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Earlville graduate Lindsay Norton, posing with her nephew Elijah on Easter 2013, is hoping to attend graduate school to become a physical therapist in order to stay connected to sports. At Earlville, she was the first — and still only — female to earn All-Little Ten Conference in boys soccer. Submitted photo
Sometimes it can be hard to decide to play a sport, which one to apply extra focus on and when to officially let sports go.
Earlville alumnus Lindsay Norton didn’t have any of these problems.
Her love for soccer started as soon as her father Chris Norton introduced her to the sport during his tenure as the Palatine girls soccer coach from 1982-90, which included a state championship in 1989.
Her admiration and desire to play soccer continued and grew as a bond to Chris when he passed away because of heart problems.
“We’ve always been a soccer family. He passed away when I was about 7,” said Lindsay Norton, 26, who graduated from Earlville in 2006 after playing on the boys soccer team for four seasons, as well as the girls basketball and softball teams. “My mom always told us, ‘You are babies of the game.’ Soccer was instilled in our blood.
“Before we moved to Earlville (when I was in the fifth grade), we lived in Crystal Lake. We would play with a few neighborhood kids at his high school practices. We were dong little silly kid drills. He would come over whenever he had time after practices and games.”
The soccer family includes Lindsay Norton’s younger brothers Matt Norton, who played soccer for IMSA until he graduated in 2007, and Jake Norton, who played for the Red Raiders until 2009.
With the support of their mother Valorie Norton and their mentor in the sky, the thrill of playing soccer in high school never waned.
“It was awesome for her to keep playing because in the late 1980’s it was the beginning of girls soccer,” Valorie Norton said. “Chris would have been impressed with her because she stuck with it and played on a boys team.
“That was something to deal with and he would be proud of what she was able to do. It was almost like a girl playing football. ‘You’re not supposed to do that,’ and ‘You’re not supposed to be able to stop a boy when he’s coming at you with the ball,’ — and she would. She was very confident, knew what she was doing and didn’t get intimidated easily.”
The hard-nosed defender didn’t pay any attention to what gender she was playing with or against and battled for every 50-50 ball she could, former Earlville-Leland boys soccer coach Roger Essmann said.
The Little Ten Conference’s coaches noticed and acknowledged Lindsay Norton’s play by naming her to the all-conference team her senior year.
She is still the only girl to ever be named to the team according to the Greg Burks, the LTC executive secretary and Hinckley-Big Rock girls basketball coach.
Lindsay Norton, who also held a top GPA at Earlville, earned an academic scholarship at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington and decided to keep playing soccer as she joined the women’s team.
“A boys soccer game is just a little bit different than a girls. I got used to the speed and the touches you would have in a boys game verses a girls game,” said Norton, who stands at 5 feet, 6 inches. “It was kind of a huge shock when I started practicing with the women’s team at Wesleyan. I would say I preferred playing with the guys — they were a great group of guys who I grew up with and we learned how to play with each other.
“A guys game is a little more knock around than the women’s game is ever going to be, I think. I stereotype obviously, but I wasn’t scared to get in there and I knew that I was a little bit smaller and slower because I was never going to be 6-1 like a guy is. I wasn’t afraid to get in there with the guys because I knew I had to to survive.”
However, because of a lack of playing time and her college coaches thinking she was overly physical, Lindsay Norton only played her freshman year and the beginning of her sophomore season before leaving the team.
Essmann, who coached the Red Raiders from 1982 to 2010 and is now coaching Paw Paw, said he had coached a lot of girls before but Lindsay Norton was the only one to start.
“The funny part was, she got a little turned off,” said Essmann, who saw her play during her sophomore season at Wesleyan. “She was a very physical player which I thought helped her against the boys when she played. She went to Illinois Wesleyan and saw very limited time. I talked to her about that and she said the reason she wasn’t getting a lot of playing time was her coach told her she was too physical.
“I kind of snicker about that. I watch college ball and have sent players to college — it’s a very physical game. I don’t know what was going on there other than what she told me and I found it funny.”
Lindsay Norton left the team but hasn’t left sports or soccer.
She graduated Wesleyan with a bachelors degree in biology and is now working two jobs serving and bartending to pay off school loans to enroll in graduate school for a masters degree in physical therapy.
“I was sad to give up the game but I did still play some intramural games. I always thought education was more important — that was the focus,” Lindsay Norton said. “That’s what’s going to get you places.”
The school where she’ll get her next degree is undecided, but Lindsay Norton said she is OK with staying in Bloomington — where she continued to live after graduation — or moving out of state since her mother, brothers and 4-year-old nephew Elijah will not have an issue visiting her.
Wherever the future may take her, she knows her father won’t be mad either.
“Despite how silly it sounds, even when I choose to focus on school over soccer I was always worried that he would be upset that I chose that over continuing with soccer,” Lindsay Norton said. “I think my mom and I had this conversation before — a parent is always proud of their child no matter what they are doing as long as they are working toward their own goals.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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