Boasting brains and brawn, PhD-toting fitness model and soccer stud Chris Nogiec aims for our hearts and urges gay athletes to come out
Soccer star, model and scientist Chris Nogiec knows a thing or three about aiming high. On the field he’s an MVP (as crowned by his high school teammates), the founder of a recreational New England-based soccer club (the Nogenators, a play on his last name), and one of the reasons the Boston Strikers earned fourth place at the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, Germany, last summer. Now the 33-year-old is honing his skills to shoot for higher goals that include LGBT tolerance in sports and shattering the stereotype that “fitness model” and “PhD” are mutually exclusive titles. Luckily, he’s proven he has what it takes to score.
Raised in the rural Northeast (“as small-town, farm-country as it gets in Connecticut,” Chris jokes), it was at a young age that he fell in love.
“When I was 5, I told my parents I hated soccer. Then, when I was 6, I asked them why they hadn’t signed me up for it yet,” he says with a laugh. “I was the captain of the high school team and its MVP. It was a good achievement at the time.” The fondness of the memory abandons his tone as he acknowledges the tarnish on the trophy. “Even though I was captain and a typical overachiever, I didn’t let anybody in. It was a painful experience, looking back.”
He attributes the inner torture he experienced as a teen athlete struggling to come to terms with being gay to two factors, the first being the lack of diverse LGBT representation available in the pop culture of the ’90s.
“The only role models I remember were from Will & Grace,” he recalls. “They were okay, but they weren’t athletes. I think their presence was extremely helpful and gave other gay youth characters with whom they could relate and identify, but I couldn’t identify with them. I honestly thought I had to be like [the characters from] that show.”
Blame for Chris’ teen turmoil can also be attributed to his high school teammates, who hadn’t a clue that their captain—the one they anointed their most valuable member—moonlit as their choice target of ridicule. “The biggest insult when I was in high school was calling a kid gay. At the time, I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I knew I didn’t want to be that. It shut me off from a lot of people.” His secret inner conflict penetrated his leadership abilities, resulting in a team handicap.
Read more about Chris in our February issue, out now!