No days off: a Carlmont athlete’s journey
“Playing on the tennis team certainly shaped my future. It was my main focus in high school, and it was also my main focus in college, and sure enough, it’s what I do as a career now,” Aaron Morrill said.
A game that tested physical and mental strength captivated and inspired an eager 13-year-old Morrill. He couldn’t turn away: watching every hit and observing the athletes’ power, technique, and determination.
“The coach that got me into tennis from a younger age was Tom Sorenson, who’s now the head coach at Menlo Atherton,” Aaron Morrill said. “He also took me to a tennis tournament at a very young age which got me really inspired.”
This tournament in Indian Wells, Palm Springs was when Morrill decided that one way or another, tennis was his future.
“[Tom Sorenson]’s a good friend and a coach. He started working with [Morrill] a little, and he said, ‘He’s good, you’ve got something here,’” said Karen Morrill, Morrill’s mother. “So at that point, he continued to play. He was number one at Central through junior high. Then he went to Carlmont. He really did well there. So we got him a coach, Phil Cello.”
Morrill soon dropped all his other activities and focused on tennis. He used any free time he had to train with his coach.
“We got him a car, and he would drive there after school twice a week, all the way up there to work out, and then he’d stay with him on the weekends,” Karen Morrill said. “We went on vacations to Hawaii and to Mexico, and he didn’t come with us. This was in high school. He would go to Phil’s.”
The only vacation time Morrill got was when he and his family went to Angora Lakes every year. However, even on break, Morrill had his mind on the game.
“He was definitely determined. We go to this lake every year, we’ve gone for 30 years. It’s in Tahoe; he loves it there. He never missed [the trip], but we would bring a ball machine. We would hike out, get the car, drive down to the high school, and we would hit balls while we were on vacation,” Karen Morrill said. “I used to take him out and play in the rain. He wanted to play all the time.”
“Almost every weekend, I did tournaments,” Morrill said. “I was playing tennis for hours and hours every single day. I think I remember going an entire year, if not multiple years, without missing a day.”
Even after all the rainy training days, workout days, and tournaments, Morrill still felt he was falling short. Since he had started playing at age 13, he thought that he had gotten into the sport too late. He would compare himself to the other kids his age who played longer and wonder if things would be different if he had started sooner.
“I was kind of a late bloomer when it comes to learning tennis, so I feel like I always had to catch up,” Morrill said.
Before his eighth grade year, Morrill played soccer, baseball, and track. As a family, he and his siblings would hit together with their parents, but he wasn’t as interested in it until he joined his tennis team at Central Middle School when he was about 13 years old.
“He would tell you that he wishes I started him younger in tennis, but I didn’t see the interest,” Karen Morrill. “And also truthfully, I’ve seen a lot of people that started as younger kids, and they become little tennis brats. They were awful on the court. They were mean to other players like Aaron, who were newer in the sport. And I think because he started later, he was a really nice guy on the court, and he was really good. And he loved it. He was passionate and driven.”
Even in his first year playing tennis, Morrill remembered his coach, Rich Williams, being impressed with his game as he told him that he developed faster than most kids. In his early tennis years, a significant motivational factor was when Williams told him that he could have “a world-class forehand.”
“He was a great coach. He was a really nice guy. Probably the reason why I’m still playing tennis is because of how great he was when I was in eighth grade,” Morrill said. “He showed me that if you put a lot of time in and you really practice, you’re going to get better.”
Morrill put all of his focus and effort into Carlmont’s tennis team to improve his skills in his high school years. He worried about his future in the game and where he would stand compared to others. However, Morrill chose not to let that disadvantage get in his way. He wanted to push himself even further than he knew he could in hopes of making a path for himself in the thing he loved most.
“I remember bringing a bag of balls to school maybe as a junior or sophomore, and at lunchtime, I would walk to the tennis courts and serve tennis balls during lunch,” Morrill said. “Kids probably thought I was a loser or a weirdo, but I really wanted to get my serve better, and I knew it took a lot of extra time. It’s what it takes.”
One of his favorite memories as a Carlmont student was when he won a tennis match against Menlo High School.
“I played against a kid; his name was Scott Bloomer. He ended up getting a full scholarship to a division 1 college. He was number six in California when I played him. I had no right even being able to compete with him, and I ended up beating him,” Morrill said. “It was obviously a great win, and it felt really good. I’ll always remember it. It was letting me know that I could do it, that I could play at a really high level.”
Playing Bloomer gave him the confidence to continue his tennis career. Now closing in on his final years in high school, Morrill was at the age where he needed to start thinking about his future: what college he would go to, what degree he wanted, and what job he would pursue.
“In terms of education, I was very, very immature, and I was not focused on school. I was mainly focused on sports, and I did what I did in school to be able to allow me to play sports,” Aaron Morrill said. “So, Carlmont prepared me and just made me realize how important it is to do well in school to be able to follow your passion, to play tennis,” Aaron Morrill said.
As a Carlmont alumnus, Morrill realized the school had an important role in determining his future. Growing up, he lived with his parents, an older brother, and a younger sister. According to Morrill, his older brother was not a good influence as a high school student. However, he learned from those experiences and used them to shape his path.
“I kind of learned from him how I wanted to be and how I don’t want to be, and because of what I saw at Carlmont, what I learned, it kind of molded me into the person I am today,” Morrill said.
By the time he graduated high school, he had decided to go to college. He was accepted into the University of Santa Cruz and attended that school from 2005 to 2010. He played for his school’s tennis team with his friend Matt Seeberger, a professional tennis player, and traveled across the country for numerous tournaments and national championships.
“It was one of the best tennis teams in the country during the time that I went there. We won nationals in 2007, and we won nationals in 2009, which was huge,” Morrill said. “I actually went to UC Santa Cruz for five years, and in my fifth year , we won indoor nationals, which wasn’t as big a deal, but it was still a very big deal.”
Morrill’s experience on a college sports team was different from his experience on a high school team. At the time, Carlmont’s team did not have as much depth in their players, as Morrill was one of the only players who won his matches. Despite that, playing all four years in high school and playing number one singles for his junior and senior years prepared him to get to the next level.
“Playing for a university was just a whole different level to play in compared to high school because not only were you playing three hours a day, you also had morning workouts Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays from the crack of dawn for a couple of hours. It was very, very intense. But you also traveled a lot for the tennis team. We traveled all over the country. Probably the hardest part about all that was being able to do well in school but also do really well in tennis because it was a massive time commitment,” Morrill said.
After having played tennis for most of his life, he reflected on the toll his commitment to the game took on him. He wasn’t involved in any clubs or other sports, besides tennis, in high school and college. Physically, Morrill had rarely had an injury, and throughout his years playing tennis, he never needed to stop for the sake of his physical health.
“I was actually fortunate enough to barely even know the trainer in college. My body’s always held up pretty well, luckily. Again, for most people in tennis, that’s not the case. I’ve been fortunate in that regard,” Aaron Morrill said. “I remember in my last year of high school, I actually only had four periods, I’m not even sure if that’s allowed anymore, but I actually finished at lunchtime. Then I would drive every day for about an hour away to my coach, who had a tennis court at his house. So I missed out on a lot of things. I remember I didn’t even go to prom as a senior because I was in a tennis tournament.”
Morrill wasn’t as focused on academics as tennis, but he had always been interested in finance.
“I was always involved in stocks and saving money, so when I went to college, I kind of wanted to get a finance major or economics major,” said Morrill. “I did work for the biggest financial advisory company in the U.S., Ameriprise Financial, and they made me get certified to be a financial advisor. I learned a lot there, and I learned that was not for me.”
Morrill wanted to pursue tennis after college. However, it took a little time before he knew how he would do it. Tennis is a mentally and physically challenging game and temporarily took its toll on him.
“What happened with Aaron is that he played all over the country from UC Santa Cruz, and he was good, but he would get a little nervous. The nerves on the court, you could feel the little bit of tension when he was out there, and he was doing great, and he was up in a match, and then he’d choke a little.”
During college, he had attended summer camps where he taught kids “under the tutelage of a pro.” After that, Morrill started teaching occasionally, and he got asked to coach for a middle school. Soon after, he became a private coach for Silicon Valley Tennis.
“When I was in high school, I would’ve never dreamt of teaching tennis for a living. I never thought I was going to be a tennis coach. I never planned on being a tennis coach. It’s kind of something that I fell into, and it was fun,” Morrill said. “Even my parents, when I first started teaching tennis, were like ‘No, that’s not a real job, you can’t do that, you’re not going to be able to make a living, you’re not going to be able to live around here but slowly and surely, they kind of saw the blocks fall into place.
He is now one of the top-rated tennis coaches in the Bay Area. He bought his first house by 30, got married, and started a family. He is now able to continue to follow his passion and help inspire others who now have the same ambitions as he did at their age.
“He started coaching me 10 years ago when I was 12,” said Corbin Peters, Morrill’s former student. “He was definitely the best coach I’ve ever had. He was really funny; he was engaging. My game improved the most through him.”