13-year-old Latter-day Saint soccer phenom turns pro

Scan the roster of names sponsored by that iconic sportswear brand with the Swoosh logo and you’ll spot some of the world’s top athletes — LeBron James, Serena Williams, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Now you can add a 13-year-old Latter-day Saint girl to that list.

Soccer phenom Olivia Moultrie — a Beehive from Southern California — is officially a pro after recently inking an endorsement deal with Nike. She also signed with Wasserman, a sports and entertainment agency that represents fellow Latter-day Saint Tony Finau and several other A-list athletes.

No surprise, the news of a junior high-age teen stepping away from the amateur ranks has snagged headlines.

The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and USA Today are just a few of the globally read publications that have filed stories about the lifelong Church member.

Even if you’re not a soccer fan, you may recognize Olivia’s face. She made a cameo appearance in a Nike commercial that aired during the recent Academy Awards and featured Serena Williams, Olympic champion gymnast Simone Biles — and even Latter-day Saint youth football sensation Sam Gordon.

“It’s been super exciting for me,” Olivia told the Church News, adding, “I’m just ready for us to start this new chapter.”

Olivia first made news in the soccer community a couple of years ago when, at 11, she verbally committed to play at the University of North Carolina, an elite women’s college soccer program led by legendary coach (and Church convert) Anson Dorrance.

She has also represented the United States in international competition and has trained with top-level boys at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.

Olivia and her family recently moved to Oregon to be closer to the Portland Thorns organization of the National Women’s Soccer League to continue her development, although she is not a rostered member of the team.

A photo of Olivia Moultrie while in France in March 2018.
A photo of Olivia Moultrie while in France in March 2018. Photo: Screenshot from Olivia Moultrie's Instagram

Take a peek at the many online videos showcasing Olivia’s foot skills and soccer IQ. It’s obvious that her abilities stretch far beyond her years. But the affable teenager is unusually mature in other ways. In interviews, she articulately responds to questions and comfortably shares her thoughts on her goals, her family and her religious beliefs.

She appreciates her family and faith keeping her anchored at an unusual moment in her life.

“We always say in our family — ‘It’s faith. Then family. Then soccer.’ That’s what means more to me than anything. That’s what always comes first, and I just try to be the best person I can possibly be.”

Olivia comes from an athletic family. Both of her parents competed in intercollegiate sports. Father, K.C., played basketball, while mother, Jessica, was a college soccer player. Some sort of ball is always bouncing about the Moultrie household.

Sports help define the family, said K.C. “We all love to compete. ... It’s just a part of us.”

Olivia is the oldest of three Moultrie girls. Eleven-year-old Gabriella loves to play basketball while Bella, 7, usually has a soccer ball at her feet.

Olivia Moultrie, center, with teammates at the SoCal Academy in June 2018.
Olivia Moultrie, center, with teammates at the SoCal Academy in June 2018. Photo: Screenshot from Olivia Moultrie's Instagram

Big sister Olivia started playing soccer when she was four, in her local youth league, and learned early to “make friends” with the ball. “And even from a young age, she was very fast and aggressive,” remembered her father.

By the time she was 9, her skill and dedication had snagged the attention of the hotbed youth soccer community in Southern California. Before long, she was playing with older athletes to challenge her advanced skills and facilitate her growth.

The Moultries realized their daughter has a special talent and endeavored to support Olivia in the best possible manner. With each new milestone in her development, K.C. and Jessica sought to determine what was the best path to follow.

“There was a lot of thought and prayer that went into these decisions,” said K.C. “I know that might seem weird to people, but it was that important to us. It was that important to her.”

They have also watched Olivia closely, looking for any sign that her enthusiasm for soccer was not keeping pace with her skill.

A photo of a young Olivia Moultrie on a place with her father K.C.
A photo of a young Olivia Moultrie on a place with her father K.C. Photo: Screenshot from Olivia Moultrie's Instagram

“Every day, the second or third thing out of her mouth is, ‘Hey Dad, where are we training today?' ... From early on, (soccer) was all she wanted to do.”

K.C. added that he and his wife were both successful college athletes. “We’re not the (type) of people who need to live our athletic goals through our kids.”

Olivia may be a focused young woman when it’s time to, say, finish her homework or compete with other players who are often several years older. But mom and dad say when she steps off the playing field, she’s a full-fledged 13-year-old.

“The best times for Liv are when she is with her sisters; when she can be silly. She loves them and they love her. As parents, those are our favorite moments,” said K.C.

Even as Olivia navigates largely uncharted waters for a young athlete, the family plans to draw upon their faith and family bond for ongoing direction. They rely upon prayer and the gospel for strength and stability.

“We are at a time and place with our family where we need those blessings. … We know our Heavenly Father will hear our prayers and answer them and put us in a position where we can make good decisions for our kids,” said K.C.

Olivia Moultrie with a friend at a national youth division soccer camp.
Olivia Moultrie with a friend at a national youth division soccer camp. Photo: Screenshot from Olivia Moultrie's Instagram

Being a Latter-day Saint girl is a bit of a curiosity in the hyper-competitive world of elite soccer. Most of the people Olivia trains or competes with don’t have a full understanding of her faith. That offers unique opportunities.

“We tell Olivia, 'You have two responsibilities: First, to love and be accepting and treat everyone with kindness. And second, never be afraid of what you believe.'”

No surprise, Olivia’s decision to forgo college, sign the Nike endorsement and follow an untraditional route prompts different opinions across social media and other platforms. And yes, said K.C., there has been some negativity. But most recognize Olivia is a young woman who happens to have an unusual talent and have been supportive and excited for her success.

“The outpouring of support, and how people have received this, has been amazing and positive.”

Meanwhile, Olivia is simply excited for the possibilities that await. “I just want to keep developing and getting better every single day.”

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