Re­tire­ment doesn’t mean Nor­man is leav­ing the field

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL - BY DANETTE DOO­LEY

Af­ter 23 years, Rudy Nor­man of St. Lawrence is re­tir­ing from soc­cer – but not be­fore mak­ing a name for him­self as the player to win the most Chal­lenge Cups Cham­pi­onships.

The cov­eted cup is the re­ward for win­ning the prov­ince’s se­nior men’s soc­cer league cham­pi­onship. The win­ner of the tro­phy goes on to rep­re­sent New­found­land and Labrador at the na­tional cham­pi­onships.

“St. Lawrence has 25 (pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onships) and I can­not be more proud to say that I was in on 14 of those,” Nor­man said.

The 2016 Lau­ren­tians win marked the 50th an­niver­sary of the New­found­land and Labrador Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion in Chal­lenge Cup ac­tion.

Be­gin­nings

Nor­man took up the sport at age four.

“My un­cle (John Nor­man) bought me a soc­cer ball. I started play­ing and haven’t looked back since,” the 40-yearold said.

As a young player with the St. Lawrence Mi­nor Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion, Nor­man said his team didn’t com­pare to teams from other ar­eas on the Burin Penin­sula.

“Lawn and Marys­town teams were al­ways bet­ter than us. We (Nor­man and his team­mates) al­ways seemed to be a lot smaller,” he re­called. “I didn’t have any self-con­fi­dence be­cause of that. But when we fi­nally got 17, 18 and 19 and we caught up to them in size – then we started to win.”

Be­ing named to the St. Lawrence Lau­ren­tians ini­tially as a teenager was “a dream come true,” ac­cord­ing to Nor­man.

“When we were in Grades 7, 8, 9 and 10, we idol­ized those guys that played on the Chal­lenge Cup team. They were like gods to us. And when I got (named to the Lau­ren­tians team) it was hard to be­lieve that you ac­tu­ally made it and were part of the team.”

Nor­man is grate­ful to Lau­ren­tians’ coach Ju­nior Ed­wards who gave him his first op­por­tu­nity to play for the team.

“He gave me my first callup to play,” he said. “I was in Grade 11. I got to play a cou­ple of games that sum­mer and the next sum­mer I was with the team right from the start.”

Mem­o­ries

While the Lau­ren­tians won the most re­cent Chal­lenge Cup, the team didn’t medal at the na­tion­als which were held in this prov­ince.

Their sixth place fin­ish was dis­ap­point­ing, Nor­man said, but over­all it was a great year, he added.

The New­found­land and Labrador Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion named Nor­man its Player of the Decade (2000-2009).

How­ever, soc­cer is a team sport, Nor­man stresses and the un­for­get­table mo­ments are based around the en­tire team rather than fo­cused on his in­di­vid­ual ac­com­plish­ments.

One of those mem­o­ries can be classed as a heart­breaker – one Nor­man terms as “one of his big­gest dis­ap­point­ments” takes the team back to the 2002 na­tional cham­pi­onships that took place in St. John’s.

“We lost the gold medal in over­time,” he said.

“That’s a mem­ory that will prob­a­bly haunt me for the rest of my life.”

Next move

Nor­man ad­mits play­ing com- pe­t­i­tive soc­cer at age 40 isn’t easy.

“Ev­ery­thing I used to do when I was younger would come so easy to me. But, over the last num­ber of years, I’ve been train­ing twice as hard as I ever did just to hold on.”

Nor­man said he al­ways felt that, once the sport be­came too much for him, he’d know it was time to re­tire.

That time has come, he said.

Giv­ing back

A phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher at Mount Pearl Se­nior High School, Nor­man’s in­volve­ment in sport will con­tinue.

He also de­votes much of his spare time to coach­ing young chil­dren – giv­ing back to the sport which, he said, shaped many as­pects of his life.

His seven-year-old son Quinn and four- year- old daugh­ter (Bella turns five on Jan. 2) are en­thu­si­as­tic soc­cer play­ers. Both chil­dren also play hockey.

Re­tir­ing from a sport that been such a big part of his life would likely have been the hard­est thing he’s ever done, Nor­man said, if it wasn’t for his chil­dren.

“With Quinn and Bella play­ing now, I don’t find (re­tire­ment) hard what­so­ever. It seems like the com­pet­i­tive­ness I had – and the drive to play and train and work hard – I can see that in my chil­dren and it re­places what I’m los­ing (as a player),” he said.

“The pride I have watch­ing them play, I wouldn’t give that up for any­thing in the world.”

Nor­man said he’s grate­ful to the St. Lawrence Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion, and the Town of St. Lawrence for the tremen­dous sup­port over the years.

“Want­ing to play soc­cer pro­pelled me to want­ing to go and do Phys Ed. I went to MUN be­cause I wanted to play soc­cer. I played soc­cer with MUN for five years. I got my de­gree out of it. I got my (teach­ing) job out of it,” he said. “I met my wife (Karen) play­ing MUN soc­cer. She played for MUN as well. So, I can eas­ily say I owe my whole life to soc­cer.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The Nor­man fam­ily — Rudy, wife Karen and their chil­dren – four-year-old Bella and seven-year-old Quinn.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Soc­cer cel­e­bra­tion.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Quinn and Bella Nor­man are car­ry­ing on the Nor­man soc­cer tra­di­tion.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Quinn Nor­man

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