Jake Ruby had a small taste of what it’s like to be professional footballer during The Island Games.
Now the Canadian defender is ready for more.
HFX Wanderers FC recently announced the signing of Rubyto a one year professional contract (with a club option for 2022 and 2023) after being on a U SPORTS Developmental contract for the 2020 CPL season.
The former Trinity Western University standout made eight appearances and logged 312 minutes at The Island Games last summer in PEI, emerging as a surprise package for the CPL Finals-bound Wanderers after being selected 16th overall in the 2019 CPL-U SPORTS Draft in Montreal.
Ruby, 20, will also continue his post-educational studies while in Halifax.
“We’re pleased to support Jake in his pursuit of a professional career while encouraging his academic aspirations throughout his time in Halifax,” HFX Wanderers VP of Football Operations Matt Fegan said in a media release. “We always believe players should have an eye on their future and education is an important part of setting themselves up properly.”
Ruby recently chatted with CanPL.ca about his return to the squad and how the CPL-U SPORTS Draft played a role in kick starting his professional career.
Coming off a year with the Wanderers under a U SPORTS contract, what does it mean for you and your soccer career to have this opportunity?
JR: Well, I had the opportunity to get drafted last year; the CPL-U SPORTS Draft in general is such a great opportunity for young players from university to get drafted and play in a professional environment. Getting drafted to Halifax was special because I saw players like Christian Oxner and Peter Schaale who not only got drafted but also played a lot of minutes. So I thought there was a great opportunity there for me to get drafted to Halifax.
Has it always been your goal to earn a professional contract?
JR: For sure. I played with the Vancouver Whitecaps in my younger years with their academy so I got a taste for a professional environment. Signing on with Trinity Western, my goal was always to play professionally, so I was hoping it would open opportunities for me and that it would be a stepping stone to the professional pathway. Once the CPL-U SPORTS Draft was introduced, it opened that door for me to finally earn a professional contract.
With the time you had at last year’s Island Games, what was it like actually joining the Wanderers squad and being surrounded by players and coaches who have experience at the professional level?
JR: Being in a professional environment like that was a great experience for me. I was the young player that got to learn and grow from that experience, both through my teammates and coaches. Stephen Hart is one of the most notable coaches in the Canadian Premier League, and the amount of background and experience he has really helped me with my development, so I’m really excited to play for him again.
With that experience under your belt, what was one of your takeaways that you’ve been focusing on during the off-season?
JR: As you know it’s a very long off-season, so learning from last year I know I need to grow as a player and get stronger, both physically and mentally. It’s important to grow that mindset that you’re coming in now and you’re a professional player; this is going to be your job and your livelihood so that’s one thing I definitely took away.
What are you missing most from those 43 days in Charlottetown during the 2020 season?
JR: I think our team really grew a lot during The Island Games being around each other so much. We grew a lot off the pitch which really made that chemistry that we had impact our performance on the pitch as well. Playing games so close together really reminded me of university and how it’s a short, more condensed season, so that actually helped me during our time at The Island Games.
With your family in British Columbia and the Wanderers being on the opposite side of the country, what has helped you adapt to living away from your home?
JR: Throughout my career so far I’ve actually travelled quite a bit. One of the biggest things that has always helped me get through those times were my teammates and being around them. I think this year it was very helpful for us all to be in a similar situation and have each other there for support. It meant a lot.
A lot of those teammates are coming back as well for the 2021 season. What do you hope the team can do to build on our 2020 run at The Island Games?
JR: Last year we came so close, so we have some unfinished business and I think this year we can really create that foundation and that culture; a winning culture with the group of guys we have. Everyone is eager to get back to playing with this long off-season break. So we’re ready to go and make it back to the finals and win it this time.
In order to keep that mentality going during the off-season, what are you guys doing to keep that championship mindset?
JR: Like I said we have a long off-season, but we’ve been keeping in touch and we know that it’s mentally tough to stay fit and motivated. We’re not sure what it’s going to look like this year with the pandemic, so mentally we’ve been staying tough and staying in touch in order to stay sharp and be ready for whatever happens for this 2021 season.