Olivia Moultrie is a 13-year-old soccer standout who accepted a scholarship from North Carolina when she was 11 and has been competing with boys for the past several years.
And now she’s decided to forgo a career at a college powerhouse — the traditional route for female soccer phenoms of yesteryear — in favor of a trailblazing path that’s drawing national attention: Turning pro.
Moultrie signed a multiyear endorsement deal with Nike this week, according to The New York Times, and was featured in a commercial narrated by Serena Williams, “Dream Crazier,” that aired during the Academy Awards on Sunday. She also starred in a web-based ad about herself aimed at reaching her younger generation in the sport.
As a result of the Nike deal, Moultrie isn’t just passing up on playing for the Tar Heels, where soccer legend Mia Hamm went. She also cannot compete at the official high school or club level.
Moultrie also has signed with sports agency Wasserman Media Group. Her agent, Spencer Wadsworth, told the New York Times that her Nike deal is worth more money than a four-year scholarship she could receive at a top university.
“It’s just a shift in women’s sports,” Wadsworth said. “You see it more and more now where women’s soccer is catching up to the men’s side, and there’s more opportunities for them.”
Moultrie has competed in the nation’s highest level of youth girl’s soccer — the U.S. Soccer Development Academy — and started getting homeschooled in the fifth grade, according to the New York Times, so she could train stateside and in Europe; she’ll be eligible to play for U.S. national teams at her age level. The Oregonian reported that Moultrie is poised to join the developmental academy of the Portland Thorns of National Women’s Soccer League, even though she doesn’t currently hit the league’s age requirement.
“I tell her all the time, ‘Nobody cares that you’re the best at 12,’” her father, K.C. Moultrie, told the New York Times. “If you’re not the best at 17 or 18, nobody’s going to care. You’re going to be one of those child actors that nobody cares about. You’re going to be Macaulay Culkin.”