0614BolzAUDListen to Josh Bolz talk about his brother Robert Bolz who was his physical therapist and trainer during his rehabilitation.
0614LaceyAUDDawson County boys soccer coach Jed Lacey talking about the resilience of Josh Bolz
Dribbling down the left side of the soccer field, Dawson County junior Josh Bolz spotted an opportunity.
A Tigers teammate was streaking down the right side of the pitch and was the perfect target for a left-footed cross.
It was Feb. 7, 2007 and Dawson County was playing a pre-season game against White County.
“In the follow through of the kick something went wrong,” Bolz said. “My right knee went in, my body weight went down, I heard a pop and it was the worst pain I’ve ever been through.”
Bolz had torn the lateral meniscus and parabola in his right knee.
“The injury happened right by the sideline so I just went off the field,” Bolz said. “After the initial pain went away I thought I could go back in and did. That’s when I was like, ‘Oh no, I’ve messed it up bad this time.’”
Bolz, who has had knee problems for most of his playing life, had torn his meniscus during his freshman season and, as is the case with most small tears, had treated it conservatively with rest, ice and gradually intensified exercise.
This time was different however.
“I was in tears, I just shook my head,” Bolz said. “The pain was so bad, I didn’t know if I would ever step back on the field.”
A coach’s perspective
When Jed Lacey, who just finished his first year as coach of the Tigers boys soccer team, met Bolz his initial impression was that he, “had an arrogance about him.”
“Josh carried himself strong just like a kid who’s had success in a high school sport does,” Lacey said. “I didn’t know when I first met him whether or not he was going to be one of those ‘superstar’ kids.”
Lacey, however, soon learned that Bolz’s on-field demeanor was a stark contrast to his actual personality.
“I’ve never seen a kid more pleasant,” Lacey said. “He says, ‘Yes ma’am,’ and ‘No ma’am.’ He’s the kind of kid you would want your daughter to date and I don’t say that about all the kids on my team.
“His mother’s done a real good job with him.”
In Bolz, Lacey not only found a polite and pleasant young man but a natural leader who’s soccer prowess was second only to his desire to be the best.
“He had tremendous feet and great leadership,” Lacey said, “and you could tell that the confidence of the team was stronger when Josh went in.”
Then came the White County game.
In the aftermath of Bolz’s injury, Lacey had to reconfigure the way his team was going to play the game.
“We had to change the entire offense,” Lacey said. “Without him we weren’t the same team.”
The bad news first
Unable to walk on his own following his injury, Bolz used crutches for the two weeks leading up to the arthroscopic surgery that would repair his meniscus.
The surgery revealed that repairing it wasn’t possible.
“The doctor (orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Marascalco) had to take the meniscus out of my knee,” Bolz said.
As a result, Dr. Marascalco told Bolz that not only would he be unable to return to the soccer field for the remainder of his junior season, but his senior season was out too.
Upon hearing the news Bolz, for a moment, conceded that his soccer career was over.
For a brief moment, he thought about life without the game he’d been playing for as long as he could remember.
The moment passed quickly.
“I didn’t want it to be the end of my career,” Bolz said, “so I decided to push myself.”
Bolz enlisted the help of physical therapist, personal trainer and his brother Robert Bolz to get him back on the soccer field.
“Dr. Marascalco asked me about physical therapists and I told him that I knew one that would push me harder than anyone else would,” Bolz said.
Robert Bolz, a professional bodybuilder and owner of Excel Sports Performance in Dawsonville, helped his younger brother through the painful rehabilitation process.
“The way he had me working out was incredible,” Josh said. “I was doing exercises with a big rubberband, leg lifts and riding the bike everyday, three times a day. Gradually he put me on weights doing leg extensions, leg curls and he just kept pushing me.”
He wanted to return to soccer so badly that he missed a team trip to Jekyll Island in order to rehab.
“It’s pretty incredible when a kid turns down going to Jekyll Island to do therapy and train,” Lacey said. “He just wanted to make sure he got back to his team.”
The hard work culminated with the impossible.
On March 21 in front of the home crowd, Bolz took the field one minute into Dawson County’s game against arch-rival Union County.
Two weeks premature
Bolz had an appointment to see Dr. Marascalco on March 18, the Tuesday before the Tigers were to take on Union County.
“I wasn’t supposed to come back for two more weeks,” Bolz said. “But I told the doctor that I felt great and wanted to play Friday.
“He had me do exercises and then I came back.”
Reflecting on his return, Bolz said that Lacey didn’t want to start him and was skeptical about playing him at all, until the clock started running.
“Coach Lacey is the greatest coach I’ve ever had,” Bolz said. “He’s always been there for me and he knew from the beginning that I would come back and was working my hardest to do that.
“He asked me everyday how I was, he’s just been awesome.”
Lacey put Bolz in at center-midfield one minute into the game and didn’t take him out.
“I played my heart out,” Bolz said. “I was so happy I was back on my feet running. I was so happy to be out on that field again.
“I knew also though that I had to be cautious because if I make one wrong turn, I could be done.”
He didn’t make a wrong turn in that game and hasn’t since.
“I’ll tell you what, we were a good team without him” said Lacey, who coached the Tigers to the second round of the state playoffs and a record-setting 10 wins on the season, “but we became a very good team when he got back.”
As if coming back from a serious knee injury wasn’t enough, Bolz spent the first part of the summer trying out for the Forsyth Fusion; an under-18 Classic 1 team. Classic 1 being the highest level you can play in club soccer.
Bolz was told he made the team Wednesday night.
“Hard work pays off,” Bolz said. “I’ve always been fearless and will continue to be. It’s in the back of my head that something could happen, but I’m going to keep working and try to keep pushing myself harder and harder.”
Bolz also will spend the summer going to team camps with his Dawson County teammates and travelling to colleges to be seen in the hopes of earning a scholarship to play at the next level.
“I’m going to Georgia Southern for coach (Kevin) Kennedy to look at me,” Bolz said. “It’s always been my dream to go to Georgia Southern to play soccer. Most of my family went to Georgia Southern and I’ve just always dreamed of sitting behind that table and signing my name to a Georgia Southern letter of intent.”
If his current coach has anything to do with it, Bolz will be doing just that.
“I tell anyone I can that he’s very physical and a shut-down center mid,” Lacey said. “He will take the best player from any team and shut them down with his tenacity and aggressiveness.
“His whole life is soccer and he will be the best player in our region next year.”