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Change in mindset produced ‘Moore’ goals

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Published December 21. 2018 02:20PM

He didn’t play high school soccer as a freshman. He scored two goals and had five assists in his sophomore year. He scored two goals with six assists in his junior year.

During his extraordinary senior season, however, Zion Moore of Pleasant Valley scored 19 goals and assisted on 13 others.

Moore’s breakout season for the Bears earned him the 2018 Times News Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year award.

So what happened that resulted in his overwhelming improvement?

Hard work and dedication.

“I changed my mindset during the offseason before my senior year, “ said Moore. “I want to play professional soccer someday, so I had to get much better. I practiced my game every day. I went to the gym to get stronger and I prepared myself mentally to be able to face adversity on the field.”

Moore began to play soccer when he was 7 after watching his father kick the ball competitively years before.

“We had soccer balls everywhere and I’d always have one with me, even in the house,” said Moore.

He found that the game came naturally to him and he was so good that he spent several successful years playing travel soccer for Pocono Elite and then Lehigh Valley United.

“In my first game ever, my grandparents came from Trinidad to watch me play and I scored two goals,” recalled Moore. “Then, in my first game for LVU, I scored the hat trick.”

As an eighth grader, Moore practiced with the Bears’ varsity team.

But during his freshman year at Pleasant Valley, he opted not to play high school soccer and instead played at the academy level in travel tournaments.

That changed heading into his sophomore year at PV.

“The travel tournaments got to be too much,” said Moore. “I was traveling five days a week so when I became a sophomore, I decided to play for my school.”

He found the game much harder at the high school level.

As a kid, he could run the field with the ball and score almost at will. Now, the players were older, bigger, faster and more physical. Moore had to work hard to meet the challenge.

“I improved my composure,” he said. “I became more mature in how I played soccer, and the knowledge I gained about the game kept me level-headed so I could be more relaxed with moving the ball.”

But the mental preparation wasn’t the only area where Moore’s game improved. He also was better prepared physically to play this season.

“I came to realize that soccer at this level is much more of a contact sport,” said Moore, “So I had to adjust to the physical style of play.”

Pleasant Valley head coach Alex Wunder said Moore was his go to guy, especially when the game was on the line.

“Many of his goals were difference makers,” Wunder said. “Zion’s technical skill, his speed, and his striking power were the best I’ve seen at Pleasant Valley in the last 10 years. He’s a gifted athlete and a wonderful student, too.”

Moore’s outstanding success came despite the fact that he received special attention from opposing defenses.

“Zion was targeted by every team we played this year,” said Wunder. “Coaches believed that if you stopped him, you beat Pleasant Valley.

“But Zion really was never shut down completely, and when he was double teamed, our other players were then left open for opportunities to score.”

Rather than have Moore position himself within a specific area of the field, Wunder allowed him to roam throughout the offensive zone.

“He’s left footed, but equally deadly with his right foot when he’s attacking the net,” said Wunder.

Moore was also determined to become a leader on his team this season. He did it with his relentless energy on the field, and also by being vocal off the field.

“Leadership is not just what you do in the game,” said Moore. “It’s also about helping to clean up the bench area after the game and helping teammates do the right thing, especially when nobody is watching you do it.”

Moore, whose favorite subject is Calculus, is carrying a high grade point average, and combined with his achievements in soccer, is attracting interest from D1 colleges.

Anyone who is familiar with Moore knows he’s doing a lot of things right as he prepares himself to play the game he so loves at the next level.

But, Moore also knows that he didn’t arrive at this point in his soccer career without plenty of help.

“I want to thank everyone, starting with my coaches down to the people who took me to practice when I needed a ride, for their help in getting to me to this level,” said Moore.

With gratitude in his heart and success in his game, it’s a pretty good bet that “Moore” good news is soon to come for this year’s TN Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

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