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Soccer pro Olivia Moultrie on the pursuit of goals
Geoff Bennett: Time now for our weekend spotlight in 2019 13-year-old soccer phenom Olivia Moultrie, turned pro and inked a nine-year endorsement deal with Nike, but she's had to fight her way onto the field. It's been over a year since she signed with the Portland Thorns after suing to join the National Women's Soccer League, which requires players to at least be 18 years old to compete.
The men's league has no such age requirement. This year, Moultrie also became the youngest player in the league's history to score a goal at age 16. Olivia Moultrie joins us now thanks so much for being with us.
Olivia Moultrie: Yes, of course, I'm really excited.
Geoff Bennett: And as I understand it, when you were all of seven years old, you sat down and you wrote out exactly what you wanted to do with your life. You created a goal and then created a plan to achieve that goal. How's it going? Are you sticking to your plan?
Olivia Moultrie: Yes, I mean, the plan was -- when I was seven, it was easy. It was a little like, step by step plan. I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that. And then you know, I'm going to reach my goals. And it's going to be a nice, perfect little segue into everything. And that's definitely not what it has been.
But you know, the goal has remained the same. And maybe the process has changed a little bit, but we're getting closer every single day. And so yeah, it's cool to think that that goal has stayed the same even from when I was seven.
Geoff Bennett: Lots of kids start playing soccer at the age of six or seven very few in fact no other female athletes have done what you've done. What makes you different?
Olivia Moultrie: Honestly, I think that just my love for the game and in terms of just what I've done on and off the field, I think it's just my love has contributed to a lot of hard work and me just wanting to go after it every single day. And when I created that goal, it was like, OK, now I just had such a, you know, strong will to want to accomplish it, that it just went into how I worked for it every single day.
And I think, you know, that's mostly what I can attribute any success I've had to that and just wanting it and going for it and setting those goals and being willing to, you know, go after them every day.
Geoff Bennett: You became a professional soccer player at the age of 13. That was after committing to the University of North Carolina at the age of 11. And then backing out so that you could go pro, but your family had to file a lawsuit in order for you to play with the National Women's Soccer League. Why was that lawsuit necessary?
Olivia Moultrie: Basically, you know, the gist of it was just the rules in place. I wasn't 18 yet. And, you know, I felt that I was ready, Portland felt that I was ready. And you know, they backed us the whole time, which of course, I am truly grateful for that. And it was just a matter of, you know, equality in terms of opportunity for men and women, you know, the men didn't have their warmth eliminated. And I felt like that was wrong. And I would have wanted anyone in my position, you know, to fight for that. So I'm happy that I was able to, and I'm happy that we don't have that problem anymore.
Geoff Bennett: Your teammates who I imagine were 10, 15 years older, how did they respond to you? Were they receptive?
Olivia Moultrie: They were extremely supportive of me. At one point, in court, a bunch of my teammates showed up for me, you know, to support me through that time, and continued asking me while I was going through the process, how it was going, what it was going to look like, was going to be able to play, when it was going to happen.
So yes, they were extremely supportive of me. And I'm extremely grateful for that relationship, and just really feeling like a big part of the team during that time. And then obviously, officially, being able to be a team member was a really exciting moment for me. So yes, it was great.
Geoff Bennett: You have two younger sisters, is that right?
Olivia Moultrie: Yes.
Geoff Bennett: I would imagine that your soccer career is pretty much you know, all-consuming for your family. What's your family life like? How do your parents manage all this?
Olivia Moultrie: They are definitely busy. It definitely helpful I got my driver's license a couple months ago that go, you know, took a big load off of them. But they -- my entire family has been extremely supportive and flexible. And every time, you know, since moving to Portland, they all came with me. And my sisters have, you know, been a huge part of just supporting me and being at everything, you know, every club game and tournament, I can remember they were there.
So were my parents willing to drive me to everything. And you know, they've had to give up some things for that. And you know, I'm eternally grateful for their support and willingness to get me where I needed to go. And now, you know, they get to be a little bit more hands off. Now that I'm a professional, and it's kind of just, that's my life and my job now. But yes, they were busy. And now they get a little bit more time to take care of my other two sisters. But they've been extremely supportive. And I'm really grateful for that.
Geoff Bennett: You are, as we mentioned, the youngest player to ever play and score in the National Women's Soccer League game. What was that moment like when you scored your first goal?
Olivia Moultrie: I mean, honestly, I was really excited inside, even if it didn't really look like that. I've rewatched it a couple of times. And everyone's like you didn't even celebrate you just kind of jogged. And, you know, for me, I hope that's one of many. And that was kind of, you know, just a process and a moment within the process that I'm like, OK, great. I'm extremely excited that it happened. And now it's kind of on to the next, you know, because that this is just the beginning, I hope for me, and I want to accomplish a lot. And so of course, I was excited when it happened. And also just felt an urgency, you know, a want for more.
Geoff Bennett: Who were some of your favorite players, who were the people that you look up to on the field?
Olivia Moultrie: It's hard for me to, you know, pick a favorite because it's like, well, I get to play with them. Now, you know, I get to learn from them face to face right there, you know, six yards away. And it's just super cool. And it's helped me grow a lot. Obviously, now we're competing for a championship, and I'm a part of that. And that's extremely exciting. And just, you know, another part of the journey.
Geoff Bennett: Yes. I have to ask, though, at 16 I mean, do you ever feel like you're missing out on foundational experiences that other people your age get to have?
Olivia Moultrie: To be completely honest what I'm doing is my dream. You know, I've wanted to be a professional player since I was seven years old. So to me, it's like, I'm not missing out on anything. I'm just getting the opportunities that I've always wanted. And I'm living the life that I've always wanted to have like soccer is what I love the most, you know, other than my family, we're talking a job and career I want to do.
Geoff Bennett: Priorities, yeah.
Olivia Moultrie: Yes, exactly. And this is that and so I really wouldn't trade that for anything and I love being able to chase after my goals every day and do it in this environment.
Geoff Bennett: What's your ultimate goal Olivia?
Olivia Moultrie: Ultimately, I you know, I want to be the best player in the world. And obviously, that's a big thing to say. And that can encompass a lot of things, I think. But for me, it's just really fun to feel like I have these people supporting me and I get to chase after that every day and you know, hopefully ultimately accomplish that.
Geoff Bennett: Yes, you are well on your way. Olivia Moultrie, thanks so much for being with us.
Olivia Moultrie: Thank you.