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To Chase A Dream: A Soccer Championship, An Unlikely Hero and A Journey That Re-Defined Winning PDF

To Chase A Dream: A Soccer Championship, An Unlikely Hero and A Journey That Re-Defined Winning

I met Paul Kapsalis in the fall of his senior year in high school, when I presented him with the award for best defensive player of the Indiana high school state soccer tournament. Nice kid, I thought. And that was about it.

When he called a few months later to ask about his chances of playing at Indiana University, I wanted to be kind. And, the kindest thing I could do was be honest. I told him he had no chance.

When he shocked me a few weeks later and said he was going to try out at Indiana, ditching his plans to play somewhere else, I was honest again.

“No promises,” I said, “but you can take your chances with the rest of the guys who show up for tryouts.”

Those prospects were very bleak, to say the least. Even after he made the team by the skin of his teeth, I placed him at the very bottom of our 35-player roster, figuring he’d quit.

He was undersized, not very athletic and simply lacked that special talent we looked for at IU.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about that assessment, and couldn’t be more grateful.

Almost any coach can see physical talent pretty quickly. Heart and character aren’t always evident. Those can take time to emerge.

Looking back on Whitey’s journey, I think his heart and character were fairly obvious from the outset.

It just took me a while to see.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.

Even when, finally, I found that I desperately needed him to set an example—by his leadership, positive attitude, work ethic and persistence—I wasn’t so sure I needed him to play.

But Paul convinced me of that, too. Maybe Paul’s 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 result? You can read all the details in the pages that follow. I’ll just say that he turned out to be one of the best leaders I’ve coached.

I frankly wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t lived it. Twenty five years later, I still shake my head and marvel at what this happy, determined kid was able to accomplish, what he meant to Indiana Soccer, and what an inspirational example he sets for everyone, of all ages, in athletics and in life.

I’m guessing you’ll feel the same way.

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