By Doug Gorman
Harry Frederick "Pete" Petersen, the new men's soccer coach at Clayton State, has only been on campus for about a month, but already the veteran of both the college and professional ranks feels right at home on the Morrow campus.
During a meet and greet session Monday afternoon with Clayton State faculty, students and fans, Petersen spoke with enthusiasm about his reasons for taking the job with the Lakers and his hopes for continuing the success of the program.
Petersen was hired as CCSU new men's soccer coach after John Rootes resigned. Rootes helped Clayton State move to the Division II level and left Clayton State with a 69-38-9 record in six seasons. Rootes resigned at CCSU after accepting the heading coaching position at Savannah College of Art and Design.
"I have met a lot of presidents, general managers and athletic directors, but Clayton State is definitely blessed with coach (Mason) Barfield's (the school's athletic director) leadership, and just who he is as a person," said Petersen. I've very excited about being here, because where ever I've been, it all starts at the top. There is really a family atmosphere here. It's a state school, but no one is a number."
Petersen's resume reflects a variety of coaching experiences. The veteran coach's most recent position was as the Director of Coaching with the Norcross Soccer Association. Before taking that job, Petersen worked seven years in professional leagues, serving as coach, general manager and president of various teams. Petersen compiled a 46-44-1 record as a head coach at the professional level.
Clayton's State new coach also has an extensive background in college, serving six seasons as head coach at Spartanburg Methodist College. During the 1994 season, his team captured the National Junior College Athletic Association title.
Petersen looks forward to the challenge of coaching in the Peach Belt Conference. Petersen is friends with several of the coaches in the league and sent many players to USC-Spartanburg while he was coaching at Spartanburg Methodist.
"It's one of the toughest men's Division II soccer leagues in the country, so I'm looking forward to that challenge," he said.
When it comes to recruiting players to Clayton State, Petersen won't restrict himself to geographical areas, but he is excited about the possibilities of signing Georgia residents to scholarships.
"Atlanta has been a hotbed for great soccer players for the last 30 years, the thing is there hasn't been a lot of college opportunities 20 or 30 years ago, but now you are getting more, so recruiting in your own backyard is a good place to start," he said.
That doesn't mean Petersen will overlook international players.
Petersen grew up in West Africa, the son of missionaries, and has also traveled in Europe, so he knows there is plenty of global talent out there.
"I also know the importance of international experience," he said. "Like all of us our forefathers came from overseas, and here are guys of a new generation who want to get an education and make a life for themselves, so were a kind of helping each other."
Petersen was a First Lieutenant in the 82 Airbone of the United States' Army. He served in the military from 1985-88. He graduated from Presbyterian College in 1985 with a degree in history. He earned a Master's Degree in sports science from the United States' Sports Academy in 1988.
Petersen and his wife Mona have a daughter Pricilla.