Ahead of the game: junior Bonner commits early to UNC Charlotte

The Southerner

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Junior Perri Bonner (right) smiles as she sits on the bench early on in the Grady soccer season, unable to play due to a ligament tear in her foot. Photo by Valentina Makrides.

Bonner (left) leaps in the air to steal the ball as the opposing team watches on. Photo by Ciena Leshley.


One look at Perri Bonner as she starts a game makes it unmistakable that she’s focused, fierce and ready to fight for a win. A junior, Bonner, a forward for the Grady girls varsity soccer team has already verbally committed to University of North Carolina Charlotte. Bonner received the offer in November and accepted it in January after weighing her other offers from schools like Syracuse University, Kennesaw State University, Georgia State University, University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University and University of Georgia.

“I looked over everything and I decided I wanted to go out of state, but Charlotte was perfect because it is still relatively close,” Bonner said.

Bonner’s passion for soccer started at a very young age. Her father, Brian Bonner said Perri did tumbling and ballet before finally settling on soccer at the suggestion of her ballet teacher, who thought she needed something more challenging.

Her father remembers her early promise in soccer.

“I coached her her first year playing,” Bonner said. “I kind of knew then she was going to be fairly good because she had some natural talent.”

Bonner has learned along the way, however, that developing potential requires hard work, which her current Grady coach Rodney Thomas recognizes.

“Perri is very talented and she’s dedicated,” Thomas said. “I have seen her mature as a player and I’ve seen her improvement despite the fact that after her first year everyone in our region knew about her. Perri works not just here at Grady, not just with her club team, but on her off time. Between her [Bonner] and her dad, any spare time she has, she works to improve.”

Bonner has been on the varsity team since her freshman year, the same year she transferred from her Atlanta Youth Soccer Association club team to the more competitive Cobb Futbol Club.

“At her current club, we got a different level of coaching and competition and I think she realized how good she could be,” Brian Bonner said. “The level of competition was higher. Usually with good athletes, the better the competition the better you play, and she rose to the occasion.”

Bonner attributes her improvement to his daughter’s commitment to the sport and the greater challenge of her club soccer team. Perri Bonner said her club team gives her more exposure to college recruiters. In the past season Bonner’s team has gone to eight college showcases including the Disney Tournament; the Jefferson Cup, the Bethesda Tournament and the State Cup.

Collegiate recognition for Bonner’s soccer talent has been a long time coming. Her father went to the University of Wisconsin on a football scholarship. He comes from an athletic family, with six division I athletes and many family members who went to college on athletic scholarships. Perri Bonner said her father’s experience as a collegiate athlete has benefited her greatly.

“College athletics is about business now more than anything,” Bonner said. “These coaches are paid to run successful programs, so I told her what’s going to be expected of her. They don’t pay for your education for nothing; they’re making an investment in you, so it needs to be taken seriously.’”

Thomas is confident in Bonner’s ability to thrive in collegiate soccer, but he knows it won’t be easy.

“She’ll be fine because of her work ethic,” Thomas said. “She will have to get used to the speed of play, but physically she won’t be at as much of an advantage as she is now she’ll go up against players who are faster and stronger and she’ll have to work.”

Though Perri Bonner is happy about continuing to play soccer in college, she is also looking toward the future, beyond her athletic career.

“Soccer is more so a gateway to everything else I want to do,” Bonner said. “ When I go to college I want to have a business major and I want to do marketing for companies like Nike. Doing college sports could help me have connections in those areas.”

At present, Bonner works a lot with her dad to improve her skill and consistency.

“I try to work with her on the mental aspect of sports in general, and I have to work with her in being more consistent and that’s not just in sports, but also in school,” Bonner said. “She’s a much better student now than she was a few years ago.”

Though Bonner is very involved in his daughter’s soccer playing right now, he recognizes that when she goes to college she will have a coach, assistant coaches and trainers to help her be her best.

“I’m a coach in my blood so I will always be a voice for her but not nearly as much as I am now,” Bonner said. “My job is to get her there, her job is to succeed, play well and be a great student athlete.”

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