Embracing Opportunity: Trevor Norman
For someone who registered for the 2022 Major Arena Soccer League Pro Player Combine just under the deadline and who didn't think he would be selected in the subsequent player draft, Trevor Norman has done pretty well.
The Corinne, Utah native impressed enough to be taken by the Dallas Sidekicks in the subsequent draft.
While Norman did not attain newcomer of the year status, the 2022-23 season was a gift for the 26-year-old midfielder. Norman has considered himself quite fortunate to play professional indoor soccer.
Then again, Norman has to be considered quite lucky to have the door still barely open for him.
One of his best friends applied and was accepted to attend the combine in Mesquite, Texas. Trying out wasn't on Norman's radar at first.
"I was going to fly out there just to watch my buddy do the combine," he said. "But he sent me a registration link at the last call. I sent in my application I got accepted the next day. It all happened super-fast. I honestly think it was just luck that I was accepted."
No doubt Norman made the very best of the situation. He had been working for John Deere in Corrine, Utah, in the northern part of the state.
"I had gotten to the point where I was trying just pursuing my career here," he said. "Then all of a sudden I got this opportunity to go out to this combine. That was pretty cool."
Norman didn't know how well he acquitted himself in the combine, but he didn't think he was going to be picked by a team. Still, he attended the draft.
"No one really knew what was going happen going into the to the draft room," he said. "The set-up was super cool, a super awesome atmosphere."
In the second round, on the 23rd overall selection, Norman heard his name called from the podium. The Sidekicks decided to take a chance on him.
"I wasn't expecting to get selected at all," he said. "I hadn't talked to any of the coaches about being drafted. I was going in there thinking that it was a great experience. I learned a lot.
"In the second round, they called my name. I was super surprised. It was a surreal moment. It felt like a dream. Just being selected was a huge confidence booster as well."
Norman finally got an opportunity to talk to someone - Sidekicks general manager Jessie Vilkofsky and head coach Ricardinho. He was invited to training camp and made the roster. Getting accepted by his new teammates and Sidekicks supporters certainly went a long way.
"I definitely learned a lot, especially from some of the guys being so accepting of the rookies coming in," Norman said. "They always give the rookies a hard time but honestly, off the pitch and practice outside of the game, the fans helped me build my confidence."
Norman credited the likes of veteran midfielder Jamie Lovegrove and former Panamanian international striker Blas Perez "just helping me be a better player."
"It opened the door to the rest of my career and soccer that I didn't even think was possible," he added.
He will never forget his first game - against the eventual league champion Chihuahua Savage in the home opener last Dec. 10. Dallas lost, 9-6.
"They just wanted me to get my feet wet," Norman said. "I was pretty nervous. I just was getting that whole feeling and experience. My first time stepping on the pitch, it wasn't for very long because of nerves. I'm pretty sure that the coaches could tell it was my first time. They were very supportive. We ended up losing but I got my first couple of touches on the ball. I dribbled past a few people. I felt pretty good after I got out there. I kind of surprised myself."
Norman tallied his first and only goal of the campaign in a 10-7 loss at the St. Louis Ambush on Feb. 20.
"It was crazy. It was awesome," he said. "It's what I needed to get that confidence back because I played probably my 10th game before I got my first goal. I got my ‘first goal’ against San Diego but they brought it back because there was a foul on the side. I was at home, and I had all the people there, all my fans."
Eventually, Norman found the net on the road.
"I made a run on the outside on that far right side," Norman said. "Blas Perez laid the ball off to me. It went in. It was a pretty cool moment for me. I was more excited than anyone. Definitely a steppingstone for me to next season."
Hey, it's not every day a rookie can boast that Perez, a World Cup veteran, assisted on his first goal.
"He's helped me grow a lot, too," Norman said. "We didn't always see eye-to-eye because I was a young rookie just thinking selfishly. He helped me open my eyes and realize that I have more potential than I'm giving myself credit for."
When Norman tried out at the combine, he was a target player. He expected to tackle the same role with the Sidekicks, but since the team had so many veterans playing the position, Norman was switched to defensive midfield.
"There was no way I was going to get any playing time," he said. "They put me in at defensive mid and that's where I shined and got my own understanding of where I fit best on the team; my speed, my work ethic, to help on the defensive end."
To say that the Sidekicks endured a difficult season would be an understatement. Dallas finished with a 1-20-3 record and in last and seventh place in the Western Division.
"We had these times where we were down just because of the outcomes," Norman said. "But everyone stayed positive at practice. I mean, there wasn't a practice that we didn't come off exhausted just from getting better, training every single day. Definitely made us a better team. At the end, we started doing what we should have been doing all season. We came together. We had a lot of new faces, a lot of rookies. It took us a few weeks to even learn the basics of the MASL."
Yet, despite the struggling season, Norman said that he was looking forward to the 2023-24 campaign.
"We're rebuilding the front office and the coaching staff but I'm super excited," he said. "We have a great group of guys coming back and I'm very excited to dig in and get work in this offseason.
"I'm out here in Utah right now in the offseason, working out with some of my friends. I'm excited to get back to Dallas and start working with them. We have a great season coming up."
Now that he has had a full season under his belt after participating in the combine and getting drafted, Norman was asked what sort of advice he would give to players who want to attend this year's event in Utica, N.Y. from Oct. 19-22. Utica City FC is hosting the event.
"I wouldn't call myself an expert but that experience definitely changed my life," he said. "Just going in a with a positive mindset and ready to learn. Don't go in thinking, 'I've made it this far.' Go in humble with a positive mindset to work hard and learn more than anything because that's where I learned the basics of indoor soccer, though I wish I would have known a little bit more before I went.
Norman added that every player should remember that "it's a team sport. You go in thinking, how can I best help my team? It's not about you anymore. You already have the skills that you need to even make it there. You should just build off of that and just try to look for the best way to help your team."
Michael Lewis, the editor of FrontRowSoccer.com, can be followed on Twitter at @SoccerWriter. Lewis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has written two books" Alive and Kicking: The incredible, but true story of the Rochester Lancers and a sequel, STILL AND ALIVE AND KICKING: The story of the 21st century Rochester Lancers. It has many features about indoor soccer and MASL players. Both books can be purchased at www.RochesterLancersBook.com.