After jumping into the coaching profession, Hannah Bolton has enjoyed playing for expansion side FC Arizona this summer. [Photo Provided]
MESA, Arizona — Hannah Bolton never wanted to be a soccer coach.
Growing up with two parents who both coached at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Oregon, Bolton knew of the trials and tribulations that all coaches face.
Despite her intimate understanding of the various coaching adversities, Bolton simply could not fight against her calling.
At the conclusion of her collegiate career, Bolton returned to Lane Community College in Eugene to coach. She was later hired as an assistant coach for the girls soccer program at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona, one of the largest schools in the state.
This past season she took over head coaching duties of the Grand Canyon University club team. Coaching at her alma mater (Bolton attended Grand Canyon University after playing two years of collegiate soccer at Lane Community College) is just another step on Bolton’s coaching path, a journey she believes she was born to embark on.
“Growing up I never wanted to be a coach, just being around it, I felt the struggle,” Bolton said. “But I went back to Lane and fell in love with it, and realized coaching is what I know and what I’m good at. I couldn’t imagine it any other way — this is what I was meant to do.”
As a player, Bolton was ready to hang up her boots for good before her childhood friend and teammate ShayLee Miner invited her to a tryout with WPSL expansion side FC Arizona. Bolton initially envisioned coaching the team, but the opportunity to play with Miner for what may ultimately prove to be one last season was too great of an opportunity for Bolton to pass up.
Unsurprisingly for any that know her, Bolton continues to play and at an incredibly high level. In her first league game with FC Arizona, Bolton scored a hat trick for the team. Her coaching experience has increased her tactical understanding of the game while building her confidence.
“It’s nice to play now because my confidence from being a coach has translated into playing,” Bolton said. “I wish I could go back and be a player again in more than the WPSL.”
Bolton has a keen understanding of the nuances of soccer growing up around the game. Throughout her career, she developed an uncanny ability to execute on set pieces. In her WPSL season debut against Phoenix Del Sol on June 1, all three of her goals came on set pieces, two of which Bolton finished directly from the kick.
More impressive than the goal scoring is Bolton’s ability to lead. Having a coach on the field only furthers FC Arizona’s strong leadership foundation. As it concludes its first season in the WPSL, Bolton has been impressed with FC Arizona’s culture, starting with coach Betto Renteria and his staff.
“Betto and Rosie, our coaches, they’re both the kind of people that high-five before practice and really want to get after it,” Bolton said. “They really do a good job of thanking us for being there and getting through our opening year with the team. It’s not easy to start the team and be the coaches, I give a lot of credit to them.”
FC Arizona is looking to compete in a strong Desert Division. More than anything though, the team is hoping to build a lasting culture and tradition. The team features only a handful of players with previous WPSL experience and is hoping to lay a foundation for seasons to come.
For Bolton, this season represents one more chance to play the game she loves before grabbing her clipboard and whistle and returning to the rigors of coaching this coming fall. Her impact on the game of soccer within the greater Phoenix area is notable, and her experience in the WPSL has furthered her already strong love for the game.
“Every single practice all of the women come to, whether they are last on the bench or in the starting lineup,” Bolton said. “It’s just fun driving to practice again.”