Yukoner Callum Wood Ryan had his life turned upside-down last month – but in a good way.
The 16-year-old soccer player uprooted his life in Whitehorse after receiving an invitation to play in Utah for the Real Salt Lake club’s developmental academy this season. The academy is affiliated with a Major League Soccer team by the same name.
Ryan was invited onto the team after displaying his on-field skills during a six-week camp during the summer.
“Living here is the dream,” said Ryan in an email to the News. “It’s everything I’ve ever wanted, and even though it’s tough being away from home and the level of play is much higher, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. Every day I train like it’s my last, and that’s the way I love it.”
Ryan originally attended the camp in hopes of securing a spot in trials for the MLS’s Vancouver Whitecaps. In fact, he also wanted to tryout for Real Salt Lake, but he wasn’t allowed since Canadian players are off limits to American MLS teams.
When offered a spot on Salt Lake, he had to be released by the Whitecaps, who have priority over players in their district including Yukon.
“During the camp I trained very hard, and I improved a lot,” said Ryan. “At the end of the camp they asked me if I would come back for the school year, but I needed a release form from the Whitecaps because I’m part of their district. Of course I gratefully accepted the offer because at RSL we have the best facilities I’ve ever seen for a North American academy and you live in dorms at the fields, which is amazing.”
Ryan, who grew up in Dawson City and moved to Whitehorse at age 12, had a more red tape to cut through. It was a mad rush to get a student visa before the start of classes in early August.
He is currently attending Mission Heights Preparatory High School in Casa Grande, in the neighbouring state of Arizona.
“When I got back to Whitehorse after the camp I had to rush very quickly to get all of the forms handed in because I had to be back at the training grounds in Arizona in the next eight days,” said Ryan. “I thank my mom and my dad for helping me get those in because that was a lot of work. In the end I got the release form and I got a student visa to live in the U.S. and I got here by August 1, and started school on August 4.”
Ryan played for Yukon at the 2014 Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que.
He scored three goals at the Arctic Games to help Yukon’s juvenile male team place fourth.
Ryan has also played for Yukon at national championships and for the U18 Yukon Strikers at the USA Cup International Youth Soccer Tournament in Minnesota, leading up to the Canada Games last summer.
On Real Salt Lake’s under-16 team Ryan plays wing and right back. The team, which hasn’t had any regular season matches yet, will face other academies in the western U.S. and southern Canada this season, with their first tournament this weekend.
The club’s website boasts that both the U16 and U18 teams have made the league’s playoffs every year since it was founded. It also notes that every RSL-Arizona Academy graduate has either been offered college scholarships or professional contracts upon graduation.
“I would like to thank my parents for their support and willingness to let me leave,” added Ryan. “I would also like to thank all of my coaches back in the Yukon for preparing me for this opportunity. And I would tell my teammates back home that if I moved abroad to play, then they could too.”
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