Frontrunner: Riker Leads the Pack Every Step of the Way
I never had the pleasure of watching Norm Riker roam the sports fields, so in assessing his abilities, I turn to those who did. This list begins with Coach George Groom, who had the pleasure of working with him for several seasons on the Rectory turf. Norm’s ninth-grade fall sports comment from his coach reads, “Norm is without a doubt the most skillful and unselfish soccer player any of us have ever seen at this level. He commanded the field in every game we played, sometimes with double and even triple coverage—all of this on one of the best teams I have seen at Rectory.” The comment went on to state that Norm set the school single-season record with 36 goals. It would be no surprise to learn that Norm served as co-captain on that team, received the MVP award, and was named to Rectory’s team of the decade. Where do you go from there? To the lacrosse field, of course, for while Norm may have been a soccer standout at Rectory, he achieved his greatest collegiate fame at Springfield College in lacrosse.
As a kid, Norm knew his future had to be in the world of sports. Later in life, after reading Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow, given to him by his then-girlfriend and now wife, he realized how he was going to make that envisioned future a reality: he would coach. As most of us know, getting a foot in a door often means starting at the bottom, and Norm did just that as his coaching career began as a volunteer for a local team. After working his way up the coaching ladder and achieving success at the high school and college levels, he finally earned his opportunity to become head coach of the women’s soccer teams at Vassar College as an interim head coach, then at Wittenberg, and finally at Connecticut College where he is today.
Just as Norm distinguished himself on teams at Rectory, so, too, has he achieved success with his range of teams professionally. Norm stands as one of the few to be selected as a Collegiate Coach of the Year in two different regions, and one of only a handful to take two different women’s soccer teams to the NCAA tournament. In all, he has taken teams to the NCAAs seven times and has won five league championships. In 2017, Norm received both a National Soccer Coaches Regional Coach of the Year Award and the New England Small College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors. In 2014, Coach Riker led the Conn College women to the school’s first-ever—in any sport—NESCAC championship. Most importantly, Coach Riker’s 2017 Conn College team had 18 players on the NESCAC All-Academic Team. In fact, Coach Riker’s teams have been selected as one of the United Soccer Coaches All-Academic teams every year since his arrival at Connecticut College. It may be that his only shortcoming of late is losing one of his top recruits—his daughter—to a competitor school.
In a Rectory article noting Norm’s success, he shared:
If you are running a great race at Rectory, there’s going to be a harder race ahead. Not that that should deter you. Just understand it’s a journey, and you’re just starting. Rectory will equip you with incredible tools to be successful; don’t take these tools for granted.”
Norm has clearly prevailed in so many races since Rectory, and we are honored to induct him into our school’s Athletic Wall of Honor. Some of his former Rectory teammates shared their memories of time on the field with Norm. One of them, current Rectory Trustee Van Wilshire ‘86 said, “Norm is the rare individual that exhibited true kindness and integrity on and off the field. He was always positive and had a constant smile on his face. He was driven and determined to be better, and he was unrelenting. He had a quiet and affable grit. Our lacrosse team our ninth-grade year was exceptional. Norm was a natural leader on that team and was, by far, one of the fastest guys out there. Here’s to Norm who demonstrated to so many of us leadership, inclusivity, sportsmanship, determination, integrity, and most importantly, a love for the game.” Congratulations, Norm.
- Athletic Wall of Honor