Retirement doesn’t mean Norman is leaving the field
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
The Norman family — Rudy, wife Karen and their children – four-year-old Bella and seven-year-old Quinn.
Quinn and Bella Norman are carrying on the Norman soccer tradition.