Bringing the Irish together

YOUNGSTOWN – The 2013 Ursuline football team didn’t feel like a team to senior John Martynyszn.

The Irish possessed all the tools they needed to be a top playoff contender – a talented three-year starting quarterback in Chris Durkin, an intimidating second-team all-state defensive lineman in Sha’Haun Williams and a veteran-leading lineman in Zach Sheetz.

Notwithstanding the luxury of having all these weapons, Martynyszn could sense a disconnect in the locker room, especially amongst the senior class, that hindered the Irish from reaching their full potential.

“Last year every grade or every clique would just sit with each other in the locker room,” Martynyszn said.

No longer restricted by a locker room divided, Ursuline football built team chemistry and developed a fresh new look under new senior leadership.

Cliques have now become things of the past for the Irish. When you walk in Ursuline’s locker room now, all the players are talking, laughing, carrying on and getting along. Martynyszn and the seniors have successfully bridged the gap in an otherwise great divide.

“We’re all close, and the whole team is together,” Martynyszn said. “You could have the two most different guys, and they can sit next to each other and have a conversation.”

Martynyszn said he wants everyone on the team to treat their teammates as family and fight for them on every snap and every down.

“When we’re out in battle, we’re going to have to fight for each other like we’re family and brothers, and that’s what two-a-days are for: to get better and come closer together,” Martynyszn said.

Even with high-caliber players Durkin, Sheetz and Williams in command, Martynyszn felt last year’s team thrived in skill, but lacked in leadership, something Martynysz aims to remedy as he enters his final senior season at Ursuline.

“It’s always been a commitment of mine to be that leader and to be that guy,” Martynyszn said. “I’m always pushing someone in the drill and try to lead by example.”

High energy and motivation have become Martynyszn’s mantras over the past few years. Whether it’s bringing music into the locker room or picking a player up after a missed play or miscue, Martynyszn has already shown his emergence as senior leader.

“Ever since I’ve been growing up and playing football, I’ve always been taught that whenever you’re asked to do something, you do it and give it 100 percent, so it’s just been something embedded in my brain, so when I was asked to take on a role as a leader, I embraced it” Martynyszn said.

One man in particular who holds Martynyszn’s everyday work ethic in high regard is Ursuline coach Larry Kempe. When Kempe called upon Martynyszn to lead the team this season, he rose to the occasion and leaped at the chance to reconnect the locker room.

“John is an extremely hard-working kid who is driven to be the best he can be,” Kempe said. “When he comes to practice, he practices every day hard. He doesn’t change.”

Kempe said Martynyszn will have his good days and off days on the field but praised his ability to stay steadfast in his never-look-back approach to the game.

“Some kids will get down on themselves, but John just moves on to the next play,” Kempe said.

“We’re teaching life skills here, too. You have to come here, and you have to do what you’re asked to do every day to be successful. You can’t come in and have bad days and pout about it, but John doesn’t pout. John comes in and he goes at it.”

What makes Martynysz special in Kempe’s eyes is his ability not to dwell on mistakes. Like any young high school football player, Martynyszn deals with growing pains, but he takes his lumps on the field in stride, learning from his mistakes and focusing on the task at head.

“He has great focus on what he wants to achieve,” Kempe said. “These kids are representing more than just themselves, and he understands that.”