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The art of listening: Nyk Sessock brings more than just talent to IU men's soccer

Nyk Sessock is a listener. While attending a prep school with only 32 students — all boys — Sessock listened. At the University of Pittsburgh, where he played right back for two seasons, Sessock listened.

And in his first year in Bloomington, the IU men’s soccer transfer intends on listening.

Junior defender Nyk Sessock started 32 matches in two seasons at the University of Pittsburgh before transferring to Indiana. (courtesy of Nyk Sessock)

Throughout his childhood, Sessock, a self-proclaimed introvert, shied away from the spotlight. Though rarely one to be the center of attention, he was always present in the periphery. Listening. Observing. Concentrating.

As Sessock grew older, the things he was hearing no longer resembled white noise. Each moment became an opportunity to learn. Each conflict, both in his personal life and athletic endeavors, became solutions for those around him.

Years later, Sessock didn’t let those lessons and solutions go to waste. He used them to understand his struggling teammates, empathize with his frustrated friends and internalize his inner doubts. 

“I’m always open arms and willing to help guys because when I need help, I’m hoping someone’s there for me,” Sessock said. “I love talking. If you need anything to talk about — one guy to talk about with anything — whether it’s the deepest stuff you got, I’m there.”

It wasn’t until Sessock arrived at YSC Academy — a prep school in Wayne, Pennsylvania, which specializes in developing student-athletes — as a high school freshman that he discovered his calling. There, it was only Sessock and 32 other boys, all who gave up their ordinary teenage lives in pursuit of a singular dream: a soccer career.

“There was no more weekends to myself,” Sesscok said. “I wasn’t really a kid anymore.”

A native of Philadelphia, Sessock missed being a normal high schooler. Friday night high school football games — gone. Hanging out with friends late into the night — if he was lucky.

But it wasn’t as if his parents, both of Ukranian lineage, forced him to attend a prep school miles apart from his childhood friends. Had he chosen to play for his high school, Sessock knew he’d likely be the best player on the team and one of the best in the state. Sessock longed for more, though, and it was his decision to make.

Junior defender Nyk Sessock tallied one goal and two assists in two seasons at the University of Pittsburgh. (courtesy of Nyk Sessock)

“I could’ve been the man and lit stuff up (in high school), but do I want to be the man or do I want to develop and get better?” Sessock said. “In the long run, I was like, 'You know what, I’m in a better place for what I want to do in the future. So, I’m just going to take it and run and make the most of what I have.' It ended up being the best decision of my life.”

At YSC Academy, the daily itinerary breeds order and structure — training at 8:30 a.m., classes at 11 a.m., training again until 5 p.m. Rinse and repeat every day with the same group of 32 teens, all starving to be the best.

However, there comes a time in every person’s maturation when life seems overwhelming. Compound this with the constant reminder that your closest peers are also elite soccer prospects, and you’re left searching for answers that most 16-year-olds are incapable of finding. 

Sessock was no exception, but rather than sulk, he became a backbone for others.

“Those four years, you got overwhelmed being around your boys,” Sessock said. “I created a web for myself to be available for everyone because I don’t want anybody to feel like they’re alone. I took that upon myself, and I kind of became a guy that everyone came to with anything. I think people noticed, and that kind of became my thing.”

A pseudo-therapist? A pseudo-psychiatrist? At 16 years old? That was Sessock, embracing his own struggles while helping others navigate theirs.

Junior defender Nyk Sessock was a three-star recruit, according to (courtesy of Nyk Sessock)

“It translated for those guys and they would start playing better and they would start figuring stuff out,” Sessock said. “You get worked up when you’re focused. You’re at such a high level and everyone else is at the same place. It would play on people’s heads.”

Fittingly, Sessock is majoring in media and advertising at Indiana — a far cry from the psychological duties that beckoned him at YSC Academy. The ability to satisfy his creative passions steered him toward the major, but it doesn’t mean he’s leaving his past behind.

After two fruitful seasons starting on Pittsburgh’s defense, Sessock entered the transfer portal — his creativity and listening skills in tow — in need of a change of scenery. After signing with the Hoosiers this past spring, the scenery is definitely different, and so is the opportunity that stares him in the face. 

At IU, Sessock arrives to a system and coaching staff that has produced more Major League Soccer players than any other in the nation. In Bloomington, he gets a raucous and inviting fanbase, one that has experienced more national championships than almost any other in the nation.

Being a transfer is rarely easy, though. Gaining respect from teammates, learning the coaching style, earning a spot in the rotation — it takes time and patience. 

But Sessock says he’s okay with being the new guy. In the meantime, he’ll wait patiently in the periphery. Listening. Observing. Concentrating.

He’s already learned one of the most important things about being a Hoosier.

“This team is just like a family,” Sessock said. “Once you’re in, you never leave. No matter how old you are, no matter where you go.”

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