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Fei Fabiola Francesca “Fifi” Garcia, age 11, has nearly as many nicknames as she does trophies.

Her soccer coach, Rob Rennie, has crowned her the “Queen of the Magical Fairies,” a title she inherited from USWNT midfielder Ashley Sanchez, whom Rennie also coached. In the same breath, however, he describes her as a “tropical bird,” a unique player so talented he just has to get out of her way sometimes. Other nicknames on the field include “Final Boss” and “Slasher,” for the way she streaks across the pitch. Or maybe those don’t quite cover it either. . . .

“She’s like an assassin, really,” Rennie says. “Sometimes even the other coaches are applauding, like, That’s a great goal.”

At home, she’s “Super Fif.” Her dad, Hodari Garcia, also describes her as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She’s a straight-A student—a grounded, artistic girl who loves to paint nature scenes. When a sports trophy is on the line, however, her demeanor changes.

Now she can add one more title to her bio: 2023 Sports Illustrated Kids SportsKid of the Year. In an age in which two-way players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Shohei Ohtani have redefined what an athlete can do in one sport, Fifi Garcia has pushed the boundaries of how good a kid can be at multiple games. After all, she’s not just content to be pretty good at a few different sports. 

“If teams see that she’s entered a tournament, they drop out,” Hodari says. “Her team has to wait to enter tournaments last.”

If that sounds like the overexuberant bragging of a parent, consider Fifi’s track record. In August, she led her SoCal Blues team to a title in their age group at the Surf Cup in San Diego. She topped two national futsal competitions. She won the gold in the 400 meters at the AAU West Coast Nationals. Her softball team, the Corona Angels, reached the semis of the Alliance Fastpitch National Championships.

And that was just summer vacation 2023! Back in school at Saints Simon & Jude in Huntington Beach, California, she plays volleyball and basketball—on top of all those other sports. Even at just 11, Fifi is unusual for the number of sports she plays and the number she plays really well. Go figure her favorite athlete of all time is Bo Jackson. (She likes Deion Sanders, too.) Fifi has a goal to become a two-sport star like Jackson, playing both soccer and softball at UCLA. The only impediment to that goal may be that she is already too good at soccer.

Eight years ago, Olivia Moultrie played for Rennie’s Blues squad. A year later, at 11, she accepted a full soccer scholarship from the University of North Carolina. Two years later, at 13, she went pro and signed with an agent. Then at 15, she sued the National Women’s Soccer League over their minimum player age of 18. At 16, she became the youngest goal scorer in the NWSL history and at 17 their youngest champion.

One difference between Moultrie and Fifi at the same age, according to Rennie, is that Fifi has more talent with the ball, an uncommon combination of speed and skill for her level. Maybe the only thing between Fifi and a meteoric rise similar to that of Moultrie or Angel City FC’s Alyssa Thompson will be her defensive effort as she gets older. Fifi, however, doesn’t even coast like other kids. Her dad describes a typical situation: Fifi looks disengaged for 15 minutes. Then, all of a sudden, when the defense has backed off her a little, she punishes them with six or seven goals.

Go figure that a player who spends her time off the pitch painting would befuddle opponents by refusing to play in straight lines. Her skill, creativity, and permanent smile remind her coach of Ronaldinho. That also figures. Fifi shares Ronaldinho's childhood recipe for success: older siblings and lots of futsal.

Starting Small

Fifi began with her local Lil’ Kickers chapter at 18 months old. When she turned 2, her parents signed her up for a futsal program at the Boys and Girls Club for 5-year-olds. A few years later, T-ball started. Fifi’s parents, Hodari and Janice, weren’t trying to create a future superstar. Fifi has three older brothers—11, eight, and seven years her elder—who all played sports. Finding a practice for Fifi to attend just made logistical sense. Or, as her dad describes it: Sports were the cost of being in the family.

She seems happy to pay. Fifi’s brothers weren’t as interested in soccer as she was, but they taught her to juggle the ball, great practice for futsal’s harder surface and smaller ball, which demand more control than soccer. Mom taught her art. The skill and creativity that now make her so dangerous on the field were nurtured at a very young age.

When she arrived at her first SoCal Blues practice at age 4, however, things didn’t start smoothly. There were tears in her eyes at one point. (Hodari says they had just woken her up from a nap, and she was a little grumpy.) The coaches won her over with some candy, however. Then Fifi won them over with her play. Now Fifi has friends of all ages in the SoCal Blues organization. She practices with the older girls sometimes and doesn’t look at all out of place.

“Soccer is my favorite right now,” Fifi says. “I really have the most fun with it. It’s a nonstop game.”

Seemingly the only thing Fifi can’t do is be at two places at once. (No wonder she picked teleportation as her go-to superpower in our “Favorite Things” survey.) On Mondays, she’s got volleyball practice or a track meet. Tuesdays are volleyball followed by soccer practice. Wednesdays are volleyball, track, then batting practice at home. Thursdays have two soccer practices. And Fridays are track again.

“This year, she has really been in the weight room,” says her track coach, Scoey Peters. “Right now I know she’ll take top three when we get to Junior Olympics coming in the end of July.”

Peters calls Fifi “an extreme competitor” and cites her medal performances in the 100, 200, 400, and 800 meters. Since she was born in her mother’s native Taiwan, Fifi could one day compete for the island country in track and field at the Olympics. This summer, she ran the 400 meters in 1:05.30 at the AAU West Coast Nationals. Fifi captioned a recent social media post of her weight training, “Getting ready to go under a minute 400m.” (The Taiwanese record in the event, set in 1970, is 52.74 seconds.)

The Olympics seem both far away and imminent for a kid like Fifi. Pro soccer teams have definitely noticed her already: In 2021, Angel City followed her at a practice for a “Rising Star” video they posted on their social media channels. So varied are her interests and feats that this article is almost over and it hasn’t even begun to cover her exploits as an infielder and outfielder in softball, probably her second-best sport.

Surely, however, this will not be the last time Fei Fabiola Garcia graces the pages of this and other magazines. Fifi’s parents are content to let her lead the way in what she wants to do next. And we’re eager to see where she ends up—even if she ultimately decides to focus on her art. (After all, Illustrated is in our name.)

Whichever sports she picks, though, expect her to attack them with an unusual blend of creativity and skill. And when a trophy is on the line, expect her to win. 

Photographs by Kohjiro Kinno.