Watching from the sideline as his older brother’s soccer team practiced, Sjon Conners, then 6 years old, thought to himself, ‘I really want to be out there.’
Conners would eventually work his way into practices with his brother’s U10 team, getting a feel for the game, developing his skills and in the process falling in love with the sport of soccer.
“Well, I usually dream about soccer,” Conners said. “Then I wake up and go shoot on the goal and practice. I just really like soccer. It’s fun playing it. It’s fun when you win and play good.”
That year Conners went on to win the local Elks Soccer Shootout in the U8 division but didn’t stop at the local competition. Conners then went on to win the California Elks Soccer Shootout in the U8 division. He was just 6 years old.
But competing with and against kids older than himself has been nothing if not normal for Conners.
When Conners was 7 years old, he was on a Gold Country U10 Metro team; at 8 he played on the Placer United Gold U9 club team; at 9 he competed with a Gold Country U13 Metro team; by 10 he was a key member of the U13 Loomis Cosmos competition team; at 11 Conners joined the California Blues U13 Premier Elite competition club team; and most recently he was asked to join the US Olympic Development Program.
What has allowed Conners to excel beyond his age is his dedication, passion and drive, his mother, Lilja Conners, said.
Sjon practices four times a week, three times with his club team and once with the Olympic Development team, and then there are games on the weekends. Not including drive time to Rocklin and Modesto, Sjon logs nearly 20 hours of organized soccer per week, and that doesn’t include the time he spends dribbling and practicing around the house. On the subject of dribbling, Sjon said he can keep the ball bouncing on his knees up to 3,000 consecutive times and dribble with his feet 2,000 consecutive times.
“He never complains, he never doesn’t want to go to practice,” Lilja Conners said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s basically all he wants to do. He never turns down soccer.”
Between Sjon and his older brother, Romeo, 15, who plays on the California Blues U15 team, Lilja said the family spends a lot of time and money on soccer.
“Basically every cent goes to that, and we never have enough to make ends meet,” Lilja said. “Its definitely a choice, a big choice for us, but it’s what they really want to do.”
Sjon, a former forward, has now found a home as a center defender, a position he said he excels at.
“One reason I do well is because I’m big,” Sjon said.
“I’m good as a center defender because I am big and I can body up to the attackers and strip the ball. I think I have a good mind set, I’m a thinker, I can pass well, and I can think ahead of the play.”
With all the soccer that is scheduled, Sjon said he still can’t get enough and jumps onto the field at Samba whenever he can.
Family vacations can’t even slow his passion. This past summer, the Conners made a trip to Iceland, Lilja Conner’s home country, where Sjon managed to work his way into some practices and even a game.
“It was hard to understand the coach because I don’t speak Icelandic, and the refs don’t call nearly as much.”
Sjon was also taken aback by the popularity of the sport in Iceland compared to its popularity in the states.
“Here the gates to soccer fields are always locked, but fields were always open there.”
For the immediate future, Sjon, still in sixth grade, said he will continue to play on the California Blues team and look to climb the ranks in the Olympic Developmental Program.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.