Rudy Norman is passing his soccer skills along to another generation.
The veteran St. Lawrence Laurentian soccer player and his wife Karen live in Conception Bay South with their children – six-year-old Quinn and four-year-old Bella.
Norman is a physical education teacher at Mount Pearl Senior High.
Quinn plays summer soccer in the Mount Pearl Soccer Association’s under-8 division. Norman is his son’s coach. However, he keeps his eyes on all of the young players.
At the end of the summer season, he contacts the parents of a couple of dozen kids who he feels have some potential and an interest in learning more about the sport.
He then works with the young upstarts indoors during the fall and winter and into the spring – teaching them the skills he was taught as a young boy.
“Growing up in St. Lawrence, we played indoor soccer all winter, and then, when we came outside, we were ready to roll,” Norman said. “And that’s the plan I have for these kids, too.”
Norman not only coaches the children on his own time but offers the program for free.
ONE OF THE BEST
What Norman has learned over the decades is as impressive in print as his ball handling skills are on the field.
He has helped lead the Laurentians to 13 Challenge Cup championships.
In a story published in The Telegram on Aug. 13, 2011, sports reporter John Browne described Norman as a hero to soccer in St. Lawrence, where the sport is everything.
He also said Norman was “a midfielder with a thundering shot and passing skills among the best who ever played the game in this province.”
The Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association (NLSA) named Norman its player of the decade for 2000-2009.
Playing indoor soccer in the fall and winter prepares the children for the outdoor turf in the summer, he said.
“The ball rolls a lot faster indoors, so the skills they’ve learned over the winter and playing at a fast pace, when they go outside, they should be more equipped to take a ball and shoot it and pass more accurately,” Norman said.
Norman downplays what he offers to the children. Teaching the other boys is also good for his son, he said.
“Quinn likes it when he gets together with his friends and I always said that I wanted to be Quinn’s soccer coach.”
For Norman, teaching the children soccer skills is about much more than ball control and scoring goals.
The children learn about teamwork and discipline. Being involved in sport, he said, also gives them self-confidence and shows them the value of friendship and camaraderie.
Norman takes his responsibilities as a coach seriously. While the life skills the children get from playing sports will last forever, he said, he understands that such young children are vulnerable and that his coaching style could either instill a love of the sport or could turn a child away from the field.
“I try to be always positive with them, even if they are struggling with something, I try to spin it in a positive way because one little word from me in the wrong way and they might not want to play ever again,” he said.
When it comes to soccer, Quinn is definitely following in his father’s footsteps.
Norman couldn’t be happier.
“To see that the love that I had for playing soccer is in Quinn, for me, as a parent, there is nothing more that I could have asked for,” he said.
And thanks to his dedicated volunteer work, Norman is doing his part to ensure other children have an opportunity to reach their full potential on the soccer field.
LOVES THE GAME
Michelle and Jason Sheppard’s seven-year-old son Max is currently playing in Norman’s indoor program.
From a parent’s perspective, the couple said, Norman’s dedication and commitment to minor soccer and player development is remarkable.
“He offers his time to coach our children weekly on a volunteer basis during the winter off season, which only verifies his level of dedication to the development of their skills, as well as his love of the game,” Michelle said via email.
Norman focuses on the importance of physical activity and fun while developing technical skills for soccer during his practices, she added.
“He truly is a kind, humble, soul with a love and respect for a game that has given him so much over the years,” Jason said. “I believe he just wants to give back to the kids and have them experience the joys of friendship, physical activity and fun that come with being involved with a team sport like soccer.”
Max summed up well how he and the other children feel about Norman.
“Coach Rudy is one of the best soccer coaches in Newfoundland because he’s so nice and fun.”