Interview: Spencer Loving Life In Poland, Europe

08 November 2009

Sidney Spencer is more than an ocean away from Tennessee, where she played college basketball for legendary coach Pat Summitt.

A 24-year-old forward with KSSSE AZS-PWSZ Gorzow in Poland, Spencer is having the time of her life playing hoops while traveling around Europe.

"This adventure has been more than I could have ever imagined," she said.

Gorzow are playing in the EuroLeague Women for the first time but not Spencer, who was on the books of Maxima Broker Kosice in Slovakia last season.

While the club is off to a fast start in Poland with seven wins in as many games, Gorzow have lost their opening two games in Europe.

Spencer answered these questions for Jeff Taylor of Basketball World News.

Sidney, congratulations on a terrific start to professional basketball in Europe. What has the adjustment been like for you, an Alabama native, playing overseas?

Sidney Spencer: I have absolutely loved it! If it were not for basketball, I would not be traveling the world and seeing so many magnificent places. I love adventures, so this is all a dream for me. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to play in two great countries and to see so many big cities. I think the most awesome place that I have visited is Valencia, Spain. I could live there one day especially with the weather, the oranges, the architecture, the rich history and of course the beach on the Mediterranean! Obviously, adjusting to the time difference and being so far from my family can be difficult and lonely at times, but I have met wonderful people and loved embracing the laid back European culture. Also, Skype is magical!

You had a wonderful opportunity to play college hoops at Tennessee for a true legend in the game, Pat Summitt. A lot of girls in Europe have not experienced university life and the game as you did. How do you look back on that time and how has it prepared you to be a professional player in the WNBA and in Europe?

Sidney Spencer: There have been so many important people that have been a part of my journey to becoming a professional athlete, I cannot even begin to list them all! My parents, for one, have supported me and encouraged me to follow my passion and love for the game. Pat and her staff at Tennessee believed in me and pushed me to become the best possible player I could become. I am forever grateful for them and the life lessons I learned at Tennessee. Even though I was playing a sport, Pat taught me how to become the best person both on and off the court that I could be. Dedication, discipline, determination, loyalty, honesty, team work and perseverance are some of the character qualities I developed in college.

Tell me about this fantastic website I noticed called

Sidney Spencer: This website tells my story. The most important reason I play basketball is not because of the fulfillment I gain from winning or the lessons I learn from losing. Granted this is a very important part of the game, it is not the reason I play. I believe 100% that God has placed me here for the reason to share with others about the change He has made in my heart. Every day is a new adventure and learning experience when it comes to growing in my faith and trusting Him, but I know now that He has the plan. The plan right now is being in Europe. What am I going to do with this gift?

Okay, what is your favorite book, and what is your favorite quote or sentence in that book?

Sidney Spencer: I just finished a book called "Between Sundays" about a professional American football player. The theme of the book is this: Life is not about how you perform on game day, it is what I am doing between games that matters. So, it's about my life off the court and the people I am impacting rather than just scoring points.  In 10 years no one will remember how many points I scored in one game, but people will remember how I treated them.  

Did you know a lot about Slovakia, Poland and Europe in general before coming to play here or was this a journey into the unknown? Also, what has pleasantly surprised you about living and playing in Europe, and what do you not like?

Sidney Spencer: Honestly, I did not know very much about Europe before arriving last October. Of course, I had studied about different countries in history class, but that was the extent of it. I was taking a journey into the unknown so I trusted God would take care of me and He truly has. This adventure has been more than I could have ever imagined. My favorite parts thus far have been exploring the castle ruins particular in Slovakia and tasting all the different kinds of food. I do love the European culture because it seems a bit more relaxed than the US. However, when we travel from hotel to hotel, I get frustrated because the rooms rarely have clocks.

Do you have family and friends come over to visit and if so, what do you do with them? Also, what do you like to do in your spare time?

Sidney Spencer: My family has always supported me in basketball no matter where I am in the world. They are my biggest fans!! My mom and dad both came to Slovakia last year and have already planned for their trip to Poland. They usually stay with me and come during the Thanksgiving holiday. We have a lot of fun exploring my city and just hanging out. Trying to find a turkey to cook for Thanksgiving is always interesting because it's not such a popular meat in Europe. I have also had some friends come visit and it is always nice to have a familiar face when the season goes for 7-8 months.

Compare living in Slovakia to Poland.

Sidney Spencer: The actual geographic design is very different. Both cities are about the same size but in Slovakia, everything is in the center and most people live on the outside of the center. In Gorzow, the center is spread out so there is not one main area. In Slovakia, I lived in the heart of the center, so I could walk everywhere. In Gorzow, I live a bit outside the center so I drive everywhere. Both are fantastic in different ways. I have really fallen in love with the soup in Europe. Being in Eastern Europe during the winter, soup is a perfect complement to the cold weather no matter what country I am in!

Is grits, a southern delight in America, something that you get to eat every once in a while over here?

Sidney Spencer: hahahah I don't like grits even though I am from the south!! However, I do miss sweet potatoes and desserts like warm chocolate chip cookies. My mom and friends send some great care packages so I do not really go without. I can pretty much adapt to anywhere I am. The cabbage salads in Europe are amazing!! The US cannot even compare to the salads here.

If you could have a dream job outside of basketball, what would that be?

Sidney Spencer: I would go all over the world and have basketball camps for kids. Then, I would share with them the hope in Jesus. I would be a basketball missionary.

What can we expect from Gorzow this season both in Poland, and in the EuroLeague Women?

Sidney Spencer: I am excited about my new teammates. I like this team because I think everyone is dangerous so one player cannot receive too much attention. We are a young team and being our first year in Euroleague I think we can be successful and learn through the journey. We are definitely capable of playing in this league, we just need to find the confidence and execute.

There will be children who read this article. What advice would you give to those who want to play basketball at the highest level one day?

Sidney Spencer: I set goals when I was very young and many people thought that my goals were not reachable. No matter what anyone tells you, if you believe in your heart that you can do something, YOU CAN!! Persevere despite the naysayers.

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