DURHAM, N.C. – Since wrapping up her senior season at Duke during the fall of 2016, former Blue Devil standout Heather Morris has broken into the collegiate coaching ranks. She is also set to continue her playing career overseas with the Souths Hockey Club in North Cairns, Queensland, Australia.
GoDuke.com recently caught up with Morris to learn more about her transition from a student-athlete to coach and her upcoming move to Australia.
GoDuke.com: Catch us up on your life post-Duke!
Heather Morris: After graduating, I attended grad school and coached as the second assistant at Lehigh and spent the whole fall season there. We had a pretty good season and made huge strides. I actually coached under the direction of former Duke goalkeeper Caitlin Dallmeyer (formerly Williams). It was really cool to be coaching with another Duke alum. I finished at Lehigh and then over winter break, I went to a coaching convention and had a friend who created a company called Uru Sports that helps people travel abroad. She helped me find this playing experience in Australia. She showed me a couple of options and after talking with them, it all fell into place. That’s where I’m at now, waiting to go to Australia and training in preparation.
GoDuke.com: How has the transition been from player to coach?
Morris: I came to Duke deciding between coaching and going into a career in either environmental science or marine biology. Even though I was an earth and ocean sciences major, I was kind of toggling between the two. Coaching is one of those hard networks to break into so it is important to stay in it right off the bat. I love coaching. I’m super passionate for field hockey. I still really missed it and wanted to be a part of it. So I decided to go into coaching and take that route. Looking for jobs, I stumbled upon Lehigh. I’m from an hour south of Bethlehem [Pa.] so it was a really perfect opportunity for me to pursue a master’s and coach for a team that is so close to home.
The transition has been awesome. It is very hard to sit on the sidelines and watch a team play versus being out there yourself. I’m sure that is something all young coaches struggle with but I think that also helped fuel my desire to want to play again and keep chasing after that dream. I think it helped me become a better player, just watching the game from a different angle. Everything happens for a reason and it happened perfectly for me.
GoDuke.com: What have you taken away from the coaches you’ve worked with both at Duke and at Lehigh?
Morris: I credit a lot of my collegiate hockey knowledge and my knowledge of defense to Pam [Bustin], Jarred [Martin], Britt [Broady] and Wesley [Drew], the coaches at Duke. I really bought into their philosophies and understood them. A lot of my tactical knowledge comes from their philosophies so I owe all of that to them. Obviously they are brilliant coaches and I feel I have a well-rounded hockey knowledge because of that. Being a forward, Pam has helped me learn how to coach defense, which is so valuable as an attacking player to know because you want to be versatile.
I also learned a lot about being gritty and a hard-working team. I took a lot of those philosophies that Pam brought in about ‘nose-down, do the hard work,’ with me. Then transitioning to Lehigh, it was pretty cool because Caitlin [Dallmeyer] coached with the previous head coach at Duke, Beth Bozman. I had never experienced Beth as a coach but I think Caitlin has created her own style off of coaching for her, playing for her and now becoming her own coach at Dickinson and Lehigh. It was cool to see a different perspective from a different era of Duke knowledge coming in. And Caitlin is super knowledgeable. Being a goalkeeper helps her a lot because, not only is she excellent with the goalkeepers, but she was able to see a lot of the field and has a desire to learn about all of the positions. It was really cool working alongside a head coach that had a different perspective as a goalkeeper. I learned so much from her and from Pam.
GoDuke.com: Fill us in on your future plans in Australia.
Morris: I’m really excited to go to Australia because it will be a different playing style. I’m excited to learn more about coaching and playing from a whole different perspective across the world. And obviously it’s also really nice, being an earth and ocean sciences major. I’ve always wanted to go to the Great Barrier Reef and Cairns is right off the Great Barrier Reef. It’s in a great location. It’s a beach town and most of my friends joke that I’m going to the most perfect place in Australia. I’m so excited for that and it’s obviously a huge opportunity. Altogether, it was the perfect fit.
GoDuke.com: Tell us about the club you’ll be playing with. Morris: I will be playing under the Cairns Hockey Organization. I think there are five or six clubs within their association. The organization got me offers from the different clubs and tried to figure out what would be the best fit for me. So I will be playing for Souths Field Hockey Club underneath the Cairns Field Hockey Organization.
GoDuke.com: This past year, how much did you stay in touch with or follow the Duke team and your former teammates?
Morris: It was really hard not being a part of the team this year, but I really tried to keep in touch with them. I texted a lot of people in season, saying ‘Hey, I thought you played really well,’ and ‘Just keep it up.’ It’s so special when the alumnae reach out because it means a lot. There’s definitely a huge connection. I do keep up with a lot of the other alumnae on the team. That is one of the special things about Duke True – we are family on the field and we’re definitely a family off the field too. I feel like my former teammates have my back. When I found out about Australia, I had so many former teammates reach out to me and congratulate me. That’s one of those things that is really special, being a part of the Duke True family.