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I kicked and screamed as a soccer dad, until I realized I’m going to miss this one day

Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund with husband and son soccer tryouts
Courtesy Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund; Shutterstock Creative

A gay dad shares his struggles steering his son through the competitive world of NYC youth soccer tryouts—and the hard truths he learned on the sidelines about himself and his fatherhood duties.

The email finally arrived. When I ran into Lucas’s room to tell him the news, he hugged me. “Thanks Pops,” he said. “I know you’ve really been sweating this.”

I’m not a sports-metaphor guy, but our 12-year-old had nailed it. I’d spent months strategizing to get this kid a tryout with his top-choice soccer team—not to mention calling in favors, sending multiple follow-up notes, and banking hours and hours shepherding him up, down, and across NYC to get him considered by another half-dozen competitive clubs. It’s been my most angst-ridden parenting juncture in years. And the journey was far from over.

It all started back when Lucas told me and his other dad, Jack, that after five years with his soccer team, he wanted a new club and different challenges.

I resisted at first. As a guy who can’t throw a ball and spent the first 40 years of his life avoiding all things athletic, I’d already come a long way. I’d settled into Lucas’s afternoon practices and weekend games around town, making team-parent friends and occasionally looking up from my phone to cheer him on. I was comfortable, though didn’t know a bicycle kick from a 10-speed. And crucially, our pre-teen had recently started taking public buses on his own and walking short distances near our home in downtown Manhattan to and from practices by himself. My weekday soccer-dad duties were almost wrapping up.

That’s why Lucas’s ambition caused me so much anxiety. A new club meant we needed to contemplate teams that practice in far-off lands like the Upper East Side, Randall’s Island (a park next to the Bronx across the East River), or other boroughs—places our kid couldn’t get to on his own. I work remotely as a writer, but would I commit to regular four-hour undertakings several afternoons a week? Meeting him at 3pm, commuting an hour, sitting through 90-minute practices rain or shine, then spending another hour shuttling us home? All through the upcoming year and maybe beyond?

Ugh. I love our son more than anything, but was this really the right thing…for me?

I put that anxiety aside and dug into the process of getting him considered by new teams. If this were any other place in America, it took a couple of emails as I wolfed down lunch. But in cutthroat NYC, teen soccer is no walk in the park. I still may not understand the “off-sides” soccer rule, but I know how to research a story as a reporter. I googled teams, found emails, combed through social media, texted soccer trainers, asked friends for connections, and interviewed parents for advice.

By April, we were in the thick of it: four tryouts in six days. Each one brought out different sides of myself as I wrestled with my role as a weary soccer dad.

The first tryout was too easy. Lucas’s summary: “I didn’t feel challenged. Can we keep looking?” A second tryout was too disorganized. His review: “Every time I did something well, the coaches weren’t looking at me.” Then, one club emailed me saying that Lucas wasn’t the right fit. Jack and I found a calm moment, sat Lucas down and told him the news. We said that life is about working hard every day, but that you’re still bound to have disappointments— the trick is to keep going. Lucas pouted for maybe three seconds, then understood and moved on.

If only I could let things run off my back as easily.

I’m not proud of what came next. I picked him up after school one hot afternoon and began the trek to Randall’s Island for yet another new tryout, battling the stop-and-go traffic all the way up the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. What was estimated to be a 30-minute trip by Google Maps was stretching into an hour. Infuriated, I turned to Lucas and bellowed, “I cannot do this three afternoons a week.”

We were silent the rest of the journey.

With my frustration at a fever pitch, I got some tough love from a few soccer parent allies. They told me that I was seeing it all wrong. First, a team that practices outside my immediate neighborhood is hardly bad; it’s an opportunity to teach our son to take the subway, new buses, and even the Metro-North commuter train that leaves through Grand Central Station or the Long Island Railroad. He’s a New York kid, he’s got to learn sometime. Why not walk alongside him and show him the way?

More importantly, they told me to shift my thinking. This period won’t last forever, and maybe if I breathed a little bit, I might even enjoy this last chapter of Lucas’s youth while he’s still so reliant on me. In a couple of years, they pointed out, he’ll be jamming around NYC on his own, not just to weekday practices and weekend games but also to social gatherings with his friends—and I’ll wish that I could tag along.

As one of my best mom friends said, “You’re going to look back and miss this.”

A friend at his school recommended a Brooklyn team. I take the F train every couple of weeks to see friends, so why couldn’t I guide Lucas to do the same? As it turned out, this tryout was just a few subway stops away. At the competition that sunny afternoon, Lucas liked the players, the coaches, and the vibe. I ran into a soccer dad I knew on the team, and a friend connected me via text to a team mom, who spoke well of the squad.

Then, the moment of truth.

The Brooklyn coaches emailed us, inviting Lucas to join the team. But accepting meant committing not just to the thrice-weekly practices in Brooklyn and weekend games, but also to out-of-town tournaments over the Columbus Day and Memorial Day weekends. Jack, Lucas and I discussed it and signed on the virtual dotted line.

It’s a Pride Month gift, in many ways. Not Lucas making the team—he’d earned that himself. But the time we’ll spend together. After all, it’s not going to be forever. Maybe a few months, possibly a year. Delayed subways, walks in the rain. Buses, cabs, downtime for all those crucial talks. Ultimately, what is one season of long commutes in the whole stretch of fatherhood?

Practices start in mid-August. See you on the F train.

Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund has published essays about fatherhood with The Today Show, Oprah Daily, and USA Today, and his TV pilot, the gay soccer-dad family comedy “BALLS,” was named a finalist in three top screenwriting competitions. The NYC-based journalist has also written for Newsweek, Bloomberg, NYU Langone Health, and Us Weekly. Reach him via LinkedIn or Coverfly.

Voices is dedicated to featuring a wide range of inspiring personal stories and impactful opinions from the LGBTQ+ and Allied community. Visit to learn more about submission guidelines. We welcome your thoughts and feedback on any of our stories. Email us at Views expressed in Voices stories are those of the guest writers, columnists and editors, and do not directly represent the views of Out or our parent company, equalpride.

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