Thorns Interviews

Mike Norris on his coaching philosophy, growing as a team, and biking in Portland

Mike Norris head coach

What will you bring to the Thorns in terms of your coaching philosophy?

In terms of approach to the season, I think there will be some consistency. I think that's just natural based on how I interacted with the players last year. Some of the things that I did will be familiar and stay consistent for how I work and operate and for the players. There will be some differences in the sense of how I fully put my spice on things, if you like. There will be some nuances, maybe with processes and just in terms of my personality. I'm pretty process-oriented and pretty logical.

I've stayed consistent. I've had a lot of different roles across the coaching career. But I think one thing I've always been constant with is how I interact with the players and how I operate. So I think that's where there will be some consistency, regardless of the change in role. It's just really who I am. In terms of principles of methodology, I had an influence on that last year [already]. I look back on my coaching career, moving from youth side to the pro side, I'm just a firm believer in principles driving decisions. Those core things that players can come back to again in the heat of a moment.

How do you keep the level of performance up after the 2022 Championship season?

I think there's a couple of pieces. One, that players drove [the performance] last year—I think there's just a natural hunger and drive and desire with this group, right? It's a winning group. I think the players have to take a lot of credit for that. It's not just what the staff did. And two, I've just got this personal approach of striving to win and grow every day. Not everybody is fortunate enough to win [but] if you don't win, you've got to keep growing otherwise you're never gonna win. When you do win, if you don't grow, you're not going to win again.

That's how we win and grow – winning by itself is not enough and growing by itself is not enough. And then how do we win better? That's also a driving force. I think to win better, we have to get better.

How will you instill that with this Thorns team?

I think we've got to acknowledge a lot happened since the group was all together. And I think that needs to be acknowledged and discussed before we can actually talk about being better. So I think that's an important piece. Because we need to we need to get through that come out the other end. That's part of being better. And then, on the field, efficiency is probably something we target, in terms of chances created, we'll be more efficient with them. And then from my goalkeeping background, if we can just solidify the defensive side site and tighten that up a little bit.

Mike Norris training with Thorns- October 27, 2022
October 27, 2022: Mike Norris in training with the Thorns ahead of the NWSL Championship match.

You have a new role but you've been here for a year—how have you acclimated to being in Portland?

I will say I came in with a bit of a bias towards liking Portland prior [to coming here]. I was here once before with the national team, in 2014 when we played at Providence Park before the renovation. That grabbed us and also I have some friends who have spent time in Portland. So I think I did naturally come in with a bit of a bias. And having been in Vancouver, Canada for the last 15 years, the Pacific Northwest does suit me. So again, another natural bias.

And when I actually moved down, the people made a big impression—so many daily interactions at work. That's had a big influence. I'm also a keen cyclist, and it's a bike friendly city. It's a cool place to explore. I probably haven't seen as much as I probably should have [by now], just being busy with a season.

And the atmosphere.... In our the first competitive game at Providence Park last year against OL Reign—that atmosphere was something else. It just really strike a chord. Everything I had heard about those games at Providence Park... just to be on the sideline and experience it was something else. It was the first game that my family took in and [seeing] the kids' hunger to come back and talk about their experience there, it's special. Portland is an attractive place to be.

What do you like about biking?

I have a road bike that I invested in two years ago. One, it's a form of exercise. I've never been a runner and I've always grown up on a bike from a young age. But it's also how I can disconnect. Whether it be on a weekend or at the end of a work day when we get the longer days of my summer, it's a way for me just to switch off. The phone goes away, and then you're just taking in the fresh air. It's a real disconnect and brings me joy, keeps me healthy.