Robert E Hathaway began his twenty-year tenure as head soccer coach at Ben Lippen School in Asheville when few high schools were playing soccer in North Carolina in 1960.
Robert E Hathaway began his twenty-year tenure as head soccer coach at Ben Lippen School in Asheville when few high schools were playing soccer in North Carolina in 1960. Little of the soccer that was being playing in NC at the time was being played in the Western part of the state. With few nearby high school programs to compete against, he pioneered the effort to expand opportunities for participation for boys at Ben Lippen and across the region. Eighty-five of the 310 games he coached for Ben Lippen were played against college junior varsity or junior college teams. Opportunities for the better teams to compete in post-season play were unavailable until 1967. The Ben Lippen Falcons won the local Prep School Tournament Championship in 1967 and 1968.
Bob Hathaway’s extraordinary contributions as a coach at Ben Lippen School and as a trailblazer at the high school level have earned him the distinction of being selected as a member of the fifth class of inductees of the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame on this, the fifth day of January, 2002.
Many Christian missionaries returning to Western North Carolina from trips oversees enrolled their sons at Ben Lippen, a Christian school. While at the missions, the boys had been exposed to the game of soccer and wanted to play at the school. In 1960 Bob was “drafted” to coach the school team. Recalling how little he knew about soccer at the time, Bob is unashamed to reveal how fortunate he was to have had so many players who passed along their passion for the game to him; in time, he turned that passion into his own. On one hand, his efforts to convince other schools to start playing soccer were utilitarian – his teams needed opponents. On the other hand, his efforts wound up exposing so many others to the game. Soccer became the fall sport of choice for many schools in Western North Carolina that were too small to field football teams. And he worked with others to develop the Western North Carolina Soccer Officials Association so there would be a sufficient pool of qualified referees.
While leading the Falcons for twenty seasons, Hathaway’s teams had a record of 256-34-20. Included in that record was a streak of 76 games without a loss from 1966 through 1971. Included in that run of 76 games was an incredible streak of 65 consecutive victories, a record that still stands as the most ever in the history of North Carolina prep soccer. As if that was not enough, the Falcons put together yet another streak of 43 consecutive victories from 1975 until 1977. By the early ‘70s, a state championship was conducted by the North Carolina Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association (NCSSCA). That tournament featured teams from both public and private schools statewide. Ben Lippen won the NCSSCA State Championship in 1973, 1975, and 1976 and was runner-up in 1974. They were finalists in the inaugural North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA) championships in 1977. The 1976 season was particularly notable since the team posted a 21-0-0 record and scored 114 goals while giving up only 8 on their way to winning all four games in the state championship tournament. Following that season Bob was honored as the state Coach-of-the-Year by the NCSSCA. Coach Hathaway coached the team until the conclusion of the 1979 season. The school relocated to Columbia, South Carolina in 1988.