Women in sport: Acadia grad Morrison giving back to the game she loves

John Decoste jdecoste@kingscountynews.ca
Published on July 31, 2014

Former Acadia soccer keeper Angela Morrison, after both playing professional soccer overseas and coaching at the D-1 level in the U.S., has spent the past five years (other than a maternity leave) as Technical Director and Director of Coaching and Player Development for the Valley District Soccer Association. (John DeCoste)

©John DeCoste

Soccer has been good to Angela Morrison, and she is happy to be in a position to give something back to the game.

An Acadia graduate who played five years of varsity women’s soccer, Morrison returned to the Valley in 2009 to become first technical director, then director of coaching and player development, for the Valley District Soccer Association.

“It’s been a fast five years,” she says.

A native of Economy, N.S., Morrison came to Acadia in 1992 after graduating from CEC in Truro. Playing keeper, she provided the last line of defence for some pretty good Acadia soccer teams. In her final year, 1996, in which Acadia won the conference title, she didn’t allow a single goal in the entire regular season.

“Getting to play at that high a level opened doors for me to coach at a high level in the NCAA in the U.S.,” she said.  

After serving as an assistant coach with the University of Maine at Presque Isle, where she was taking an education degree, in 1998, Morrison moved on to the University of North Dakota, a D-2 school that has since gone D-1.

She took her Masters degree at UND. During her three years there, she served as assistant coach for two years and as head coach for one.

She then moved on to San Diego State, where she spent one season as first assistant, and the second as interim head coach, before moving on to the University of Montana, a D-1 school, where she spent five years as an assistant coach.


Plenty of role models

At Montana, she was able to reconnect with legendary coach and fellow Nova Scotian Neil Sedgwick, who was also at North Dakota while she was there.

“(He) made me believe in my athletic potential, and that I could succeed at a high level,” Morrison said.

She’s had many other good influences as well.

“Joel Hunter and Joanne Evans, my high school coaches – Joel later became the head of Soccer Nova Scotia, and Joanne later coached at Saint Mary’s – and Paul Millman, my track coach in high school,” were a few others, she said.

 “Laura Sanders did a lot for me (at Acadia) in terms of putting time into my development and realizing my potential. They say you need 10,000 hours to be a success at something. I probably got 5,000 of them at Acadia,” she said.

While serving as technical director for Halifax City Wanderers in the summers of 1998 and 1999, Morrison trained with the Halifax King of Donair team when they were at the height of their success.

“I had a lot of influences there, who helped me develop the skills to play professionally,” she added.


Best of both worlds

“There are times I miss coaching, especially at the D-1 level. The athletes at that level are so committed to their sport,” Morrison admits, although she loves her current job.

“There comes a time you have to balance between professional goals and personal goals. It’s OK to travel when you’re single, and even after you’re married, but with kids, it’s another thing altogether.”

Morrison said she always wanted to return to Nova Scotia to raise her family.

“Now, I get to have the best of both worlds,” she said, adding that it’s gratifying to see young players develop, grow and mature, while knowing she’s had a hand in their development, then go home to her own bed at night.

Morrison is sending 16 young players, eight boys and eight girls, to an identification camp for the provincial U-13 teams. That’s the most Valley has ever sent at once.

“I’m starting to see players I started out with here in U-8 getting these kinds of opportunities to help them become better players,” she said

Coaches, older athletes and institutions like Acadia can open more possibilities for young female athletes, Morrison added.

“A big part of it is providing equal opportunities, and respecting female athletes along with the males,” she said. Part of that is hiring the best coach for the job.

“What they should be doing is hiring the best candidate, regardless of gender. There need to be more opportunities, but you also have to hire the best person.”

Morrison hopes to show that through the six summer students she has this year, including Robyn McNeill, Chantal Landry and Emma Connell, all of whom came up through the Valley system.

“Chantal had never coached before. At the end of the day, it comes back to creating opportunities for these young people to do something they’re really good at,” so that when the time comes, they can compete for those coaching opportunities.

“I want to see more female coaches. I’ve tried to focus on the university-aged women, a lot of whom are coaching here, at one level or another, and provide them with support, guidance and mentoring.”