Teenage professional football star poised for the ‘next step’ in equal opportunity in women’s sport

Teenage professional football star poised for the ‘next step’ in equal opportunity in women’s sport

  • 16-year-old Olivia Moultrie is the youngest professional soccer player in the United States.
  • The Portland Thorns midfielder is ready to take the “next step” in women’s fight for equality in sport.
  • She told Insider how her latest partnership aligns with her desire to “push the status quo forward.”

Olivia Moultrie has long been considered the future of women’s soccer in the United States.

Raised in California, the child prodigy went from an 11-year-old UNC conscript to a 13-year-old pro and two years later to become the youngest National Women’s Soccer League player and goalscorer in league history. Moultrie, who is now a midfielder for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, achieved many of her dreams before she was legally eligible for a driver’s license after a protracted legal battle over her eligibility to play.

Despite this, she is determined to “continue to push the status quo”.

Moultrie passes the ball for the Portland Thorns.

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

“I fight for a lot of those things and try to create equality, but right now I’m looking at the women’s national team and the athletes who fought for it before I entered this arena and what makes me want to keep it It makes me see how much they have already done for women’s football,” Moultrie told Insider. “That’s really what motivates me to push more because you still see what the men have and we’re not there yet.

“We all want to have the same opportunities, the same equipment, the same technology,” she added.

Her most recent partnership, an agreement to become the first female ambassador for sports technology company Playermaker, furthers this initiative to give female athletes access to resources on par with those men regularly receive. Only 6% of sports and exercise science studies are dedicated to women, but Playermaker – which monitors performance metrics for athletes via trackers attached to their shoes – is helping to reverse the script.

Olivia Moultrie wears Playermaker sensors on her shoes.

Moultrie wears Playermaker sensors on her shoes.

Courtesy of Playermaker

The brand is dedicated to making premium, personalized data accessible to athletes of all genders and skill levels without exorbitant price tags. For Moultrie, a self-confessed “nerd” about the science behind performance, the opportunity to work with Playermaker was a multi-level game.

“I feel very fortunate to start off by working with a brand whose product I really love… It’s so easy to just relate to what I do every day,” Moultrie said. “And then obviously what Playermaker is striving for in the world, what they want to achieve, to create equality and opportunity for men and women.

“For so long, technology like this has only been available to male professional athletes,” she added. “It’s extremely cool that they’re making it available to everyone. And obviously the data collected is extremely cool for everyone. So yeah, it’s definitely important to make that available to everyone and that’s what they’re doing.”

Olivia Moultrie dribbles for the Portland Thorns.

Moultrie (center) dribbles through the Houston Dash defense.

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

It doesn’t hurt that the product helps Moultrie with her own training. She began using Playermaker during off-season training at Portland Timbers’ Academy and recalls finding the data offerings “very intriguing right off the bat.”

Now she has her own gear that she wears during training sessions. They strap to the heels of their cleats and “never get in the way of touching or play.” After she cools down, she can access all sorts of information about her workout – including the differences between her left and right feet, her top speed and her total distance traveled – all on her phone.

“I come back, plug it back in and my entire session syncs up in just a few minutes and I can look at all the data,” Moultrie said. “It’s extremely easy for me, very little effort for me to put them on and train with them. But the rewards of seeing all the details and all the information they can give me are worth the three seconds it takes to put them on and turn on the sensors before each workout.”

olivia moltrie


Craig Mitchelldyer/ISI Photos/Getty Images

It all fits seamlessly into Moultrie’s lifelong pursuit of two admittedly ambitious goals: “Work towards equal rights and opportunities for women in sport” and “To be the best player in the world”. It’s safe to say that she’s ahead of schedule on both fronts, and that’s thanks to a care instilled in her from the start.

“My parents are pretty great at these things – I can give them a lot of credit for helping me understand what it’s like for me and just being realistic, if you want something you’ll have it to say you want it [and] You have to work for it,” Moultrie said. “You can’t just say, ‘I want to do this’ and then hope that everything will work out. So they were definitely big to me in terms of: [realizing] you have to work for what you want, and that’s the biggest part of it.”

Ever since she was a child, Moultrie’s parents encouraged her and her younger sisters to write down their goals to visualize “what you want your future to be like” and identify the intermediate steps needed to make that dream a reality.

Olivia Moultrie takes a free kick for the Portland Thorns.

Moultrie takes a free kick for the Thorns.

Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Next on the list, Moultrie says, she’s in the US youth national squad for August’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup alongside players four years her senior. She’s also working to take on a bigger role with the Thorns and soak up as much wisdom as possible from her veteran NWSL teammates.

And off the field, Moultrie is focused on bringing more visibility to the league. Later she hopes to “fight for more” in the players’ next collective bargaining agreement (GAV).

But that will take time. And while she’s uniquely motivated to keep moving forward, she’s not unrealistic.

“[I’m] I’m just trying to get as much experience as possible and play as many minutes as possible,” Moultrie said. “Because obviously I’m 16.”

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