A Tribute to Coach
by Phil Reilly RCHS ‘94
Like many people, Arnold Morris was a lot of things to different people. To Bobby, his wife of thirty years, he was a devoted and caring husband. To children Robin, Wesley, Alin and Jamaal he was a loving father. And to Raven and Christopher II, he was a doting and generous grandfather. But to hundreds, if not thousands, of track and field athletes in the Philadelphia area, Arnold Morris was their coach.
Morris, the youngest of seven siblings was born on January 14th 1945 and graduated from St. Elizabeth Parish Elementary School in 1958 and from Roman Catholic High School in 1962.While at Roman, he earned First Team All-Catholic in 1959, 1961 and 1962. Morris was a member of Philadelphia Catholic League and City Championship teams in 1959 and 1962.
After graduation, he attended Cheney State Teacher’s College where he earned a BS in Social Sciences and History. He then joined the Philadelphia Fire Department and was drafted into the US Army and spent time in Vietnam, completing his tour of duty in 1968. While serving he was awarded several medals, including the prestigious National Defense Service Medal.
Morris, known simply as “Coach” to many, served as the Roman Catholic High School track and cross country coach from 1980 to 2002. Morris also coached with the Philadelphia Express and Morris Estate Track clubs, two of the oldest and most successful track clubs in the nation. But it was his time at his alma mater that Morris is most remembered for. Over the years, Morris’ Cahillite squads excelled in the sprints and jumps, but also produced formidable performers throughout the wide spectrum of track and field. Highlights of his tenure include 56 All-Americans, 75 All-State honorees, and so many All-Catholic performances that a calculator would be needed to add them up. His teams set thirteen Catholic League records as well as the National Catholic Record in the 4x400 in 1984 at 3:14.39 and in the 4x200 in 2000 with a time of 1:28.55. From 1998 to 2000, Roman Qualified for the Championship of America final in the 4x100 Meter Relay, winning it in 1998. Morris believed in exposing his teams to the best competition available and they competed at major meets throughout the East Coast, scoring victories at the Seton Hall Games, Bishop Loughlin Games, Stanner Games and the Nestle Loucks Games. Upon returning home from a meet on the road, “Coach” would personally drive each runner home. With Roman based in center city Philadelphia, it was not uncommon for the trip to take two hours, touching all corners of the city, often treating each athlete to dinner along the way. Under his guidance and leadership, the Cahillites won four consecutive Southern Division titles from 1998- 2001. It was in 2000 that Roman captured the coveted Philadelphia Catholic League Indoor Track championship. This was an achievement that Coach Morris was especially proud of because it required a full team effort.
Arnold Morris’ success as a coach and as human being cannot be measured in awards, honors, or championships, numerous as they may be. Talk to anyone who encountered “Coach” and they surely have a story about his welcoming smile, easy laugh, and relentless optimism. Morris possessed an unyielding faith in his athletes, enabling them to soar to heights they never dreamed possible. His true measure of success can be seen in the effect that he had in transforming boys into successful young men. His influence was strongly felt away from the field of competition. “Coach” was a role model, father figure, confidant, and friend to the countless men who passed through the Roman Catholic track program. Once a member of the team, Morris viewed an athlete as part of his family and this bond remained long past graduation, with Morris always available with a helping hand or a trademark story. While Morris accepted all of his athletes into his family and dedicated a large portion of his life to them, he made sure to never place his track family above his own at home, carefully balancing his time and energy between both without either group feeling slighted, a truly delicate task. After a long and successful career, Morris retired from Roman in 2002 and spent the last seven years volunteering his services for local track clubs and high school teams, mentoring other coaches, and working as an advisor at Sports Extra, Inc.
In April of 2009, Arnold Morris was inducted into the Roman Catholic High School Sports Hall of Fame, the culmination of an outstanding career of service. Runners from throughout his tenure attended in full force to show their love, respect and admiration for their “Coach.”
(At HOF induction with Roman Catholic alum)
On Sunday, September 13th Arnold Morris died of lung cancer. Just as he taught his runners, Morris fought the good fight, battling the disease right to the last second. Services will be held Saturday September 19th at St. Athanasius Church on 2050 Walnut Lane, Philadelphia, PA. Condolences at 9:30, a family tribute at 10:30, followed by a funeral Mass at 11:00. A scholarship fund has been established in Coach Morris’ memory. Tax deductible contributions can be made to the Coach Arnold Morris Memorial Scholarship Fund, Care of RCHS Alumni, 301 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, Pa 19107.
Arnold Morris, a coach, a family man, a friend. You will be missed.