Sam Morse: What Makes a Champ

Megan Harrod
2016-10-10 07:34

From local ski hills to the PyeongChang Olympics, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) encompasses all athletes that share a passion for skiing and snowboarding. We explore what makes each skier and rider a champion with stories from the U.S. Ski Team, U.S. Snowboarding and U.S. Freeskiing, next to kids winning a NASTAR medal, landing their first cork 7 or joining a club team. Alongside USSA’s mascot Champ, take a look at how all of these athletes strive to be Best in the World.

As we continue to explore what makes USSA athletes champions, we’re learning more than we ever expected. To be a champion is holistic – it goes beyond the medals and the titles. It’s someone with great character and an undying belief in themselves; it’s someone who loves their sport with an unmatched passion—whether they’re still actively pursuing it or not. We are honored to share these stories with you. In this installation, Alpine Press Officer Megan Harrod sits down with U.S. Ski Team C Team athlete Sam Morse to discuss #WhatMakesAChamp.

The first time I met Sam Morse (Sugarloaf, ME) was in the finish area at Birds of Prey two seasons ago. He and his teammates, including Ronnie Berlack (Franconia, NH), were forerunning the Birds of Prey downhill at Beaver Creek. To say they were “stoked” to run on the same track as their idols, including teammates Bode Miller (Franconia, NH)—who was forerunning as well—fellow Fischer Sports athlete Steven Nyman (Sundance, UT) and Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud would be quite the understatement. Their smiles were ear-to-ear as they stood in the finish area, soaking it all in. Morse’s wide-eyed, curious and kind disposition grabbed my attention immediately.  

Over the last couple of seasons, Morse has been a part of a development team with a very special vibe. They’ve experienced extreme highs and lows, but their talent and potential is absolutely undeniable. In fact, Morse was a part of a crew of next generation American Downhillers that stacked the top 10 last season in Sochi at World Junior Championships. As teammate Erik Arvidsson became World Juniors Downhill Champion, three of Arvidsson’s teammates joined him in the top 10, including Morse who was just off the podium in fourth, Florian Szwebel (Avon, CO) in seventh and Drew Duffy (Warren, VT) in 10th—something the U.S. Ski Team had never done before.

Following their performance, current Development Team Head Coach Justin Johnson commented on the group’s unity. “This group is powerful together, super strong,” said Johnson. “They work really hard to create an environment where they feed off each other and pick up on each other’s strengths. It’s not a show; these guys really love each other. The team power we have is unreal. It’ll just keep getting better and better. They help each other in every aspect of sports and life. It makes them super strong.”

Each individual plays a unique role that adds to the team dynamic, and Morse’s strong, humble, positive spirit made him an integral player in making this unit so strong. Sure, a team dynamic like this is uncommon in an individual sport like ski racing, so it’s important to note that, as an individual, Morse is rock solid. He is serious and focused and determined to be the best he can be. He takes ownership over his performance, and his pre-race ritual includes some time spent by himself talking about the race after inspection, forming clear goals for himself for the day. On top of that, Morse is on a relentless pursuit for personal and professional growth, asking himself every day, “What can I do today to make myself a better person and a better ski racer?”

Growing up skiing at Sugarloaf, Maine, skiing was in his blood and it’s only natural that Morse was star struck by teammate and fellow east-coaster Bode Miller. His other ski heroes include Austria’s legend Hermann Maier and current Attacking Viking Kjetil Jansrud. But really, it was his father, Earle Morse, who has encouraged Morse towards constant improvement. Without the support of his family, who has made huge financial sacrifices over the years, he wouldn’t be where he is today, “They have really kept me going with all the travel and that has been a statement of their commitment to my goals,” Morse noted. 

Morse is grateful for the time with his family on the mountain and believes he was shaped to be a professional athlete by those around him, including his brother, parents, coaches, teachers and friends. “Remembering where you came from and that you didn’t do it on your own keeps you grounded,” said Morse. “Having a level of appreciation for that will take you long beyond what just talent can.”

Morse is wise beyond his years, and he credits his ability to stay grounded to his faith and believing in something bigger than himself, enabling him to dig deep when the going gets tough. He finds motivation from the Bible, which helps him to “gain the bird’s-eye view of the larger picture.” Additionally, he reaches out to longtime coach, mentor and motivator Chip Cochrane from Carrabassett Valley Academy.

There’s life beyond skiing, and Morse is constantly trying new things, noting the importance of not falling into the trap of building himself into a one-dimensional athlete, but rather a well-rounded one. A proud Mainer, he feels more comfortable in the woods than in his house, whether snowmobiling, hiking, camping, cutting wood or kayaking. Multi-dimensional indeed.

At just 20 years old, Morse’s maturity separates him from his peers. And, he’s so very kind. He is one of the most genuine humans this planet has to offer. The future is bright for this one, so make sure to follow him as he moves up the ranks on the Team. We asked Morse our three questions on what he believes makes a champion.

U.S. SKI TEAM: In your words, what makes a champion?
SAM MORSE: A champion wins with passion and loses with grace, and pours their heart, soul and everything they’ve got into a sport.

U.S. SKI TEAM: Do you remember the first time you felt like a champion?
SM: The first time I felt like a champion was racing in Maine, winning the Maine Alpine Racing Association season championship title as a J5. I thought, “Maybe I can really make something out of this whole ski racing thing.” It felt satisfying and propelling.

U.S. SKI TEAM: What is the biggest piece of advice you have for aspiring kids who want to be sitting where you are today?
SM: Give it all you’ve got and find enjoyment in striving for your own goals, rather than for the affirmation of others. Also, the best advice I’ve ever received was, “No one thing will make you the greatest, it is the sum of the parts that make a masterpiece.”

Fun Facts:

  • Moose” is Morse’s childhood nickname, as there are more moose than people where he lives and they’re big, burly animals that are gentle yet very powerful.
  • If he could be one inanimate object, he’d be water, because “you get to travel the globe, change physical states and always keep moving.”
  • Go-to travel items are a deck of cards and a good book.
  • His best friend on the team is fellow east-coaster Drew Duffy (Warren, VT), whom he grew up with racing in the Junior Olympics.
  • Morse is a HUGE Boston Red Sox fan, and his non-skiing role model is Jason Varitek, catcher for Boston Red Sox through early-mid 2000s because he’s a man of faith and always worked hard day in and day out.
  • Morse is involved with the Winter Special Olympics held at Sugarloaf each January, is a Sugarloaf Area Christian Ministry active church member and a rostered speaker for Camps Farthest Out (CFO) a Christian family camp organization.

Follow Sam’s adventures on the road throughout the season via Snapchat (minimoose96), Facebook and Instagram.