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Dream Goals

New Cathedral Boys Soccer Coach, Paul “Whitey” Kapsalis, pens memoir of incredible soccer journey

Writer / Kara Kavensky
Photographer / Brian Brosmer

Paul “Whitey” Kapsalis and his siblings were introduced to soccer while living in St. Louis. The entire family loved it.

Whitey’s father, Andy, worked for Allstate Insurance and was relocated to Minnesota where youth soccer didn’t exist, so the Kapsalis family started one. This club has since exploded in growth. The next stop was in Michigan. There, they started the Bonanza Express Soccer league, which was a select travel team, for his parents had a vision as to what the youth soccer landscape would become.

His oldest brother Pete played soccer for Michigan State University.

“This was groundbreaking for our family,” Whitey says. “Playing at another level, at Division 1, a Big 10 collegiate athlete — this had a huge influence upon me.”

While Pete was at MSU, the Kapsalis family moved to Carmel in 1981. Danny, the second of five, was a senior and Whitey was a sophomore. Soccer was not yet a varsity sport at the high school, and it was Whitey’s mom, Becky, who led the charge to petition and get soccer accepted as a varsity sport at Carmel High School. Ultimately, the IHSAA adopted it.

While living in Carmel, the Kapsalis family would road trip to Chicago to buy their soccer gear. Becky was inspired to open a soccer store in Carmel, and 25 years later, it was voted the No. 1 soccer store in the U.S.

“Soccer was something that our family found a lot of joy in, as it provided a fun opportunity to a wide range of kids,” Whitey says. “It was simply our passion, and we were pursuing what we believed in.”

Danny graduated from Carmel High School, where he set school records for scoring and walked on at Indiana University, the best soccer program in the country. Whitey gave a verbal commitment to play at Michigan State. Then, Danny won a National title at IU, and Whitey turned his attention to Bloomington. Whitey called the IU coach to talk about playing there.

“I was told that I wasn’t good enough, and they had seven returning starters and they had their pick of blue chip players from across the country,” Whitey says. “But this was my dream, and I made the decision the night before I was to check in at MSU that I was going to IU and do whatever I could to make the team as a walk-on.”

It made sense to go to Michigan State when Whitey assessed the pros and cons on paper, but the intangible element of having a dream was a challenge to transcend by a mere pen. After a three-hour conversation with his parents discussing why he was making this decision, it ultimately came to down to one question.

“Can I play at that level? Would I always wonder what would have been?” Whitey says. “I would rather have known that I had tried and failed than not have attempted it at all.”

Whitey placed a call to Coach Joe Baum at Michigan State and told him the news. Baum was gracious in receiving this call. Then he called Coach Jerry Yeagley and informed him that he was coming.

Once on campus, Whitey attended and watched all of the practices, working out on his own until the tryouts. He started doing the math and every factor weighed against him. Whitey was a long shot, but he worked his tail off and made the cut. He was the only player selected as a walk-on from tryouts. Even though he was red shirted his freshman year, Whitey was over the moon that he was a part of the program.

They won another National Championship that year.

“The first time I met Whitey, I awarded him the defensive player of the Indiana high school soccer tournament and thought, ‘nice kid’, that was it,” Coach Yeagley says. “After placing him at the bottom of our 35-player roster, I thought he would quit. He was undersized, not very athletic and simply lacked that special talent we looked for at IU. I could not have been more wrong in that assessment and couldn’t be more grateful.

“Heart and character aren’t’ always evident,” Yeagley adds. “What I discovered was that this nice, bright-eyed kid has the heart of a lion and the leadership skills any coach covets in a player. Maybe Pauls’ rough road — sitting out year after year and being repeatedly told he wasn’t good enough, being encouraged to transfer, suffering a year-long, career threatening injury — was what gave him that character and heart. Maybe his odyssey was something of a test.”

The rest of Whitey’s incredible journey to becoming a starter and co-captain with Bruce Killough, is detailed in his book, “A Dream: A Soccer Championship, an Unlikely Hero and a Journey That Redefined Winning”.

While at IU, Whitey met his wife, Sherri, a State Champion gymnast who attended IU on a full-ride scholarship for gymnastics only to have the program cut her sophomore year. The couple has three children: Katrina, Nicolette and Trey.

The Kapsalis legacy at IU includes the youngest brother, Dean, who played soccer for four years with the team. The next generation continues the family tradition. Nicolette will be a freshman midfielder and forward for the IU women’s soccer team. She will join her cousin, Macy Miller (also a midfielder and forward) as a teammate. Macy is the daughter of Whitey’s sister, Deanne.

Whitey recently accepted the head coaching position for the boys’ varsity team at Cathedral High School, where Trey will be a senior. His older brothers, Danny and Pete, both still coach youth soccer teams.

“To Chase A Dream: A Soccer Championship, An Unlikely Hero and A Journey That Re-Defined Winning” by Paul “Whitey” Kapsalis and Ted Gregory may be purchased on amazon.com.

About Kara Kavensky

Kara Kavensky lives in the Geist area with her family. In addition to writing, she owns Geist Pilates.

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