Surgical precision: Terlecki, the son of two doctors, has carried his passion for soccer into an undefeated season at West Forsyth

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 2, 2023

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By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

Being the son of two doctors, most people wouldn’t think of a soccer field as the place where a player can perform his own kind of surgery.

However, that’s the case for senior Nolan Terlecki, who plays center-back on the undefeated West Forsyth boys soccer team.

West Forsyth (20-0-2) is the No. 2 seed in the NCHSAA Class 4-A West tournament and defeated No. 31 Charlotte Providence 2-1 Monday night in the first round. West Forsyth will play host to No. 18 Charlotte Independence (17-4-2) on Thursday in the second round.

Nolan’s father, Ryan Terlecki, is a urologist, and his mother, Terri, is an ER doctor. And being one of four children, Nolan found his way to soccer after being born in Michigan and lived in Texas and Colorado before moving to Winston-Salem.

“It’s the fun way to look at it from two lenses because Dad’s the surgeon and Mom’s the ER doctor,” Nolan Terlecki said. “So, one’s got the precision, and the other one’s got the chaos.”

Like many parents, they had their children try many different sports. Nolan tried soccer when he was three years old.

“My parents were kind of moving me around from sport to sport, trying out a lot of them young,” he said. “So, soccer was just one of the ways to go through the rounds.”

It didn’t take long for Nolan to get the bug.

“I fell in love with the game pretty quickly,” he said. “It was one of those fast-paced games that I really enjoyed more as opposed to the marathon that comes with baseball or other sports like that. And I’ve always been good with my feet, so it just kind of fit for me.”

Terlecki played youth soccer as a child, which helped in his development.
“I think it’s a really good start,” he said. “But if I had known back then what I know now how much passion I was going to have for the game I think I definitely would’ve taken a different approach because youth soccer is pretty laid back. You know, they don’t want to burn kids out or anything. But at the same time, it’s like they’re not pushing you as far as it could be to be the best player you can be.”

His siblings — sisters Thalia, 20, went to Reagan High School and is now a student at the University of North Carolina, and Sloane, 14, along with brother Shay, 16, had an even family dynamic. Both Shay and Sloane go to Reagan.

“Chaos a lot of the time,” he said. “Thalia is out of the house now. The younger two love to fight. But I think the dynamic works out well overall. It’s just everybody’s two years apart, and it kind of gives you a stutter step so that each one can kind of get advice from the other.

“And especially with my older sister, you know, my parents both work full-time, so a lot of the responsibility fell to her, and she did a good job teaching us how to be good people along the way beside my parents.”

Terlecki, who has a 4.3 GPA at West Forsyth, actually lives in the Mount Tabor district.

“I went to Southwest Elementary with the HAG (highly academically gifted) program, and a lot of the kids there were actually zoned there around Clemmons, Southwest,” he said. “Those are the kids I grew up with, the kids I became close with, and I continued with that program, went to Hanes, and a lot of those kids that I stayed close with were going to West.

“So, a lot of my friends were going to go there. And at the same time, I had heard good things about the soccer program at West. So, I was excited to be able to come and play for the program.”

As Terlecki progressed through school and considered where to attend high school, he always wanted to play soccer at West Forsyth. Coach Jeffrey Williams of West Forsyth didn’t know anything about Terlecki.

Once Williams got to know Terlecki, he quickly saw something special in him.

“Very smart, very intelligent, very cerebral,” Williams said. “He reads more than just what’s in front of him.”

Terlecki played club soccer, so Williams knew of some of those players before they played at West Forsyth.

“There were workouts during the summer (before his freshman season) that we went to, and then tryouts rolled around,” Terlecki said. “And I didn’t really know Coach Williams, but I think he knew that kids that were coming in that had played for Fusion, like for the ECNL teams.

“So, I think he knew a little bit, and after tryouts, he came up to me and essentially asked me if I wanted to play on varsity and if I thought I was ready for it. So, he gave me that opportunity, and I was all for it and eager to play. So, I told him I was all in. I’ve started since then.”

Now in his fourth year in the Titans’ program, Terlecki has left an indelible mark.

“I think he definitely processes things quickly and assesses things both on and off the field,” Williams said. “Maybe sometimes, you know, when I was involved in sports and playing myself like I had sometimes analysis paralysis. I may have thought too much about a certain topic and not play. I don’t know if Nolan gets in that situation, but I could see that that could be a possibility, too.”

In many ways, because they’re both so intelligent, Terlecki and Williams see things through the same lens.

“I think the way that, especially, I don’t know everything about Coach Williams, of course, but I see the way that he breaks down film, and I think we look at, just from that standpoint, I think we look at film in a similar way and being able to break down the game,” Terlecki said. “And also, I’ve obviously talked with him at length. And I think when talking about players, I think we’re both really good at seeing the strengths and what players need to work on.”

Because of seeing things similarly, as a coach and a player, Williams has seen the growth of Terlecki.

“I think he’s become a better leader,” Williams said. “He’s seen some things that may have worked and some things that may have not worked. And so, he’s seen that. He tries his best to keep a positive mindset.
“He has become better with his off-foot, for sure. And he’s become a much better defender in situational set pieces, especially.”

One thing that hurt Terlecki during his first three seasons for the Titans was a spate of injuries. He broke his ankle his freshman season just before the playoffs, and he’s had recurring ankle problems since. He had groin and hamstring injuries last season.

“Ever since freshman year, up until freshman year, I had never missed a game since I was three from injury,” he said. “But going in after I broke my ankle the first time, they were really weak, and it’s happened a lot since. So, in the last four years, I think I have been injury-prone, a lot of soft-tissue injuries a lot of ankle problems. But I’m feeling good right now going into playoffs, so we’ll see how that plays out.”

Terlecki has been healthy this season and has helped the Titans to an undefeated record.

“I’ve always been of the mindset like a good loss cures a lot of stuff,” Williams said. “It helps with building, and we haven’t had that. We’ve had a couple of ties, for sure, but the guys took it as losses this year. And we’ve been in four overtime games in the conference. And I personally think that one of the reasons we won those games is we were more fit than the other teams, possibly both mentally and physically.”

No matter the outcome with Thursday’s Independence game in the second round of the playoffs, or even if West Forsyth reaches it goal of playing and winning the NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship, Terlecki’s career there is almost over.

“I think I’ve been trying not to think about it for the most part because it’s been a part of me for so long – four years,” he said. “I can’t really imagine my life without West Forsyth soccer. But at the same time, I think I’m just excited to see where this goes. And instead of looking towards the end, I’m kind of just enjoying the moment.”

Nothing is set in stone, but Terlecki would like to join his older sister as a student at North Carolina next fall, likely giving up soccer except for playing it as a club sport.

“He’ll be good at whatever he does,” Williams said. “He’ll be good. He’s got enough skills and enough motivation to do a lot of important and interesting things.”

While in college Terlecki, who has taken some finance and economics classes, would like to major in behavioral economics, breaking away from his parents’ profession as doctors.

“It’s something I think I’m passionate about,” he said. “And I took AP psych my sophomore year, and I loved that class, too, and when I heard about behavioral economics, how that’s a field that kind of combines those two — psychology and economics. And carrying those two along with just the fact that I think it’s going to be a really important field in the future, I think that’s what drew me to it.”