Rather than letting the injury define him, he worked his way back and even found his future, discovering a passion for physical therapy that will be part of his course of study at William Woods University where he will continue his soccer career.
Osage senior Zach Deibel knows a little bit about adversity.
Just three games into his senior season with the Indians this past fall, a devastating tear in his meniscus left him sidelined for six months and in physical therapy for six weeks. Rather than letting the injury define him, he worked his way back and even found his future, discovering a passion for physical therapy that will be part of his course of study at William Woods University where he will continue his soccer career.
The senior made it official on Thursday in a signing ceremony at School of the Osage and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, let alone his previous knee injury, Deibel has a future he can look forward to.
“It is getting me prepared for college and making me move forward from all these depressing times and sadness in the world,” Deibel said after he put his name on the dotted line. “So, I’m just excited about that.”
The opportunity to follow both passions in soccer and physical therapy would certainly generate that feeling and after all Deibel has been through, Osage coach Jason Long suspects that the senior and the entire class of 2020 will likely not take anything for granted ever again.
“Knowing they’ve lost out on their graduation, they didn’t get to have prom and some of these kids did not get to have their spring sports- they should always know not take anything for granted when opportunities arise and they need to take advantage of those,” the coach stated.
And the coach was certainly proud of the way Deibel approached the process of pursuing his future.
“This year for him has been kind of a milestone in the fact that he had some struggles with injuries early in the year. A lot of rehabilitation on the knee and then going through this in the spring, he has had time to contemplate what he wanted to do with the rest of his soccer career and education,” Long remarked. “I’m extremely excited he has taken the time to look at three different schools, weigh the pros and cons and come up with something that fits him. I feel like that is the path we want our student-athletes here at Osage to follow.”
For Deibel, proximity played a factor in his decision and the NAIA school in Fulton would allow there to be some familiar faces in the stands when he takes the pitch. Then there was also the opportunity to study physical therapy.
“I saw how this one guy helped me out. He was great and it seemed like he enjoyed his job a lot and laughed a lot and was happy,” the senior said of discovering his passion. “I was like, ‘You know, that would be really cool to be a physical therapist, help people out and get them back on track.’”
In the midst of the pandemic, Deibel has not had much of an opportunity to get acquainted with his new program. However, Long painted a picture of what the senior could expect when he joins his new team.
“With William Woods being a predominantly international team, what I would say Zach should expect from William Woods would be to go into a highly competitive atmosphere. He is going to have to prove himself to an experienced squad that typically has a lot of success behind them,” the coach noted. “They play some very tough competition with them being gin the NAIA and conference they are in. I would expect like any other player they are trying to recruit or bring into their program, they are looking for somebody that is going to be conditioned, has some technical skill and ability and willing to come in and be a team player and play a role.
“Zach is going to have to feel his way out, figure out what that role is and make sure he gets recognized for doing it.”
Well, good thing the senior has a love for the game that made all the practices and efforts to bounce back from the knee injury a little easier.
“I’ve been playing ever since I could walk and have absolutely loved it. I just got better as the years went on and it excited me,” Deibel said. “I just always looked forward from there and continued to get better.”
After four years on the pitch for the Indians, Deibel will leave as the school record holder for goals in a single game that came on a night where he scores six. That mark is also good enough for fourth in the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) record books, but Long noted his legacy will be much more than that.
“What he provides as far as lessons for other players is that he took an injury and didn’t let depression or frustration hold him back, just giving up on something he loves and his goals moving forward,” the coach said. “There are some people who say, ‘Well, now I have no chance. I didn’t get a chance to impress any coaches and there is no reason for me to try.’ So with him taking that injury, being there for the team whenever he wasn’t in, rehabbing and doing physical therapy out there with the team- when we had our Senior Night I made it a point that he got to go out there and kick the ball starting the game off when he obviously couldn’t play with his knee. We were able to get him incorporated into the game which meant a lot to him with the amount of work and effort he put in to get himself back in playing condition.
“I think he is getting closer to playing condition and he obviously needs to continue working on physical therapy, weights and conditioning.”
Deibel is the third Indian to sign with a college team after Long came on board in 2018 and the senior was certainly glad to have him around.
“When Coach Long came he made everything great and that is what made my experience really great. He has been a great coach and I really appreciate him,” the senior said.
Now, the time for the next chapter has arrived and one thing Deibel will keep in mind is his attitude moving forward. For the senior, it is everything and he would advise his fellow Indians to keep that in mind as well.
“You cannot have a bad attitude and go into anything like, ‘I’m going to start or be better than this kid.’ You have to play with your team and be a team player so that is the main thing.”
After everything the senior has been through, it seems he is certainly ready to do his part.