FOUR QUESTIONS: A CONVERSATION WITH…CHRIS NORMAN
Chris Norman was an outstanding head coach in football as well as a well-respected athletic administrator. Born in Shelby, Norman attended Shelby High School and then graduated from Gardner-Webb College in 1984. After three years as an assistant coach at East Rutherford, Norman went to Shelby where he was a successful assistant coach before taking over as head coach from 1998 to 2010.
His career coaching mark was a stellar 147-39-1, with three state NCHSAA championships and a perfect 16-0 mark in 2006. The Golden Lions also won 10 conference titles and five regional crowns under Norman. He also served as Shelby’s athletic director for six years as well as coaching men’s and women’s track and field for several years during his tenure.
Norman was the president of the North Carolina Coaches Association in 2011-12 and served four-year terms on both the NCCA Board of Directors and the NCHSAA Board of Directors.
What are the biggest changes you saw in high school athletics during your career?
The biggest changes I saw were the increased opportunities for both male and female participation, the coaches education and certified athletic administrators programs, and sports medicine advances.
When I first started coaching, the sports programs offered were not as vast as they are today, especially for women. As interest has grown for additional sport offerings, the NCHSAA has been very open to looking at new programs and expanding the opportunities for female athletes as well as males. These increased opportunities can also be seen in the expanded playoff format that has provided many student athletes in every sport the chance of participating in the playoffs and the hope of a state championship.
The coaches education and certified athletic administrators programs have provided younger, less-experienced coaches and athletic directors a resource to learn from and understand what is expected of them. This education along with the mentoring from more experienced seasoned coaches and athletic directors is very valuable and something that was not available when I began coaching
In the area of sports medicine, you were very lucky as a coach if you had someone in your school or community who could provide these services. Most of the time the coach did most of the taping and basic treatments. Today student-athletes have benefited from the expansion of sports medicine programs across the state, providing them with some of the best care available.
You had some outstanding state championship football teams as a coach. What do you believe to be the keys to championship success from your experience?
I was very fortunate to be able to coach at a school that had very high expectations of its student-athletes in every sport and program. This tradition of excellence was established at Shelby High School by the coaches, teachers and administrators who came before me. This ideal was ingrained and passed along from one class to another and has stood the test of time.
You must have great assistant coaches and good athletes that understand what it is that you are trying to accomplish, the expectations you have for them and that you care about them not just as a player or a coach, but as a person too. These relationships are very important to the team chemistry . Hard work and coaching the little things go an long way in making a good player and team become great, but making the process fun is also very important. The experience is one that players and coaches must enjoy.
I do know that people achieve success in many different ways, but for me as a coach it was not a one-man show. Every coach, player, trainer, and manager had to understand that their role was just as important as the next person’s, and that the success of the team depended on everyone doing their job to the best of their ability. Everyone who contributed to a state championship is honored equally, regardless of their role.
Recently it was announced that you had received another significant honor, and that is your upcoming induction to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame. What was you reaction when you learned of that honor?
I was very excited just to be considered for such a great honor, but when I received the word that I had actually been selected, I felt very humbled and proud. To be included with this Hall of Fame class is in itself something to be proud of, but to be included with those already enshrined, the best of the best, who are the people that you have learned from and admired over your career, is very humbling. I spent my entire coaching career in Cleveland and Rutherford counties. There are so many people that helped and mentored me along the way. Without them and the support of my wife Charlotte and my entire family, this honor would not have been possible.
How are you staying involved in high school athletics now that you are no longer coaching?
After I retired, I was offered the opportunity to move to the broadcast booth to do color commentary for radio. First I worked with WGWG Radio, the Gardner-Webb station, and now I am with Shelby Info Radio.com. We do a Game of the Week in our area. I also work part time in the helmet reconditioning business with Athletic Reconditioning Inc. These duties, along with volunteering with the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas as part of the escort committee and helping to coordinate the Shrine Bowl combines, allow me to stay connected and to interact with coaches and players.