Thirteen-Year-Old New York Red Bulls Freestyler Continues to Defy the Odds

A few years ago, Nick Seyda saw his soccer-playing days in jeopardy when he received news that he had complications with his knee. 

“I remember coming home from school, and my mom opened the door and there was a pair of crutches there. She was like ‘You’re going to have to be using these for a while.’ and that kind of hit me, like, 'I can’t play soccer for a while now.'” 

The 13-year-old, who is a current member of the matchday Red Bulls’ Freestyle Crew, has had to overcome multiple roadblocks to get to where he is now.

He was born prematurely, and given a three percent chance of healthy survival, due to potential complications with breathing. His lungs collapsed, he had three holes in his heart, and spots on his brain. The Long Hill, New Jersey native survived all of this -- and found a love for the sport of soccer.

“I got into soccer because of my brothers, they started playing for their school team and I liked to be like my brothers, so I started to play soccer,” Seyda said. “I got really into it. So I moved from [recreational] to travel to club. I had offers to play for a national team, where I traveled to England and Argentina to play, but that was when my knee injury came on.”

His knee threatened to take him out of the sport completely. He began to experience pain in it, and in a visit to an orthopedist, they deemed that he was not receiving blood flow to the bone. 

“I was constantly frustrated, I constantly was like why me,” he said, “I’ve already gone through so much in my earlier life, why is this happening again? But I could either view not being able to play soccer as a disadvantage and just give up, or I could view it as an opportunity to pursue something better.”

The teenager still wanted to be involved in the sport, and he eventually discovered freestyle, which allows him to still utilize a ball and soccer skills without playing in an actual game. 

“He was so happy the minute that ball was on his feet again,” Shannon Seyda, his mother, said. “That was really when his love of freestyling took off.”

His interest in it grew, and he eventually began to compete in events, becoming a professional freestyler. He placed fifth at the 2017 United States Championship, going up against competition that were 10 or 20 years older than him. 

He first discovered the Red Bulls’ Freestyle Crew by going to games at Red Bull Arena, seeing them perform in front of fans on the field at halftime.

A few began to take him under their wing, and advised him to continue practicing and improving, as he could potentially become involved down the road. He now performs as part of the crew on the BULLevard, in front of the Arena before games, and also during halftime.

“Anyone that comes in gets to see us,” he said, “It’s like a dream come true.”

“Nick continuously surprises me,” his mother said, “his determination, his unwillingness to compromise. Whatever it is he wants to set as his goal, he never wavers from.”

Nick's mantra through it all has been simple: "Keep pushing."

"When I was born, I was given such a low percent chance of surviving, so I think that the reason I’m on this earth is because I have a reason to be here," Nick said. "I keep pushing because no matter what comes my way, whether I’m at a disadvantage or an advantage, I need to keep going and I need to show everybody what I can do.”