Jasmyne Spencer’s first steps in her soccer career were taken on the fields of her hometown, Bay Shore. Today, she plies her craft professionally far from home, be it with the Orlando Pride of the NWSL or down under with Australia’s Canberra United.
A graduate of Bay Shore High School, Spencer, 26, played her college ball with much acclaim at the University of Maryland before turning pro in 2012. Prior to college, Spencer was a standout with several Long Island youth teams including Albertson Fury, Bay Shore HotShots and Brentwood Hurricanes.
As a fan, she cites her favorite current players and Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (as she said, “Who says you need to choose between the two as they’re both amazing”), idolized Thierry Henry and cheers for Premier League side Arsenal and Major League Soccer’s New York City FC.
Recently, Spencer spoke with SleterFC.com about her Long Island playing days, the challenges she has faced during her professional career and the motivating factors that continue to push her forward.
SleterFC.com: When growing up on Long Island, you started playing soccer at a young age. At what point did you think about playing Division I college ball and possibly someday going pro?
Jasmyne Spencer: I’ve always loved soccer so for me playing professionally was always a dream. I can remember watching the USWNT win the ’99 World Cup and thinking that’s going to be me one day. As for college I didn’t think about that until I had to actually start the recruiting process. At that time there was no longer a professional league in the U.S. so college soccer was the end all and be all for women. It was a headache trying to decide which school was best for me, but I think it all worked out how it was suppose to in the end.
SFC.com: What moments during your youth playing days on Long Island stand out the most?
JS: I have a handful of favorite youth moments, but I guess the most memorable one would be playing in the Region 1 playoffs with Albertson Fury. It was the final game and both of our keepers got injured in regulation time, so a field player had to go in goal for overtime, and then my coach asked me to go in goal for the penalty shootout. I wound up saving two PKs and scoring the game winning PK. That might have been the most wild game I’ve ever experienced.
SFC.com: How often do you get back to Long Island?
JS: I try to get back to Long Island as often as possible. My whole family still lives there so even if it’s just for a weekend it’s good to pop back in and spend some time with my loved ones.
SFC.com: As you moved through the youth ranks in Bay Shore, Brentwood and Albertson, who were some of the people that had the biggest impact on your career?
JS: I had the pleasure of having some great youth coaches, starting with my dad and then my Brentwood trainer, Nelson Bonilla. He’s Bolivian and his knowledge of the game was unbelievable. Nelson definitely helped spark my initial passion for the game. When I transitioned to playing in premier youth leagues my coach Paul Riley absolutely took my game to the next level. He’s the reason I was able to play Division I soccer, and ultimately professionally. Of course, I cannot forget my two older brothers. They were and to this very day are my best training partners. They push me day in and day out whether it’s running technical sessions and fitness with me in the off season or helping me analyze my game film during the season.
SFC.com: Your professional career has taken a number of twists and turns in the U.S. and Australia. What has been the biggest motivating factor for you to keep moving forward and continue to seek new opportunities?
JS: Through all the ups and downs of my career I’d have to say my belief in myself and determination has kept me pushing forward. Quitting has never been an option to me, and so every time I’m presented with a new obstacle I just dig a little deeper and find a way to overcome it. I want to be the best I can so when I look back on my time as a professional athlete I have absolutely no regrets just amazing memories.
SFC.com: Do you feel as if you have found a home in Orlando?
JS: As an athlete in general you know your time is never guaranteed in this profession, especially as a female when the opportunities are few and far between. I always try and completely immerse myself in my environment. I’ve felt at home in every city I’ve had the pleasure of playing in. I don’t make millions of dollars, I do it because I love the sport and as a result the experience is what you make of it. I would say that Orlando as a city by far as been the most embracing and supportive place I’ve ever played. There wasn’t one day that I didn’t get up and feel proud to play for that city, and I owe that to each and every one of the fans who came to the game or expressed their appreciation for our team.
SFC.com: You have also played professionally in Australia. Are there any major differences between playing in the U.S. and Australia?
JS: I’m often asked what the difference between the Australian league and the U.S. league and honestly there isn’t much that differs. It’s just as competitive top to bottom and any team can beat anyone on any given day. I guess the biggest difference is the average age and level of experience of the players across the league. Australia doesn’t have an extensive college athletic system like the U.S. so playing at the collegiate level doesn’t take precedent over playing professionally. So you essentially have a majority of the girls in the league playing professionally at the end of high school and during their college years.
SFC.com: For kids on Long Island now playing soccer, what advice do you have for them?
JS: It’s such a great time for kids on Long Island to play soccer, especially girls. The sport has grown tremendously since I was a kid and there are so many amazing opportunities that can present themselves to kids playing soccer. I would just tell them to work hard and enjoy it. You never know where the game might take you if you stick with it.
Follow Jasmyne Spencer on her website.