Younger me wanted to be an astronaut. I even asked my grandparents to take me to the moon for my birthday. Then for a while I wanted to be an interior designer. Now I’m thinking I want to explore science—but I’m still keeping my eyes open for other opportunities.
Olivia Moultrie won’t have the same freedom I’ve had to change my mind about my passions and interests. By making a big commitment so early, she’s locking herself into soccer for the rest of her life.
Going pro in a sport is like starting a job. You have to be 100 percent committed and plan your life around much bigger responsibilities. These aren’t things any 13-year-old should have to think about. Your teen years are a time for experiencing new things. You should be able to mess up, start over, and discover yourself.
That’s exactly what my friend Sophie was able to do. She had been a dancer since she was 4 years old and dedicated almost every afternoon to it. Then, in seventh grade, she joined track and had to cut back on her dance schedule. Three years later, she still runs track and has left dance in her past.
What happens if, like Sophie, Olivia finds something besides soccer that she’s passionate about? A professional contract could make it impossible for her to switch gears. The public eye will always be on Olivia, so her mistakes will be magnified. That kind of scrutiny might place her under too much pressure and make soccer feel like a chore.
In addition to the danger of burning out from dedicating her life entirely to soccer, Olivia might suffer other consequences later in life. An Ohio State study found that kids who devote themselves to a single sport at a young age are more likely to be physically inactive as adults. And according to a Loyola University study, youth athletes who specialize in one sport are as much as 93 percent more likely to be injured than kids who play several sports.
Olivia clearly lives and breathes soccer right now, and she might have the skills to go pro at 13, but her decision may come at a high cost later on. There’s always a chance she’ll look back when she’s an adult and regret not living her childhood and teen years to the fullest.