The last 24 months have been challenging for Chilliwack soccer star Rhys Sloan, which made him even happier to get a recent email from the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The teenager had a smile on his face as he read an attached letter from Dave Irvine, the director of the Whitecaps Academy, inviting him to join the team next year. The Whitecaps Academy is the top level of youth soccer in the province, and Sloan will be training at the National Soccer Development Centre, located on the campus of the University of British Columbia.
“I am obviously so excited and thankful for this opportunity,” the 2007-born youth said.
That Sloan has done what he’s done is remarkable, given how sick he’s been for much of the time. Throughout 2020 and 2021 he spent countless hours traveling back and forth from Vancouver Children’s Hospital, getting more tests and needles than he’d care to count. Between a colonoscopy and abdominal MRI, and meetings with the gastroenterologist, Sloan has definitely been there more far too often.
The end result was a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, a tough but manageable outcome.
According to Wikipedia, Crohn’s Disease causes inflammation of the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. At the time of his diagnosis he had lost almost 10 pounds and hadn’t grown at all in two years, so he was just happy to figure out what was wrong.
Right now he is getting injections every two weeks, which is tough for a kid with a needle phobia, but he continues to overcome every obstacle thrown his way.
“It’s been really tough being sick,” he said. “But I am determined to not let it stop me and I’m thankful for answers and that I’m starting to feel better.”
Sloan is currently traveling to Burnaby five days a week for soccer. In February 2020 he was selected from his Surrey United BC Premier Soccer League squad to attend a tryout for the Pre-MLS program. He impressed enough to be chosen for the full Whitecaps Academy program, which is an exciting opportunity.
The program starts Aug. 15 and Sloan will be moving closer to the city and living with a billet family. He’ll be training four days a week and if the border re-opens, the MLS Next season will start Sept. 11 with Sloan hitting the pitch on weekends to face teams hailing from Seattle to Utah and places in between.
“I prayed really hard and I’m so happy and greatful to have this opportunity,” he said. “Making it into this program has been one of my goals and I’m really excited to be going, and having to leave home just makes me want to work harder to be successful.
“My long term goals are to play soccer professionally or get a college/university scholarship and become a physiotherapist.”