Years ago, while her peers in Lagos, Nigeria were still learning to read, Angela Osaigbovo ‘24 was embarking on a competitive Scrabble career that would take her around the world—and eventually to Middletown, Delaware and St. Andrew's.
At the age of five, Angela began playing Scrabble as an extracurricular activity at her school in Lagos, and her talent quickly attracted attention from coaches nationwide. Just one year after she began playing, Angela competed at the World Youth Championships in Dubai, where she placed second in the eight-and-under age category. She has since competed for the US youth Scrabble team and the Nigerian national youth team, qualifying for Scrabble world championships in Australia, France, and Malaysia, while remaining a fixture at Nigerian national competitions.
The world of competitive Scrabble is much more than a word game in which one makes points by piecing together tiles. Developing an ever-expanding word bank, learning the strategy behind playing words of different lengths, understanding board layout, and calculating scores under the pressure of a timer are just some of the skills Angela has refined over the past decade. She also works with a coach to hone physical and psychological tools, learning to use body language and communication to throw off her opponents.
Angela notes that her young age usually works to her advantage. It’s easy to take older players by surprise, she says, and when she beats them, they are often excited to share their knowledge and experience to help her develop further in her game. In reflecting on her swift rise to the top, she credits the mentorship of these more experienced players.
Angela’s favorite aspects of Scrabble are the academic challenge and the game's community, and in choosing to attend boarding school, she sought the same from her high school experience. Scrabble has unsurprisingly has helped her excel in school; she credits mental math skills, the ability to pull ideas together quickly, and knowledge of linguistics from Scrabble with assisting in all of her classes. At St. Andrew’s Angela has become passionate about reading and writing poetry and playing in the Jazz Ensemble, and she hopes to eventually start a Scrabble club on campus.
Angela’s long term Scrabble aspiration is to remain competitive on the national and international stage, but this year she is most proud of how she has continued to play a strong game, despite the interruptions of starting at a new school, being away from her coach, and devoting most of her time to the demands of a rigorous boarding school schedule.
And her favorite word? (She gets asked that question a lot.) "My favorite word is 'zapping,'" she says, "because of how rare [in Scrabble] it is. I was playing in a tournament in which I was well below the age limit—you had to be in high school to play, but I was eight—and in my last game, my first word was 'zapping.' It was 111 [points], and the person I was playing against couldn't get up to that score throughout the entire game. I was just really proud of that."