High Ladder To Climb: A Lower Tier American League Player's Story

Harrisburg Islanders defender Tyler Ruthven (now with the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL) greets the team's fans after a game (Courtesy of Tyler Ruthven).

High Ladder To Climb is a new feature for the Brotherly Game. Current Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) defender Tyler Ruthven gives readers insight into the life of a player in America's lower tier leagues. His updates will be about his continued quest to make it to MLS. Follow him as he details his day-to-day trials and tribulations based on the life he is able to live through the constraints of his job - and paycheck.

Before I get started here, I just want to say that I do not fancy myself a writer in anyway. This would be first attempt at anything resembling a "blog".That being said let me introduce myself a bit.

My name is Tyler Ruthven, an American defender trying to work his way up the confusing, complex, US soccer ladder to get a chance to play in the MLS. I am 22 years old and graduated last year from the University of South Carolina (Go Cocks). My father played in MLB for a while and I would like a legacy half as sweet as his. After expecting an invite to the 2010 MLS combine and promptly not receiving one - I was apparently some sort of alternate - I began the exhausting process of trying to play D2, or D3 pro soccer in North America (I'll get more into that later).

Life in the lower tiers of pro soccer in America is not glamorous at all. A lot of Philly fans may see my name and say (sarcastically) "I'm sure life is tough, your dad is a World Champion". I have always prided myself on not using that to benefit myself professionally in anyway, not that it really would matter in a sport other than baseball.

I am currently staying at my parents' house trying to save money to get myself a place closer to the stadium. I have to buy my shoes for the first time in years, and man that is not fun. My agent has tried several brands to at least give me shoes, but companies have little interest endorsing someone in my current status. I will be doing some coaching on the side for my childhood club coach to help pay the bills. I buy generic brand everything, and eat a ton of pasta and grilled chicken.

More on the life style and how it all started (post-college) for Ruthven after the jump.

One benefit of staying at home right now is the moms make dinner a lot of times. I basically live off of Publix Subs, they are affordable and delicious. You guys have no idea what Publix is unless you have been in the south. It's a standard grocery store but the deli has incredible subs. On that note,I miss Sheetz so much it hurts. Somebody come open a Sheetz with me down here.

I don't want to sit here and make you guys think I am barely living. I live on what I make; I just simply need every penny of it. I consider myself very fortunate. There are pro soccer players in America living a much worse lifestyle than I am. That being said, I miss how cheap a beer was in college, because it is certainly not affordable in Atlanta. There was a period when I was finishing school last April when I was speaking to everybody close to me trying to decide if I should try to continue this any further. After being invited to train with two separate MLS clubs while in college, the league appeared to not know I existed. Some said you cannot stop, some insisted that I should. I always prided myself on being the most dedicated person I know, and it simply would have felt like a waste to not continue. My first start for Harrisburg, I knew I had made the right choice.

Every morning I leave my parents' house about 2 hours before training is scheduled to start because I sit in horrific traffic leaving the suburbs headed toward Atlanta. Two a days are even more fun because I get to catch rush hour on the way home as well. Once I am home I try and turn off my brain relating to soccer. I used to carry every practice and game around in my mind forever and my dad gave me some valuable advice. You have to look at like an office, you switch on when you walk into work, and you switch it off when you leave. Don't bring work home with you, it's unhealthy. At home I play with my dog and relax in front of the TV like any other American. Also my dad begins and ends his days with SportsCenter no matter what. My girlfriend has learned to adjust. I am looking forward to being able to move closer to the Silverbacks facility sometime early this summer after I have hopefully saved a little bit of money.

It's hard to put into words why I am still doing this. I played out of position the entire time I was in Harrisburg but there were still moments where i knew I was good enough to get where I want to be, and the glimmer of hope to get a chance is more than enough to keep me moving right now. I spent my entire offseason back at USC, training with the strength and conditioning staff there five days a week for five months.  I absolutely busted my ass to be as prepared as possible for whatever opportunity I may be given. I went to bed every night with a certain feeling of stress wondering if I would have a club or if this would be over.

I was with a plenty of clubs and had opportunities here and there but decided to finish my degree while it was still paid for. It is a rather long story and I'll do everyone a favor by sparing you the details.

After finishing my course work in early May, I was given the opportunity to sign for the Harrisburg City Islanders of USL-2. I will always and forever be indebted to that club for giving me the opportunity to start my pro career. I enjoyed my time there and it was a growing process and extremely beneficial to me as a player, plus we had a tremendous run in the US Open Cup that ultimately ended with be being sent off at DC United in the quarterfinals (sorry everybody).

After the season my contract had expired and it was time to find a new club. I had spent some time with Tampa and was headed back there for preseason when I got an offer from Atlanta. My family has lived in Atlanta my entire life, so it was a no-brainer.

Once I signed with Atlanta, I didn't know how to relax. The stress remains, and i think it will till the day I retire because that's what keeps me moving. That desire to move up. It sounds cliché, but I am extremely fortunate to be able to play this game and I am forever grateful.

We are currently in preseason in Atlanta, 12 days from our opener. We have an extremely young group and we started from scratch but things are progressing nicely and I think we will shock a few people this year. I'm physically healthy for the first time in as long as I can remember and I can't wait to line up against Minnesota on April 9th, reintroducing pro soccer to Atlanta. I intend to use this to share the details of my personal experience as the season progresses, but preseason just isn't that interesting! We stretch, run, then play and run some more.

Since this is a Union site I should point out that I am big fan of the club in Philly and how they run things, every aspect of the club seems to be first rate. Plus I grew to be very good friends with Sheanon Williams and couldn't be happier he is playing in Philadelphia, the kids deserves it.

I will write for you guys again after the opener, which hopefully will go well.

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