Jon Sundermann has seen a lot of special soccer players during his long coaching career – including his son Blake who played at Skyline. But sometimes, even with a team of special players, one or two stand out.
Jhustin Mitchenor stands out – and not just for his ability to kick, pass and shoot a soccer ball. It’s much more than that.
“We have a team full of hard working, great attitude, I’ll do it kids,” says Sundermann, now in his second season as head coach at Pioneer. “Jhustin has an air of tenacity about him that says, ‘I’ll get it done’ that shows great sportsmanship and dedication to the team concept.”
And while Mitchenor is one of the star players and team leaders, he also is one of the first to help move goals, pickup equipment or do whatever is needed.
“He really demonstrates quiet leadership,” Sundermann says. “He’ll do whatever it takes to help the team.”
Last year was a perfect example of his selflessness.
“He played the entire season last year at outside back,” Sundermann says. “Come to find out after a bit in midfield this year, and finally at forward, that he plays forward for his club team and led them in scoring. When I asked him about it, he smiled, shrugged and said, ‘I just want to play … wherever you think the team needs me.”
As Mitchenor tells it, it was just his way of getting on the pitch and contributing.
“Last year was an interesting year for me since I played out of position,” he says. “I played as a center back/right back. Playing out of position wasn’t due to the coach making the decision to play me there. It was because I saw during the tryout stages that the varsity team was lacking in defenders, so I decided to step into that defensive role.”
Jhustin, the son of Cheryl Mitchenor & Michael Searcy, started playing Rec & Ed soccer at the age of 5. He was playing travel soccer by the time he was 8 years old.
“I started playing because it was/is a sport where anyone from around the world can play together without knowing the same language,” he said. “I enjoy the competitiveness of the sport and the team aspect.”
Mitchenor has played with Liverpool FC International Academy the past three years. “The development system at Liverpool has taught me a lot about the way in which the game should be technically played and how to play with intensity,” he said.
And Mitchenor plays the game the right way and clearly with plenty of intensity. He is one of those players who stands out on the pitch as soon as the whistle blows and has been a team leader on and off the field for Pioneer this season.
The senior forward leads the team into Districts this week after scoring six goals with three assists during the regular season. The Pioneers were one of the top teams in the SEC Red Division this year along with Saline and Skyline – two teams also in their District.
“I think this year’s team has been successful because of the overall bond and chemistry of the squad and the leadership of Coach Sundermann,” Mitchenor says. “Coach Sundermann is excellent at pushing the team to perform at our best and sincerely cares about each player on the team. Everyone on the squad knows that this team is very talented, so we make it a priority to play and train at the highest level.”
Mitchenor says the team’s goal is to first win Districts and take it from there.
“The key for the team to win Districts is to keep the high intensity and work rate, while also keeping our heads in matches that might get intense and physical,” he says.
Sounds like they have the right person leading the way.