Too Young  to Go Pro?

At 13, Olivia Moultrie has a Nike endorsement deal and a contract with the Portland Thorns women’s pro soccer team. Is she too young to devote her life to the game? Two Choices teen advisers weigh in.

YES

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.

NO

I spend my free time hanging out with my friends, blasting Led Zeppelin, or watching quite a bit of Netflix. Olivia Moultrie, on the other hand, probably spends the majority of her time developing her soccer skills. Her childhood may be unconventional, but that’s OK. It’s no reason for her to pass on a chance to go pro. In fact, it could turn her into one of the all-time greats.

Serena Williams is the perfect example of an athlete who specialized at an early age and was able to build a successful career. She began playing tennis when she was 4 years old and hasn’t stopped since. She attracted national attention as a kid, which landed her endorsement deals and invitations to prestigious tennis camps. She’s now a household name, with a net worth of $225 million to show for all her hard work. These achievements prove that not all child athletes burn out early.

Aside from citing burnout, people also assume that being a young athlete means giving up your childhood. That’s not the way I see it. I think Olivia has what most teens want—a plan for the future and a way to execute it. Figuring out your path in life as soon as possible might offset anxiety about schoolwork and college.

I haven’t made any decisions about my future. I’m interested in law school or engineering. I would feel better if I knew what I wanted to do, especially since my interests are so different. It’s difficult deciding which classes and extracurriculars to take when I haven’t chosen my path yet.

But Olivia has already found her passion and is even making money from it! Now she can concentrate on her goals. Having so much focus so young might make Olivia miss out on other career opportunities, but having no aim at all can be just as bad. It can cause you to be indecisive or willing to give up on things quickly.

Olivia’s commitment proves that the teenage years can be fluid when it comes to maturity. Since Olivia technically has already gone pro, it must mean that she believes that she can handle it.

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Skills Sheets (6)
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Skills Sheets (6)
Skills Sheets (6)
Skills Sheets (6)