the paycheck. It should be something you really enjoy doing. You find a job you would do for free. I know everyone is not lucky enough to do that.”
But Morrow, the Atlantic Sun Conference Men’s Soccer Coach of the Year in 2013, didn’t want to just be a soccer coach. He wanted to be a college soccer coach. Shortly after graduating from Lipscomb he applied for the head coaching job and interviewed with then Lipscomb athletic director Jonathan Seamon.
“I was lucky to be in the final group to be interviewed,” Morrow said. “Luckily, he didn’t hire me.
“I was not ready. I am thankful for Jonathan Seamon’s wisdom. “
A product of many influences
In 2005 Morrow finally got the job he wanted after stops on the high school and college levels. He has drawn his influences from coaches on many levels of his playing and coaching careers.
“The more you coach the more you realize there are very few original ideas,” Morrow said. “There has been an influence from all of my coaches from doing things really well to avoiding what some coaches did. It is a potpourri of philosophies.”
But with further consideration he points to Ralph Lundy, a coach he worked for during summers in camps at the College of Charleston.
“Ralph Lundy is a soccer coaching legend at College of Charleston,” Morrow said. “He is an ex-Marine. He is pretty regimented. He runs a disciplined camp. Seeing his passion for the game, and more so than that, his passion for coaching kids was a big influence.”
Morrow points to honesty and directness as the top two ingredients to his coaching philosophy.
“Sometimes you come across situations with players where you end up having to tell them something you know they don’t want to hear,” Morrow said. “But you know that it is information that they need to get better.
“For us, and for me, as far as the way we treat players I think it is important the players know we care about them. That is first and foremost. I think we have done a good job here of making sure there is not anyone involved in the program who doesn’t first care about the well-being of our players. That builds trust that allows us to be very direct and honest with our players.”
Variations are fascinating
Morrow was drawn to the game as both a player and coach because of the variations that can be played.
“You can look at different countries and different cultures and they all have their own styles of how they want to play soccer,” Morrow said. “I enjoy seeing how people play the game.
“America is still finding its style of how to play the game. But in America it is played differently based on where you go in the United States. The more South you get, where you have good surfaces to play on; you tend to see a more technical game. In the Midwest, with longer winters; you see more direct play…a very blue-collar, hard-working style.”
A special buzz
There is a special buzz around the Bisons this fall. Morrow is talking an NCAA Tournament berth. He knows his players think it is possible.
“I feel like all of the experiences I have had have prepared me to be in this position and have given me an appreciation of the position. I am a better coach now than I was 10 years ago. But we are better funded now than we were 10 years ago. It would be egotistical to think that the growth is all because of the coach.
“I am more excited about this season than some other seasons we have had. I don’t feel any more pressure. For our guys I think that some of the preseason awards are confirmation of what these guys have believed for over a year.”
Morrow says the ambitions go beyond just going to the NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t think that will be enough for these guys,” Morrow said. “We have been building for success for several years.
“If these guys make it to the NCAA Tournament and lose in the first round I don’t think they are going to be happy with that. They think they can do more. I agree.”