UHSAA honors Waterford athletic director for serviceFeb 06, 2023 12:22PM ● By Julie Slama
On Jan. 11, Cedar Valley High School Assistant Principal Bill Sivert, on behalf of the Utah High School Activities Association, presents Waterford School’s Craig Morris with the athletic director of the year plaque. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
Craig Morris grew up playing football, basketball and lacrosse in New York State. As Waterford School’s athletic director for 29 years, his mission is to provide a positive experience for students competing for the private school in Sandy.
“Athletics and coaches had a really big influence on me and my life and gave me some direction and guidance and gave me a second home,” he said. “It’s wonderful to have an opportunity to give kids that through sports.”
Morris was honored Jan. 11 with a wooden plaque as athletic director of the year by the Utah High School Activities Association for 2022.
“This is a wonderful recognition and it’s very nice to have, but we do what we do because we love doing it,” he said. “I’ve had the good fortune of having a great staff to work with from the folks helping me in the office to coaches and our trainer and people who support athletes in all sorts of ways; this is an award that really is shared by everybody who has put the time and energy making it possible for kids to have a great experience in the athletic program at Waterford.”
Morris has served on the UHSAA’s executive committee representing 2A region 17, which Waterford students compete in, for about a decade. He learned about the award at a committee meeting before the recognition. “It was a very nice surprise,” he said.
Waterford’s head of school shared it with others at a staff meeting, but the word really began to spread after Morris returned from the recognition to congratulations banners.
He also coaches the school’s girls’ basketball team, adding, “I did not tell them yet. I’m not sure they know.”
When Morris first arrived at Waterford to be the physical education department chair and athletic director, he was thrilled to learn the school had a lacrosse team, his favorite sport he played and got a partial college scholarship to Fairleigh Dickson University in New York. Morris began to help with the players and took over coaching for 15 years, before he began helping with the lacrosse team at the University of Utah the next four years.
“It’s a beautiful game. I love the pace of it. I love the combination of the physicalness with skill and beauty and high scoring; it just spoke to me right away when I picked up a lacrosse stick,” he said, adding that at Waterford “this was before there was organized high school lacrosse. There were just our group of kids who played with a faculty member, who had played soccer and lacrosse at Cornell. There was one other team that started at Judge (Memorial Catholic) High School. We got together for a game or two. That was the infancy of lacrosse in Utah high schools.”
Morris said he helped get lacrosse sanctioned with the UHSAA.
“We were all set to go and COVID hit, but it has been worth the wait. It’s been wonderful to see that finally get into the high schools and running state championships in the Association,” he said.
For about 17 years, Morris has been coaching girls’ basketball all while scheduling games, getting referees, making sure teams had equipment and uniforms and doing other administrative tasks. But the highlight is working with the student-athletes.
“I just love the opportunity to work with kids,” he said. “They learn great lessons. We go through highs and lows together as a team and as a community. It teaches lessons that really can’t be taught as well anyplace else. They learn life lessons like how to deal with adversity, how to deal with success, how to manage your time, how to work with others, selflessness, being a part of a process that’s greater than yourself and having to play the role that’s needed at times. Sometimes that’s a starring role and sometimes that’s supportive role. Sports prepares you to work in whatever capacity and how to lead a productive life on and off the court much more than whether or not they learn how to shoot a basketball. Ultimately, those are the things that stick with all of us who have been involved with high school athletics.”
Over the years, his athletic director responsibilities have grown. Morris ensures there’s an athletic trainer at sporting events, that students meet eligibility requirements, he takes AD certification classes and is looking into building a new turf field within the next year. Yet, he’s still enthusiastic about his job.
“It’s been a bit of a balancing act, but it’s always been a labor of love. Athletic directors, we spend lots of hours here at school. We have lots of games during the evenings and nights, but that hopefully keeps us young and energetic,” Morris said about Waterford that offers both girls’ and boys’ basketball, crew, cross country, lacrosse, soccer, golf and tennis as well as girls’ volleyball for its 325 Upper School students. “I try to manage all those things, get the help and support where we need to and make sure that ultimately, the kids just have a great experience. This award is nice, but being in a (UHSAA) meeting where you see all the great work that’s happening in high schools across the state, and their passion for what they do, it’s just really nice knowing you’re doing your small role in everything that’s happening.”