Person 2 Person: RSL head coach, Mike Petke

Mike Petke, March 28, 2017.jpg
Person 2 Person: RSL head coach, Mike Petke (Photo provided by Real Salt Lake)

(KUTV) Mike Petke is the head coach for Real Salt Lake. He was announced as the new head coach in March of this year.

According to Petke, the biggest challenge of the new job is "stepping into a role that has already been in motion."

Petke joined RSL about four games into the season.

"I was just thrown into this and literally had a game four days later," he said.

Soccer has been a huge part of Petke's life. He grew up playing, and was a player in the MLS before he started coaching.

"Soccer, to me, was just non-stop, all over the field. That was even before I knew tactics or really how to play. It was just a constant movement that I liked," Petke said.

Petke played soccer on scholarship at Southern Connecticut State University. Major League Soccer started while he was in his second year.

"Then it was like, wow, I could actually take this to the next level and do this for a living," Petke said.

Petke has had a lot of family support throughout his career. His parents worked hard in order to be available to take him to practice and to games.

"The funny thing is they don't know what 'offside' is. I've been in this sport 38 years, but they still don't know what 'offside' is," laughed Petke. "They're still the parents that at 41 years old, after 20-something years, have the camera out-the portable, disposable camera-and want to take a picture of me by the field."

Petke has been married to his wife, Kim, close to 17 years. They have two sons, nine-year-old Mason and 12-year-old Dillon.

His wife was a former soccer player who also worked in the league.

"She grew up with this sport, so she knew exactly what she was getting into when we met and got married," Petke said.

His family is now making the transition from the East Coast to Utah. Naturally, it was hard for his sons to get used to the idea of moving so far away.

"To my boys' credit, how young they are, they get it. They understand," Petke said of the change for his family.

Petke was especially impressed with his older son's reaction when he told him they were moving.

"As upset as he was when I told him, he says, 'I know this is what you want to do. You're a coach.' And to me, a 12-year-old telling me that gives me the goosebumps and I'm just so proud of him," recalled Petke with emotion.

Before coming to Utah, Petke coached the New York Red Bulls. He had also played for the team. But a couple of years ago, he was fired.

"I'm completely moved off from it now, but to revisit it--it was the most difficult time of my life," said Petke. "That was my family, and I gave everything I had to them."

But in the end, Petke and his family learned a valuable lesson.

"Nothing's guaranteed. You have to work for everything in life and things still might not work. But if you could look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and say, 'I did the best I could,' then you can hold your head up," said Petke.

Petke and his team are now preparing to host Manchester United at Rio Stadium on July 17th. He believes the game will be invaluable for the team's young players and show them what it really means to be a professional.

It will also be a "thrill" for veteran players as well.

"I think it's an honor for a club as a whole to be hosting a team like that," he said.

For more about Real Salt Lake, visit the team's website.

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