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Meet Derek Morrison of Sportball

Today we’d like to introduce you to Derek Morrison.

Derek, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I graduated from the University of Kansas in 2003 with Psychology and also Strategic Communications degrees.

I then spent my 20’s job hopping and starting a couple businesses that crashed and burned – for many reasons. In hindsight, it was a time of developing personal and business skills in order to reach my potential and find a true passion.

In 2009, I opened my Sportball franchise and we have been growing ever since. We teach at many locations all over the greater Phoenix metropolitan, we have a Sportball Gymnasium in Scottsdale, and I recently expanded operations into the Inland Empire, California.

Getting to be super animated and energetic with the kids is my favorite part of the job. My staff and I train often and train hard to be sure we can expertly identify and hone in on each child’s skill level in order to help them achieve physical literacy milestones. But, it’s got to be fun in order for the kids to get the most out of our class – in terms of building muscle memory and also building social skills with fellow teammates.

So here I am. Today, I spend most of my time behind the computer with administrative duties. I am lucky to be married to a super beautiful, funny and intelligent woman. We have a little 15-month-old wild boy who will soon be joining in lots of Sportball classes!

I’m still trying to reach my full potential and evolving my passions in life. I’m constantly on the lookout for opportunities to showoff Sportball; but more broadly, I’m finding a drive to learn as much as possible and to get involved in Social Responsibility causes.

And one important note, I’ve been fortunate to be part of a community of amazing parents, kids eager to learn; and masterfully skilled, caring Coaches. This business has grown and will continue to move onward and upward because of every one of them.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Owning a business is tough. At least in the beginning few years until it starts to run like a functional business with administrators, codified roles, streamlined processes in place, and actually paying yourself a reasonable salary. You’ve heard it before: “in order to become a successful business owner, it takes money, hard work, and luck.”

I’ve been fortunate to be able to reach out to friends and family in times of financial distress. Without their help, I would still be stuck under interest rates and mounting debt. I’ve been able to pay back my debts now, but I’m definitely not a big “successful” entrepreneur. I don’t think anyone gets into the business of sports instruction for kids with the mindset of becoming a millionaire.

I spent many years working 80 to 100 hours a week… it sounds like a lie, but it is true. I have worked multiple jobs simultaneously and I’ve had lots of all-nighters working up against deadlines. Eventually, I got down to 60 hours per week, and more recently got it down to 40 hours per week of work with a lot of flexibility.

Not that I deserve a prize for the struggles along the way. These were just challenges along my path – as everyone has hurdles along the way. In particular, now that I have a child, I have a whole new respect for parents in general and especially for parents who run into financial, medical or any other issues that life may throw their way.

As for luck, for me, it has boiled down to connecting with the right people at the right time.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Sportball – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Sportball teaches children the fundamentals of sports in a supportive and fun environment where we focus on cooperation rather than competition. We introduce the competition aspect once the kids are ready for it – usually at the end of a long session and almost always after age 6.

Our focus is to build confidence in their abilities and nurture their natural love for play. The sports we teach are, Soccer, Volleyball, Flag Football, Floor Hockey, Basketball, Baseball, Tennis, and Golf.

We have classes with children and their parents between the ages of 16 months and 3 years old. And we have programs where parents can drop their child off and watch from the sidelines between the ages of 3 years old and 12 years old.

At our Scottsdale Gym, parents can drop off, run errands, and come back at the end of class if they want to.

We also host exciting birthday parties just about anywhere. And we have Friday Date Nights to drop the kids off for a few hours once a month at our gym.

I’m proud of our company culture. Our group is the most joyous and loving individuals I’ve ever met. I’m proud that our company gets these positive role models in front of thousands of kids every week.

The number one thing that sets us apart from everyone is the number one problem for our business. We spend a lot of money, time and resources prospecting, recruiting, on-boarding, certifying and consistently training every one of our coaches. It’s worth it because the end product is a highly professional and knowledgeable children’s instructor who can captivate them from the moment they walk into class to the moment we hand them back to their parent.

Only one in three people we hire actually make it through our certification process which often takes up to three months to complete. It includes: First-aid, CPR, concussion training, heat exhaustion training, level one federal and state background clearance, a mentorship training program, workshops, and finally a certification quiz with higher than 80% score to pass.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We have found that our growth is due largely in part to organic word of mouth. Plus, I personally detest cluttering people’s lives with advertisements… no offense to your advertisers – everyone’s got to pay the bills. So, with my mindset on this, we are currently working to minimize our carbon footprint when it comes to flyers and mailers.

I want to take a look at all aspects of the business to see where we can become more sustainable for the environment, add more recognition and growth opportunities for our employees and ultimately be a more socially responsible organization and give back to the local community in some way.

Other than that, we are keeping busy and hope to continue to reach more and more families.

Personally, I’m excited to attend a conference called Net Impact soon, in which “Change Agents” and “Impact Leaders” get together to discuss ideas to change the world for the better. (Those are some of the buzzwords I hear going around anyways.)


  • $15 per one hour class at most locations
  • $20 for three hours of Date Night drop-off at the Scottsdale Sportball Gym
  • $150 for a 1 hour birthday party at a location of your choice

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Coach Sean
Coach Bridget
Coach Derek
Coach Ryan

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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