Bobby Dulle said he was born and raised playing soccer and loves the sport to this day.
Dulle is general manager and chief operating officer of the Phoenix Rising Football Club, a professional soccer team in Tempe that has been rapidly gaining popularity.
He first moved to Arizona to play college soccer for Grand Canyon University. After graduating, he traveled the world for nine years working for the Harlem Globetrotters.
“The one common thing anywhere I went in the 50-plus countries, when I’m sitting at a pub or at a coffee shop; the common language was soccer — football, for the rest of the world,” Dulle said. “There was an opportunity that was presented to me a little over three years ago to join what was formerly known as Arizona United, and it was an opportunity for me and my family that made a lot of sense.”
Phoenix Rising is a bit of a passion project for Dulle, who said he jumped at the opportunity.
The team rebranded in 2016 and played its first match under the new name in March 2017 at the newly-constructed Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex in north Tempe.
“We’ve got a great ownership group and a great staff, and three years later, here we are, and we feel that we haven’t even scratched the surface yet,” he said.
Dulle said the smiles, celebration and passion of the team’s fan base is “why we do this.” He said fans are extremely active on social media, and many travel to watch games on the road.
“One of my favorite moments was last year, after we won the Western Conference Championship in Orange County, and thousands of our fans had traveled over,” Dulle said. “Standing on the field and getting to embrace and high-five and be there to lift our first trophy in our club’s history, and to do that with the fans — it was a really cool moment.”
The organization has had long days and many challenges, but the community and fan base surrounding the team makes up for it, he said.
“It’s our community, [something] that everybody can gravitate to — the one professional soccer team in the state of Arizona,” Dulle said. “No two days are the same, but at the end of the day we want to put a good product out there that the community, that the state can be proud of.”
Dulle said he feels like sports teach a lot of life lessons, especially for kids growing up. Playing soccer in his youth, he learned discipline, teamwork and commitment.
“When you’re playing team sports, you’re not only representing yourself, you’re representing the rest of your team,” he said.
Traveling with the Harlem Globetrotters, Dulle said he learned a lot about alternative forms of communication; the team traveled to a number of countries where they did not speak the language.
He said on-the-job learning was second to none, and when the opportunity to work with Phoenix Rising came up he was prepared because of his experiences there.
The entire Phoenix Rising crew, including the owners and the team itself, are extremely committed to winning, Dulle said.
“The challenge is you can’t control what happens on the field,” he said. “We’re fortunate we have an ownership group that’s very committed to winning and investing in the product on the field, investing in the facilities, investing in the brand and the marketing and the activation. We have great partners, but winning — it sure does help.”
Phoenix Rising made it to the final championship last season and has been faring well so far this year, but the market for attracting fans is competitive.
“Arizona’s a great state; you can do things outside, you can ski, you can go hiking, you can do it all,” Dulle said. “And then there are great sports teams here, there are great activities, and so you’re always competing to get the attention of the fans of Arizona that do come out.”
Dulle said he is originally from southern Illinois, near St. Louis, Missouri, but spent quite a bit of time in his youth living in Montana before starting college in Southern California. In his sophomore year, he transferred to GCU and has stayed in Arizona ever since.
Outside of soccer, Dulle said his favorite pastime is spending time with his family, whatever they might be doing.
“I’m married to a wonderful woman and have three beautiful children,” he said. “Of course, they’re into sports, and my daughter now, who’s two years old, is getting into dance.
“There’s really nothing more for me than to unwind and watch them, whether it is youth soccer that they’re playing, or dance, or playing in the backyard with them. Just spending time with my family is what I really enjoy, and traveling with them to let them experience different things, and seeing the gratification that they have, really that’s one of my biggest [passions]… that’s why we work so hard to do what we do.”