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Kit Morris

A Coaching Gem on the Diamond

By Gwen Knapp

Perched on the window sill of softball coach Kit Morris's office in the basement of 60 Boyiston Steet is a little red and gold stuffed frog, wearing a button that reads, "Girls' sports are important, too."

While his amphibious friend lolls in the sun, Morris is busy making sure that the message on the button reaches people in the Harvard community.

As a graduate student in the School of Education, Morris did a study assessing the Athletic Department's implementation of Title IX--a federal code requiring equal funding for women's athletics--and its procedure for elevating women's club sports to varsity status.

After receiving his degree in 1978, Morris joined that process when he became assistant athletic director and also took on the job of coaching the softball team.

The squad attained varsity status this spring, something team captain Betty Ippolito says, "would have been impossible without Kit."

In addition to helping his team reach varsity level, Morris makes each team member, regardless of how talented, feel important.

"Kit is such a special person in the way he cares about our team and the individuals on it," centerfielder Ellen Jakovic said, adding, "Whether you're a star or someone who just picked up the game, he makes you see how far you can go."

Sitting on the other windowsill in his office is a large trophy, awarded each year to the player whose performance exceeds all expectations.

"That's out Tenth Player Award," he says with a smile, "and it is the part of the program I am most proud of." Morris delights in telling how last year's winner, Pam Prisco, continually came through when the team needed her most.

As a matter of fact, Morris is quick and proud to point out everything that his team members have achieved. When describing Prisco's accomplishments, he never fails to mention that she graduated with a summa in language and linguistics.

"Unlike most coaches, he is more concerned about us as individuals than he is about the way out win-loss record reflects on him," Jakovic says.

Upon learning that first baseman Marlene Schoofs would miss the first day of next weekend's Ivy League tournament because she has to fly to California for a Rotary Scholarship interview, Morris couldn't have been happier. Apparently forgetting that Schoofs took home All-Ivy honors last spring, he said, "Isn't that great? Do you know how tough it is to reach the interview stage?"

Morris's respect for his players is evident in subtler ways as well. He always refers to his atheletes as "women," never "girls." On Monday, in a J.V. contest against the University of Massachussetts, one of the umpires said to the UMass nine, "Ladies, take the field." Later in the locker room, Morris told his players that he would not have permitted the officials to speak to them in what he considered a condescending fashion.

"I feel that they should be addressed with respect," he says. "They are the equivalents of any athletes here, and they deserve to be treated as such."

Despite his commitment to the team, women's sports aren't the only things which are important to Morris. In addition to his work at Webster Field and 60 Boylston Street, Morris serves as a proctor in Hurlbut Hall and as a dean of the summer school.

"I really enjoy working with the students at this school," he says. "I don't think you can find a finer group of undergraduates anywhere."

Morris, his wife Donna and their newborn son Matthew Christopher share a basement room in the "But." When he's not coaching, proctoring, or preparing for a wave of high schoolers to descend upon him in June, Morris busies himself with a wide variety of activities.

The family cooking responsibilities are his, and he bakes munchies for weekly proctorial study breaks. He says that he "enjoys tinkering with bicycles," and confesses, "I am a news freak. I just devour magazines and newspapers."

On top of everthing else, he composes the lyrics for songs describing important events and people in his life. His favorite one is about the time he spent working on a riverboat during his undergraduate years at Ole Miss.

"Five years ago, I never would have guessed I'd be where I am now, and I have no idea where I'll be in another five," he says, "but I do know that the opportunity to work here has been a terrific growth experience for me."

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