Kyle Boze beat the odds to land the coveted Fairmont High School girls basketball head coach position. What he couldn’t beat was congenital heart disease, which forced him to resign before he ever coached in a game with the Firebirds.
Boze was named to succeed Lacy Drake as the Firebirds’ coach last spring. Chest pains immediately followed and increased in intensity as summer workouts progressed. His cardiologist at the Ohio State University Medical Center confirmed the inevitable: Make more lifestyle changes or risk everything.
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Kyle Boze is 27 years old.
“It’s been a really tough last two weeks for me of telling the girls and going through that process,” said Boze, a Piqua graduate and popular business teacher at the high school who never before had coached girls basketball.
“The one thing that made me feel better about it was the amount of love and support that I’ve gotten from other high school coaches on the boys and girls side, football coaches, administrators, family and ex-players who have reached out.”
Congenital heart disease is an abnormality or defect at birth. Its affects are wide ranging, from none to serious symptoms later in life. Often, it’s hereditary. Boze said a grandfather and uncle both died of similar faulty aortas, the body’s main artery that supplies blood to the heart.
“I’ve got a lot of things wrong with my aorta,” he said. “There’s a long laundry list of stuff. I’ve dealt with it my whole life.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, congenital heart disease annually affects 1 percent – or about 40,000 – newborns just in the United States. About 25 percent of those require surgery within their first year.
It’s estimated that more than 2 million U.S. citizens have been diagnosed with CHD.
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Boze had extensive coaching experience as a boys varsity assistant, JV and freshman coach at Beavercreek and most recently Centerville. He seemed destined to someday become a boys varsity coach.
That all changed when Drake resigned after five mostly successful seasons. Already entrenched as a teacher in the Kettering City School District, Boze joined at least 30 other individuals in pursuing the coaching position.
Fairmont had already bumped Beavercreek and surged to the forefront of area Division I girls basketball. The Firebirds made four straight trips to the D-I state final four from 2010-13 with Tim Cogan as head coach and won a state championship in 2013. A Fairmont grad and former Firebirds basketball standout, Drake succeeded Cogan, who’s now the Carroll boys coach.
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Fairmont (17-9) was loaded with underclassmen and defeated Tecumseh in a sectional final last season before losing to Lakota West in a district final. Fairmont tied Centerville at 7-5 for second in the Greater Western Ohio Conference National East Division.
That entire returning roster is what Boze inherited. What he didn’t see coming was additional chest pain and shortness of breath. He was sent home from school last May after his blood pressure soared to 195/148. “It was a sharp, stabbing pain behind my heart,” he said. “Just not fun to have.”
He went early for an annual checkup at OSU and hooked to a 24-hour heart monitor. “The results weren’t great,” he said.
“I was told there needed to be some lifestyle changes for the time being. There’s already so many things I don’t do. I don’t eat red meat. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. They said what’s best for you is to take a step away from coaching, see how your heart does and reassess down the road.”
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Reluctantly, that’s what he did. Although understanding, it rocked the returning Firebirds players. The wide-ranging support was immediate.
Suddenly, the program that was just five years removed from a state title would need its third head coach since last season ended.
“It’s just a crazy thing we call life that throws us some curveballs from time to time,” Fairmont athletic director Chris Weaver said. “There’s a big man upstairs who has different ideas about things in life than we do and right now, we may not understand why, but we’ll keep our head up and we’ll figure it out. We always do.”
Boze labeled coaching at Fairmont, however brief, “a dream job,” he said.
“Making those phone calls and telling the girls face to face was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. Hearing from them that your health takes priority helps a ton. It’s sometimes hard to understand because you want to coach and impact kids, but your body won’t let you.”
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