It’s early in the morning, the sun has yet to rise, roosters yet to crow … yet the hustle and bustle of the City of Jacksonville is already flowing, alive and well. You lay firmly snug under the covers in the warmth of your own bed before stumbling into Bold Bean or BREW for your morning cup of life, but for Tyler Ruthven, it’s time to rise and grind. The 28-year-old, six-foot-two defender for the Jacksonville Armada of the North American Soccer League (NASL) gets up and goes through the same routine each and every day.

“I’m a creature of habit, so my morning routine is exactly the same every day, whether it’s for training, a game or even a day off” Ruthven said. “I wake up and make four scrambled eggs, some sort of wheat grain, some Greek yogurt and black coffee.”

Playing for an NASL franchise is definitely different from playing across the pond or even for an MLS team. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it can be not so good — but they’re also some distinct advantages.

“Playing for a NASL franchise presents some challenges you don’t have in leagues in Europe, and some you don’t have in MLS. The flip side is that there are also some advantages to playing in this league, especially when compared to MLS. The travel is insane, you can play in Edmonton, Alberta on artificial turf Wednesday night and then be playing in Puerto Rico on Saturday,” Ruthven explained.

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In addition to traveling for games, there’s also lots of travelling around town to prepare for all these matches across the country.

“We have to lift twice a week over at Asana Wellness, which is an incredible facility that takes good care of us. Sessions vary from player to player, and if you’re a regular on the team, you aren’t really going to get stronger at this point in the season once your body is getting beat down so often in games. Lifting sessions during the season become more about injury prevention and maintenance. Usually, on one of the days over there (at Asana), we have a session with our stretching and flexibility coach, Sally Ward.”

The Armada are also frequent visitors of the Recovery Zone Cryotherapy Studios in Riverside to help their bodies recover from their long practice sessions in the grueling heat at the team’s practice facilities at Patton Park. That being said, a typical practice session for the Armada isn’t all that typical at all, with practice starting a good hour before the actual session.

“There are various rehabilitation activities that are done first before being taped for training. I wrap my left wrist due to a broken bone in college I never had repaired. Recently, I’ve had to wrap my right wrist as well due to an injury I picked up this season, in the outside of my hand that I’ll have to get treated after the season,” Ruthven said. “The actual training itself starts with some sort of warm-up activity that usually has a fun element to guys going and keep things loose. That will be followed by technical work, followed by tactical work, and usually ends with some game-type activity to get the guys competing.”

With all of the traveling he does, Ruthven has developed his own music playlist to keep his mind at ease in the process, as well as getting him ready for games.

“Pre-game is usually pretty EDM heavy. Since college, I’ve listened to ‘Signs’ by Bloc Party shortly before kickoff to calm down and collect my thoughts. While traveling, I like some heavier stuff … I’m a big fan of Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Queens of the Stone Age, stuff like. Post-game, I like down tempo stuff to relax.”

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While it’s a rarity during the season, when he does have a day off, Ruthven likes to enjoy some of the recreation that North Florida has to offer, though he still sticks to his normal morning routine.

“An ideal day off would probably be a short trip to the gym in the morning, then straight to play golf. After that, I’d finish it off with some dinner with the wife and a walk on Atlantic Beach.”

Time with his wife is something Ruthven cherishes when the opportunity presents itself.

“My wife lives and works in Atlanta but tries to commute down for most of the home games. But hopefully, she will join me next year as we are looking forward to starting life together here [in Jacksonville]. I can’t play with my wedding ring on, so I wear a silicon version instead that allows me to play with it on.”

With the NASL season well underway, Tyler and his teammates have a long road ahead, but with the support of his wife and the city, we have a good feeling about the future of soccer in the Bold City.

By Grant Gunderson | Staff Writer