HARDIN VALLEY — Hardin Valley Academy’s new soccer coach is no stranger to the ultracompetitive district in which the Hawks play.
Former Heritage coach Nick Bradford was tapped to coach the boys and girls teams at HVA. He replaces Mark Patterson, who left the school at the end of the academic year after his work visa expired.
“His work visa expired and he’s on a student visa and he’s taking classes,” HVA athletic director George Ashe said of Patterson, a native of Northern Ireland who guided the Hawks girls to a second consecutive appearance in the Class AAA state tournament in the fall of 2015.
Under Patterson’s guidance, the boys squad finished 5-8-2 in 2016 and was eliminated in the opening round of the District 4-AAA Tournament quarterfinals after finishing fifth in the regular-season standings.
Bradford said that he’s eagerly anticipating both coaching the Hawks and teaching math at HVA.
“Hardin Valley had an opening for a math teacher and that was important to me because I teach math,” said Bradford, who saw his 2016 Heritage team play the Hawks to a 1-1 draw and somewhat spoil the soccer team’s senior night. “I look forward to coaching at Hardin Valley but I also look forward to teaching there because the school has such a rigorous academic program.
“I look forward to coaching and teaching there because they have such high academic and athletic standards.”
The new coach also said that he loves the fact that the Hardin Valley community supports the school in many areas, including athletics.
“Since I took the position on May 23, I’ve gotten e-mails and phone calls from people who wished me well,” Bradford said. “And the first thing that I asked them is what ties they have to the soccer team.
“They said that they didn’t have any but they just wanted to take the opportunity to say ‘hi’ and wish me luck. They just wanted to offer their support.”
Bradford coached the Heritage boys from 2008 to 2014 before coaching the middle school soccer team at McCallie Middle School in Chattanooga during the 2015 campaign.
That gave the 2002 McCallie High School graduate a chance to return home to his alma mater.
He coached and taught at McCallie for one year before returning to Blount County to take both soccer coaching jobs with the Mountaineers.
Bradford also has deep soccer ties to Maryville. He played collegiately at Maryville College under head coach Pepe Fernandez and assistant coach Jon Baker.
“I have a serious soccer background,” Bradford said. “I played for Maryville College and I have to thank Pepe Fernandez and Jon Baker.
“They were my coaches at Maryville and I found out later that they both highly recommended me for the Hardin Valley job. They gave me recommendations but I didn’t find out until later. Once you get to Maryville, Pepe is like your dad away from home. Jon is also like a close family friend to me.”
Bradford, 32, is a self-proclaimed soccer junkie. But he’s also a family man. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have two daughters. Blake is 3 and Clara is 1.
“I love spending time with my family,” Bradford said. “It’s a little tougher to do that when you coach two teams. But we try to spend as much time together as we can.”
“I’m a soccer junkie, I guess. But I also like to read and play a little golf whenever I can.”