When Justin Conyers was 6 and kicking a soccer ball in the family‘s living room, he remembers damaging the television, resulting in a $300 bill. His parents were not pleased.
“They made me earn the money back,” he said. “They didn’t mind me kicking the ball in the house. Just be careful where you kick it.”
There also was the time he shattered a vase. You have to make risk vs. reward decisions when a young boy falls in love with a ball at his feet. Fortunately, Conyers became more accurate when the ball was in the house.
As an 18-year-old senior at Moorpark High, he has led the Musketeers to an 11-0 record. He has a scholarship awaiting him at UC Irvine and is a leading candidate to become valedictorian with his 4.8 grade-point average, having never received a grade other than A during four years at Moorpark.
All he has done in sports is play soccer since he was 5. His father, Jeremy, liked basketball growing up but decided he was too small at 5 feet 8, so he played soccer at Newbury Park. He thought Justin wouldn’t be tall, so soccer was the sport. Yet Justin has grown to be a giant in the family at 6 feet and 145 pounds.
A turning point for Justin came in 2014 when he was watching the World Cup on television. That was the year Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 to win the championship. He’d watch the games with friends and remembers Thomas Müller as the star player.
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“For some reason, that World Cup completely changed my perspective on soccer,” he said. “It showed me the emotion, the compassion people have. For some reason, I fell in love with the joy when people scored. It made me think this is really cool. I want to keep persevering and hoping to get to that point one day.”
Conyers has seven goals and seven assists this season. Moorpark coach Manny Galvez who played soccer at Granada Hills Kennedy and works full time in the Los Angeles Fire Department, marvels at Conyers’ ability to anticipate decisive moments in a game.
“Any time you have players who are playing two steps ahead of the game, they’re going to make decisions a lot better,” Galvez said. “He plays attacking center midfield. He’s like the quarterback of the team. He’s able to make our offensive transitions complete.”
Conyers started out in AYSO and has been playing club soccer since age 7. When he was 12, Conyers scored the winning goal to send his club team, Real So Cal, to the national championship.
Last week in a game against Camarillo, he scored the game’s only goal and showed his decision-making prowess.
“I can see plays before they happen, spaces opening up,” he said. “I had the ball around midfield and continued to dribble when no one was pressuring me. Some of my teammates were asking for the ball. I saw the defense didn’t know whether to pressure me or block them. They made decisions to go to my teammates. I shot it in.”
One of the joys in playing for Moorpark is that several teammates have been his friends for years. In their final year of high school, the neighborhood boys are trying to deliver a Southern Section Division 2 championship. Junior Jerry Ramos has proved to be a strong offensive contributor by scoring 14 goals.
“It’s pretty awesome playing with them,” Conyers said.
One of his teammates, Scott Corbin, is giving him a run for valedictorian. He also gets all A’s on his report card. Moorpark has eight players with grade-point averages of 4.0 or better.
Conyers plans to study computer science at UC Irvine, perhaps becoming a software engineer in the future. This semester, he’s taking Advanced Placement Statistics, AP Macro Economics, AP Computer Science Principles and AP Government.
It’s clear that Conyers has no intention of giving up kicking a soccer ball in his room, on the field or against a wall.
“Ever since I was young, I fell in love with the ball at my foot, training and playing with my friends. It’s the only sport I enjoy actually practicing,” he said.