Long road ahead for Jonny Dolezal
Former Penn soccer captain hopes to play in England
June 25, 2014, 6:20 pm · Updated June 25, 2014, 11:12 pm·
Antoni Gierczak | DP
It’s been a summer of journeys and constant motion for Jonny Dolezal.
There was a trip to Israel to start off the summer. An excursion to various parts of Europe will follow later in the summer. And all throughout, a journey to prepare himself for what’s to come — his dream of playing soccer overseas.
Now a 2014 Penn graduate, Jonny Dolezal had one goal in mind when he began playing for the team four years ago — securing an Ivy League title.
“To win an Ivy League [title] in your senior year? I don’t think you can ask for more than that,” Dolezal said. “The coaches did an amazing job transforming us into a new team in one season.”
With that goal finally completed and his college career coming to a close, Dolezal came to a crossroads. Would he continue to pursue soccer at the professional level or leave behind the game that had given him so much throughout his life?
“I’ll come back from [visiting Europe for three weeks] and look to spend two or three weeks really working out hard in preparation to hopefully play in England, that’s where I’d really like to play,” Dolezal said.
“That’s my rough game plan right now. Soccer’s still a big part of my life, it always will be.”
So Dolezal set his sights on a new challenge, that of playing soccer overseas, which begins not just as a challenge in the sense of the differing level of play, but also in the logistics of working and living in an entirely different nation.
As someone born and raised in the United States, Dolezal might have been expected to continue to hone his craft in his home country, but through a number of factors England became more appealing.
To begin with, Dolezal focused on finishing his academics rather than immediately jumping into the professional leagues, as some soccer players do.
A number of professional leagues in the United States begin their tryouts before the end of the college calendar, and as such some players decide to forego their final semester in favor of jumpstarting their careers.
“I made the decision that I wanted to graduate and get my degree,” Dolezal, a communications major, said. “I’d seen some guys at Penn in the past decide to go play their spring semester and not graduate and then come back a few years later to finish up. I knew I’d be missing out on some opportunities in the [United] States during that time.”
But if playing in the United States would be less favorable, why then did Dolezal choose England? After all, there’s plenty of soccer to be found throughout Europe.
For Dolezal, it came down to family connections, and the ability to get a British passport.
“I’ve applied for a British passport. My dad was born in England so I’m applying as a direct descendant,” Dolezal said. “It’s a situation where not quite as many Americans can go over [to play soccer] because of restrictions.”
In making his decision, Dolezal was not without his fair share of advisors, relying particularly on Penn coach Rudy Fuller, who served as a coach and mentor to Dolezal throughout his career.
“Rudy [Fuller] has always been someone I’ve felt like I could confide in and he’s been a great mentor for me over the past four years,” Dolezal said. “And that relationship will continue on even now that [my time at] Penn is over. An opportunity like England is going to require me to reach out to other coaches, but Rudy has been really helpful.”
So while his plans, just like the rest of his summer, are still in motion, Jonny Dolezal has plenty to look forward to in the coming months.
“I may never have the opportunity again at this age [to travel],” Dolezal said.
“With that being said I need to stay fit, I’m working out every day and I’m hoping to [play soccer in] England.”