It’s the Norm!


John “Norm” Peterson is an academic advisor and head coach for NVU-Johnson’s women’s soccer team.

Why do you go by Norm?

In the TV show “Cheers,” there was a guy named Norm Peterson, and my last name is Peterson. When I was in college, “Cheers” was the biggest show, everybody watched it. Knowing my last name was Peterson, my college roommates started calling me Norm. And that’s also when I met my wife, as well. So she started calling me Norm, then her family did, her grandmother called me Norman. Everybody I was friends with called me Norm. So when I was working in corporate America, I was John at work, and then I was Norm after. Then when I came here, all the players knew me as Norm. So I just kind of leaned into it.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to young students that are interested in sports?

Well, if you’re interested in playing sports, and if you’re a competitive type of person, stick with it as long as you can. It doesn’t have to be at the highest level. If something gives you joy, do as much of it as you can. If there’s something you love, figure out a way to keep it in your life. There’s the old saying, “if you love your job, you never work day in your life.” Figure out what your passions are and how you can keep it in your life, and you will have a more satisfying life.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

I have two really great kids. One of them is a sophomore at UVM, and the other one is a senior in high school. I remember the absolute fear when my wife and I left the hospital with our son, I couldn’t believe they let us out of the hospital with this baby to take care of it. We had to work as a team to figure out the best way to raise good people. They are my proudest accomplishments.

What brought you to Johnson?

By and large, it was the opportunity to coach college soccer, and I didn’t have to uproot my family. I explain to recruits that there’s a quirky kindness here, and it’s beautiful. I have the best office in America up on the soccer field. It is gorgeous. And I really like the kind of students who come here. I think that there’s a creative sort of happy-go-lucky people who generally come here. I’m now recruiting players to come here and I can wholeheartedly tell them what it’s like to be here and how happy I am. I can explain to them who we are. It’s not for everybody, but there’s a certain kind of person that this place really connects with. I can’t wait for everybody to see Vermont State University. I believe that our best days are ahead of us.

What would you bring to a deserted island?

I’m not going to be practical. I am a huge aficionado of maple creamees, so assuming there was a way you could run a dispenser, I would have that on a deserted island. If I could be able to watch soccer games on a hammock and eat creamees all the time, I’d be set. So maybe an iPhone with a Peacock account so I could watch the premiere league.

What is one thing that you think everyone should do if they could?

Everybody should travel, spend time out of where they grew up and spend time living somewhere else. You get a broader perspective on life and realize that the world does not revolve around America. Go live somewhere new for a while, go experience life out there. There is this great big world out there. Go find some stuff.

What’s the best thing that anyone’s ever said about you?

I had a couple past soccer players say they liked playing for me because I treated them with kindness and they knew that I cared. I want everybody who comes in contact with me to know that I’m genuinely interested in them and want to help if I can. And so, beyond the soccer stuff, just knowing that I care about the people around me. Hearing them say that, it got a little misty in the room.

What three people, dead or alive, would you most like to have over for dinner and why?

I love listening to people who like to learn. Malcolm Gladwell, his books are great, and he’s kind of been a lifelong learner. I’m always interested in what he puts out. Dax Shepard has a podcast called “Armchair Expert.” He’s an actor, but he has become kind of a citizen of the world, learning all about life. And then the third, I’ll go with Juergen Klopp, the manager of the club at Liverpool. He kind of has a pretty unique perspective on life, and I could probably pick up a few things. He creates an environment where the players really care about each other.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Oh, the maple creamees. I eat way too much. The go-to is a place in Waterbury called Crossroads, they have what they call Frosties. They mix in M&Ms and it’s a problem for me. I like the texture of the M&Ms, the crunch.

What would your tombstone read?

I don’t want a tombstone. I want to be cremated; go spread me in the ocean. I think it’s environmentally unfriendly to be buried. I always wonder about the cemetery business. Somebody that died two hundred years ago, how long do they have to stay there? How does that work? I haven’t done research on it yet. I’m here to try and learn as much as I can, have a good time, and try to make the place around me better. If I needed a tombstone, some version of that would be great.

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

My kids were one and three, and my wife and I had comfortable corporate jobs. We were living south of Boston and doing well, but we never saw each other because we had careers and kids. And then I was offered the opportunity to go interview for the job in Bermuda. I mean, it sounds like that’s a no-brainer, but we had just bought a house and we had a one- and three-year-old. We picked up our lives and moved seven hundred miles out to the Atlantic Ocean to go have an adventure, and it was pretty great. The easy decision would have been to stay with family and friends. It wasn’t hard to move to Bermuda, but everything that comes around it, like going without a support system, was difficult.

What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?

It was actually a piece of advice I got when I first started getting serious about coaching. Don’t try to imitate anybody else, be yourself. And it kind of comes back to how you live your life, but it really plays relevant in soccer in that there’s a certain way I want to play and there’s a certain way I am and it’s not really conventional. I’m trying to be true to myself and I know if I can do that, I can be genuine and honest with the players out in the field. And it translates everywhere. Don’t live your life to other people’s expectations. If you know something is right and works for you, it’ll be the best thing for you

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?

Go get a business degree. Make plenty of money. You’ll never have to worry about feeding your family. You’ll be happy. I know a lot of people who seem to enjoy what they’re doing and are good at their job, but it wasn’t for me.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

I can tell everything I need to know about a person by what they do with their shopping cart. If you are the kind of person who leaves your cart by your car, or worse, just spins it into a handicap parking spot, I won’t like you. There are three options here: you can just leave it and let the employees navigate three thousand shopping carts to get them back; you could do the minimum, bring it back to the current return place; or you could actually just bring it up to the front of the store. And that’s the kind of world I want to live in, where everybody brings their shopping carts back.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would you change?

I would have everybody in the world start believing in science. The insanity of “we can’t ruin the economy to get rid of using combustion engines” drives me crazy. There’s not going to be an economy if we’re underwater. There’s not going to be an economy if Earth’s on fire. So People who are willfully ignorant, if we could get rid of those people on Earth, that would be great.

If you had a bad day, what’s the first thing you do when you get home?

I decompress on the way home. First of all, I haven’t had a lot of bad days since I’ve been here. I always joke with the soccer team that, if we had a tough loss, I would take a piece of cheesecake, go in the shower, and get my emotional eating and my shower cry out of the way. But now, I’ll drive home forty minutes in silence and just kind of get my act together and realize that I am very much having first world problems. I have a wife and family who love me and I am doing something that makes me excited to get out of bed every day. I feel blessed to be able to do this for a living. I just need a little time to get things in perspective again. There are bumps in the road, but that’s all they are. I know that a bad day for me is a pretty great day for 99% of the world.

What is the single thing you are most passionate about?
Being a great teammate. It’s more than coaching. I really just want a bunch of players who play with joy and be really good to each other. Every day, I want our soccer team figuring out what they can do to make it a better place to play and how can they be a better teammate. And if everybody thinks that way, we’re well on our way. If you can do that, then generally people pay it forward, and you affect the world around you.

What is your most prized possession?

Sometimes you put sixteen people together and everybody just hits the ground running. I had one of those groups when I was coaching a middle school team, and they all signed a ball at the end of the year to give to me. It’s on my mantle at home, and that means a lot.

What three bands or musical artists best encapsulate your music taste?

I love Vampire Weekend, Manchester Orchestra, and probably Silversun Pickups.