If sports are indeed 75 percent mental (as coaches often stress), then Nicole Archibald Spencer is 75 percent perfect.
The senior soccer forward/midfielder puts in the work both on the field and in the classroom, earning excellent marks from coaches and professors alike.
“I heard from somewhere or someone a theory that if you excel in one area, and then put all that effort into other areas, you’ll excel in those too,” Spencer said. “I’ve always prided myself in being a student first and an athlete later.”
That grades-before-goals mindset has earned her athletic-academic distinctions, including two consecutive fall Academic All-Conference honors. Spencer’s intellect translates well onto the field, where Wolverines head coach Brent Anderson lauds her soccer IQ.
“She really sees the field well,” Anderson says. “She’s such a smart player, and that definitely comes from how well she performs in class. It’s a joy watching her play.”
Success breeds even more expectations, and Spencer has admitted to sometimes overthinking during the course of a match. Both Spencer and Andersen mentioned the need for her to make the game easier, not harder.
“The hardest thing is keeping the game of soccer simple,” Spencer said. “You can always make different angles, runs or passes. There’s so much you can add to make the game beautiful. Not only with soccer, but with life in general, it’s the simple things that are hard to keep remembering.”
Ironically, Spencer’s soccer beginnings are relatively simple, if spectacular. The father of one of her friends coached a soccer team and casually invited Spencer to play in a match. At the start of the second half, and with his team in command with a 2-0 lead, the coach put Spencer in the game.
Spencer, then 12 years old, proceeded to punch in six goals in the half.
“From that moment, I loved every minute of it,” Spencer said. “I just fell in love with the game.”
The studious striker with simple beginnings still finds joy in the innocent scenes of the game. When asked what moment of her career first comes to her mind, Spencer is more apt to recall simplistic settings any observer could witness.
“I love playing for a crowd,” Spencer said. “Playing in front of my family, specifically, is great. Scoring is a huge thrill.”
With her ability to verbally paint the scenes of the game, it doesn’t come as a shock that Spencer is a Visual Arts major. Her preferences in sports and studies carry a common thread – that of being a participant, not an observer.
“I love anything hands on, anything I can get up and get involved in,” Spencer said. “I didn’t ever like the idea of sitting in a classroom, taking a test and listening to a lecture. Anything beautiful, anything eye-catching, that’s what I want to do.”
Beautiful and eye-catching. Anyone who watches Spencer (one goal, three shots-on-goal so far this season) and the Wolverines sees those things in action – and likely hands out a mental A+ when their work is finished.