By Martin Cleary
For the most part, Nicolas Folz has his feet firmly planted on the ground for a young man about to transition into university. Or as he would proudly tell you: “I’m quite down to earth.”
But there have been moments (not during this COVID-19 pandemic non-season), when the 6-4 Maverick Volleyball middle has soared to crush the ball for a kill, dove to make a dig or taken flight to deliver a serve with gusto.
And sometime in his well-planned future, he hopes to lift himself into an out-of-this-world job and travel where few people would dare to go. The four-year honour roll student at E.S.C. Franco-Cité loves to think big.
“My goal in life is to eventually become an astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency,” Folz wrote in an email interview. “But in that process, I would love to work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, the European Space Agency in The Netherlands or start my own venture in Space City, where Elon Musk plans to make the next ‘Silicon Valley’ for space exploration.”
For now, however, the 18-year-old must be content with preparing to attend the University of Waterloo to study engineering, either mechanical or mechatronics, and play varsity volleyball for the OUA’s Mustangs.
Folz will move with confidence to the London, ON., school, having graduated Franco-Cité with a 93% average, and leaving the Maverick Volleyball program after six years with an extraordinary provincial award.
Earlier this month, Folz won the Ken Davies Memorial Award, which was named after a prominent volleyball fanatic, who was killed by a drunk driver in a car accident during his senior high school year in the late 1980s.
The Ontario Volleyball Association award is presented to an 18-and-under male player for his determination, leadership, sportsmanship, fair play, on-court talent, accomplishments, spirit, and compassion in his community.
Folz is the fifth Maverick to receive the annual award and the eighth from the Ottawa volleyball community. The other Mavericks were: Maxime Gratton (2020), Alex St-Denis (2017), Bruno Lortie (2012), Jérémie Lortie (2009) and co-winner Alex Oneid (2008).
Three members of the former Ottawa Kangaroos club won the OVA’s honour as the most complete player and individual: co-winner Stuart Hamilton (2004), Pat Thomas (1997), and Rob Janson (1995).
“When I heard that I won the award, I was pretty ecstatic,” Folz continued. “After having the better part of last season and the entirety of this season cancelled due to COVID, this was a huge morale boost for me.
“Although I still feel very humbled by the OVA choosing me as a recipient for the award, if felt amazing to know that my efforts on and off the court didn’t go unnoticed.”
And his all-around accomplishments are many. Besides being a highly ranked player, Folz also is a volleyball official and coach as well as a resource person for his teammates. During the pandemic, he organized a food drive.
As much as Folz has enjoyed his playing time with Maverick Volleyball, Franco-Cité and Team Ontario, he is equally thrilled to officiate and coach. He puts player honesty as a key characteristic in the game.
“I try to hold myself accountable and be as honest as I can, when I play in order to be that kind of person,” Folz added. “This would include calling small touches off of my block, owning up to a ball being in or out, etc.”
Being a certified volleyball official has given Folz a full understanding of the game. As a team captain for the past three seasons, he has used that extra knowledge to pay big dividends for his team.
“I felt it would be advantageous for me as a team captain to know how a referee thinks, along with all of the rules and specifications,” he wrote. “This allowed me to successfully protest calls, which resulted in game advantages for my team.
“As for coaching, I know how grateful I am towards each and every coach I have ever had. I loved the opportunity to coach others and help them develop so they too could fall in love with the game just like I did.”
A good leader and a determined individual, Folz also is approachable and has been known to help his teammates with any academic concerns, general struggles as well as encourage them in the weight room to become better.
While the pandemic denied Folz and his Maverick teammates their 18U season, he used that time once devoted to training and tournaments to focus on school and get accepted into Western’s innovative engineering program.
“I also developed a heightened sense of gratitude,” he continued. “Now, whenever I am given the opportunity to train in a gym or weight room, I don’t take it for granted.
“This allows me to put 100 per cent effort every single time now, which has made me improve considerably in every sense over the past year.”
Folz organized a food drive this past winter with his teammates to collect essential items for people negatively affected by the pandemic. He spent more than 150 hours dedicated to this community project.
“I think that a big part of me giving back is through coaching and officiating,” he added. “In my opinion, these things are in a sense the least I could do to give back to a community and people who have given me so much.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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