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This Sporting Life: A Teenage Athlete Talks Football

Josh Zientko
Basim Blunt
Josh Zientko

Football is a team game. But every player has a story. In preparation for Super Bowl Sunday, we have a Dayton Youth Radio story about football from a teenage athlete’s perspective. Centerville High School student Josh Zientko talks to his friend Drew Schimmel about life on the field. 

My name's Josh Zientko. I'm 17 years old, and I go to Centerville High School. I play football; I'm varsity number 38. My story is about the time that I really just didn't want to play football anymore. I was kind of over it.

One of my best games last year was against Lakota West. It was a cold rainy night, and I had two back to back sacks for a loss of yardage and a few other tackles as well. I played defensive end, and when I wanted to, I could really rock someone pretty hard.

I gave all my effort and I did everything I could, and I was among seven juniors that played varsity. Football taught me how to be a better man. I never take the sport for granted. I love it.

Every time I step on the field I have to remind myself to keep my head out of the play. I already have three concussions and another could end my football career. I got one my junior season, one in eighth grade, and a pretty good one freshman year where I literally didn't recognize my teammates.

A concussion is when you get hit in the head really hard, and it does damage to your brain oftentimes bruising it and with it comes trauma, headaches, dizziness. Sometimes you'll throw up. You might not remember what happened, but nevertheless it's got to be a pretty hard hit.

There was a period of time during the summer where I just wouldn't go to workouts. I pretty much decided I wasn't going to play. I was tired all the time. I never felt like I wanted to go out with my friends or even enjoy the summer. I already have had three concussions, and I didn't want to end up getting anymore.

The helmets are definitely better than what they used to be, ust technology and how evolution comes along. But old NFL players, now in their 50s and 60s, some of them have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is when the brain just kind of stops like working, and they can start to lose processes in their feet. It's pretty bad.

The summer I wanted to quit playing, my body was just sore all the time. I was tired, and I was just over the whole football aspect, but I couldn't let my brothers down and my family. So I just put my head down did the work.

The better judgment in me convince myself to go to the next workout. It was a hot dry summer morning. After practice Coach Rock pulled me aside and asked me why I wasn't coming. He said that I have real talent and that if I quit, I would definitely regret it. I went home and thought long and hard about it and decided to keep playing.

My parents were both just really concerned when I had the conbcussions, and they just want to make sure I was okay and good enough to play again.

I did this story because I think that if I would have actually quit football ,and no one sat me down and said something, that I probably definitely would regret it. And I'm really glad that I stuck with the sport because it's taught me how to grow and be a man. I think it's just one of those things when times get hard, when times get tough and you just really don't want to do something, you just have to have the discipline and the mental toughness to go back every day and keep going with it. 

Josh Zientko is a student at Centerville High School. Special Thanks to Tricia Rapoch, teacher for the Communication Arts Program at Centerville High School. Learn more at the school's website:  http://www.centerville.k12.oh.us/CHS  Dayton Youth Radio is supported by the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.  

Basim has worked in the media for over twenty years, as an A&R rep with Capitol Records and as a morning drive show producer. He is a filmmaker, media arts adjunct, and also a digital editing teacher in the Dayton Metro area. In 2012 he joined WYSO as a Community Voices Producer, and his work has earned him a “New Voices” Scholar award by (AIR) Association of Independents in Radio. Basim has produced the award-winning documentary Boogie Nights: A History of Funk Music in Dayton. He also served as Project Manager for ReInvention Stories, a multimedia docu-series produced by Oscar-winning filmmakers Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert. In 2020, Blunt received a PMJA (Public Media Journalists Association) award for his WYSO series Dayton Youth Radio, for which he is the founding producer and instructor. Basim spins an eclectic mix of funk, soul, and classic R&B every Thursday night from 8 p.m to 10 p.m., as host of the 91.3 FM music show Behind the Groove.