Bob Catapano graduated from Glen Rock (NJ) High School in 1969 and came to North Carolina to attend N.C. State University. He was a four-year starter for Coach Max Rhodes on the Wolfpack soccer team. He earned a degree in Mathematics Education from NCSU and began his teaching career at Martin Junior High School in Raleigh in 1973. During his four years there, he started a co-ed club soccer program which was a seed that blossomed into full middle school boys and girls soccer programs in Raleigh and Wake County. At the same time, the growth of school soccer was boosted by the influence of the Capital Area Soccer League
In 1977, Catapano was in the right place at the right time and was appointed to a teaching and coaching position at Sanderson High School in North Raleigh. It was there where he would build the dynasty that would be the Sanderson men’s soccer program. Bob Catapano’s extraordinary record of achievement as the soccer coach at Sanderson High School as well as his accomplishments as a soccer official and school athletic administrator has earned him the distinction of being selected as a member of the second class of inductees into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame on this, the sixth day of June, 1997. He is the first high school soccer coach so honored.
In Catapano’s twenty seasons at the helm, from 1977 through 1996, the Spartans men’s soccer teams had an incredible record of 363-44-21 (.873 winning percentage). They won 17 conference championships and played in 13 NCHSAA State Championship title matches. They won the title 11 times – 9 outright (1978, 81, 82, 84, 85, 86, 88, 89, 96) and 2 co-championships (1977, 79) – and lost 2 times (1991, 92). Six of his teams (1982 through 1987) produced a well-documented run of 103 consecutive games without a loss. “The Streak” shattered the former national record for such an accomplishment at the high school level and created a new one that lasted until broken by a school in New Hampshire in 1996. The streak attracted an overwhelming amount of local and national media coverage that shined the spotlight not only on Sanderson soccer, but high school soccer, North Carolina soccer, and soccer in general.
Catapano used every available opportunity to credit his players for the success of the program. “I guess I’ll take some credit for having a vision for what a successful high school program should look like,” he admitted, “and that’s important. But I know in my heart that soccer is a players’ game and that our kids deserve the credit for our success. We had lots of talented players who had to compete just to make the team. Whenever I thought our best days had to be behind us, the next group of kids did something even more amazing. We had great run together and made memories to last a lifetime.”
Among the young men who played on the Catapano-coached teams were 54 All-State players, 13 of whom were All-Americans and 6 of whom were named North Carolina Player of the Year by the NC Soccer Coaches Association (NCSCA). His teams were known for their tenacity, their attacking style, and for their sportsmanship.
Bob was honored as NCSCA Coach of the Year and Southern Regional Boys Secondary Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) in 1982 and 1985. He was presented the 1992 National Merit Award, jointly sponsored by the NSCAA and the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NISOA) for “professionalism, sportsmanship, and integrity.”
Catapano was also a well-respected athletic administrator. He was the athletic director at Sanderson High School – the first soccer coach to hold such a position at a NC public high school. He served a four year appointment on the National Federation Soccer Rules Committee (1987-1990). He was also a highly regarded youth and collegiate soccer official (1973-1993).