Building Community: Parker Football reaches out to past players the old-fashioned way

Ever since Matt Morrison ‘05 took over as head coach of Parker Football in February 2017, he has made it his mission to create a robust and inclusive program. This meant molding the best and brightest team he could from his current players and setting a solid foundation for players to come. To do this, Morrison chose to look to the past.

Over the summer, Morrison invited several past players to speak with his junior varsity and varsity teams. It was a chance for Parker alumni to offer words of advice and share how the program positively impacted their lives. It was also an opportunity for current players to learn from those who came before them.

Building on his ambition to include alumni in the Parker Football program, Morrison asked his players to write letters to the alumni who wore the same jersey number during their time on the field.

“I wanted the kids to understand that the program is bigger than them and I wanted alumni to know we’re still thinking about them. It’s a good way to generate enthusiasm,” said Morrison, a Parker alumnus himself. “It would have meant a lot to me. Knowing I would have appreciated it made me want to do it.”

As soon as his players chose their jerseys for the 2017 season, Morrison went through old rosters dating back to 1997 and found the names of alumni who donned the same numbers. He wrote a short bio for each alumnus and asked his JV players to pick one and his varsity players to pick two.

In their letters, students expressed gratitude for the past players’ contributions to the Parker Football program and invited them to attend a game this season. Many alumni reached out to either the players or Morrison, and their responses were nothing but positive.

Jim Hazard ‘99 received a letter from varsity captain Gabriel Sawaya, Class of 2018, and quickly sent Morrison an email.

“He told me he reached out to guys he hadn’t talked to in 10 years after he received that letter,” said Morrison. “Everyone that I’ve heard from has really appreciated it.”

The students have also learned important lessons from the exercise and walked away with a deeper sense of pride for their program.

“My biggest takeaway from writing the letters was learning the legacy that these former players have left for us and learning how they contributed to the program when they were playing,” said Gabriel Sawaya. “Learning the history of the Football team really showed me how important this team is and how important it was to the alumni, as well.”

Fellow varsity teammate and captain Jack Sachrison, Class of 2018, echoed Gabriel’s sentiments.

“Reaching out to former players is important because, as the saying goes, in order to know where you are going, you must know where you have been. Getting to know former players can inspire those on the team to play up to or even past the standard set by those who came before,” Jack said.

Part of the mission behind writing the letters was to engage alumni and connect them with current players, and Morrison hoped students would also understand that there are people rooting for them and their success.

“I hope they realize there are a lot of people who care about them and are interested in how well they do. I hope they’re getting a sense of community out of it. There are a lot of people out there who care about Parker Football,” Morrison said.

Morrison’s goals seem to have been realized. Speaking to the impact the letter writing exercise had on him, Jack said, “Parker Football is a community. People care about the team. That includes other students, alumni, and the families of these people.”
Francis Parker School is a private, independent, coeducational, college preparatory day school for students in Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12 from across San Diego County. Founded in 1912, the Lower School is located on the Mission Hills Campus with the Upper and Middle Schools on the Linda Vista Campus. Parker's mission is to inspire a diverse community of independent thinkers whose academic excellence, global perspective and strength of character prepare them to make a meaningful difference in the world.

Mission Hills Campus Lower School

4201 Randolph Street
San Diego, CA 92103

Linda Vista Campus Middle/Upper School

6501 Linda Vista Road
San Diego, CA 92111
858 / 569-7900