FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Some youth players sail along a gilded path to success. Cole DeNormandie traveled through an alternative route.
Few things came easily to the New England Revolution academy striker. He had the athleticism and the bloodlines to thrive as a soccer player, but he didn't possess the otherworldly talent to make it an easy ride.
Many talented players face a similar conundrum every year. Most fall by the way side and permit other factors to distract from their goals or send them along a different path. Only a few persevere through the inevitable setbacks along the way to reach the desired location.
DeNormandie is one of them.
“It's all just hard work,” DeNormandie told MLSsoccer.com earlier this month. “I have been playing club for a long time. There were a lot of kids who were very talented. Now they might be going to D-III. Half of them aren't going to be playing soccer at all. It's all about keeping on working and staying focused. A lot of kids lose their focus in high school. For me, it's all hard work.”
The Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School standout and Lincoln, Mass., native needed to apply himself in order to satisfy his ambitions. He always succeeded at the high school level, surging past defenders with his rare blend of size and speed.
But DeNormandie wanted more than high school success and fought until he achieved it.
It took him more than one attempt to make the jump from his local club team to the Revolution's academy side. He kept plugging away until he made it.
It took him some time to adjust to the rigors of playing at the academy level once he linked up with the Revs. He kept honing his game until he adapted to the new challenge.
“Over the last year, I've really seen him grow as a player,” Revolution director of youth development Bryan Scales said. “Early on, he relied on his athleticism. Now he can really figure out certain situations on the field, he can hold the ball up under pressure, his feet have gotten a lot sharper and he's more of a threat to score.”
DeNormandie's emergence at the academy level and his selection to two consecutive NSCAA All-America teams expanded his collegiate prospects considerably. Several ACC schools courted his services, while a smattering of local and major conference universities also expressed interest after DeNormandie concluded his senior season with a trip to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase in Phoenix.
“It's a lot more exposure,” DeNormandie said about his stint with the Revs academy. “Coming into the year, I talked to a couple of colleges, but once you start going to the showcases with the academy, it can't really be matched. So many coaches see you. A lot of doors open up once you start playing with the academy.”
After assessing all of his options, DeNormandie decided to walk through the same door Colorado star Omar Cummings once did by committing to play for the University of Cincinnati.
“I think a lot of it is Big East soccer, which is some of the best in the country,” DeNormandie told the Sudbury Town Crier regarding his decision to choose Cincinnati on Dec. 18. “And, they're a pretty good team. They're still kind of up and coming and not at full potential yet. I think if they keep having seasons like they had last year, and I think we will, I think that we can be a pretty good contender in the Big East.'”
The transition to college soccer represents yet another hurdle DeNormandie must overcome. Fortunately for the 6-foot-1, 180-pound forward, he exhibits the necessary tools to blossom at the college level, according to Scales.
“You can play him up high as a target guy and you can play him on the flank in a 4-3-3,” said Scales, a former college coach at Cornell and UMass-Lowell. “He can run at guys, and then he'll come back and defend. He has a lot of real attributes that will help a college program.”
If the past is any indication, his persistence will rank chief among them.