Brothers in arms: McGuffin and Petite give their all to Callaway soccer

Published 5:11 pm Friday, March 29, 2024

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If you have been around the Callaway girls soccer team any time over the past several years, you will have seen two middle-aged coaches, Mike Petite and Jeff McGuffin giving their players the good cop, bad cop routine. If you haven’t seen them, then you have almost certainly heard them. 

The latter, short and stout, and the former, lean and a shade taller, matching bald heads that glisten in the Georgia sun. The duo looks like a partnership you’d find in a buddy cop film and their backstories are so richly varying that there are so many more layers to who they are and what they have done. This is a story of a friendship that has defined them both in ways they could never previously imagined and impacted a multitude of lives beyond their own.

Petite and McGuffin’s coaching journeys at Callaway began roughly at the same time. Petite took over the boys program eight years ago, and McGuffin was already serving as an assistant coach with the girls team. Fast forward to 2022 and Petite took over the girls program and a bond that was surface level at best began to deepen.

“When I go out there, I know I have more than just a coach, but a friend and somebody that I really trust and believe in,” Petite said. 

The first season together saw the girls team reach new heights. The Cavaliers set the single-season win record with 16. One thing that has eluded them is a banner.

Banners are hung in the Callaway gymnasium when a team makes a run to the elite eight or better or wins a region championship. 

The program is reaching new heights, but it’s the people at the heart of it that make the wins so special.

“Yes, we’ve been pretty successful, but at the same time, we became really close friends and that probably means more as much as anything we have done,” McGuffin said. “I know the friendship made will last forever.”

The two follow the immortal words “futbol is life” of Dani Rojas from the hit TV show Ted Lasso to a T. They eat, live and breathe the beautiful game. For Petite, it’s practically been that way all his life and Callaway was far from his first coaching job. In fact, just in Troup County, he has previously served as the LaGrange Academy coach and an assistant coach with LaGrange College.

“When I was first hired by coach (Pete) Wiggins, the first thing they told me was that Jeff was the pillar of the program,” Petite said. “I’m glad to see his role change from just cutting grass to really impacting the program as an amazing coach.”

McGuffin on the other hand found soccer much later in life. A former Troup baseball standout who earned a scholarship to play at Auburn University, soccer was never on McGuffin’s radar until his two daughters started playing it. While they fell in love with the game, so did their old man.

“I would rather sit down and watch soccer than baseball now,” McGuffin said. “About 14 years ago, I started coaching my daughter in parks and rec, and I didn’t understand anything about soccer other than how physically demanding it was. I really fell in love with it because there are no breaks, and it’s nonstop action.

“I worked with a lot of good coaches and just soaked everything in like a sponge. I worked with Keita (Placide) for two years and then with coach Ryan Dixon from LaGrange College and people like Patrick Potts and now with Petite. I think I’ve really worked with the best coaches around.”

Their varied backgrounds have led to them having two very different coaching styles that end up complementing each other perfectly.

“A lot of times it is like good cop, bad cop, but it is probably more like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde most of the time,” McGuffin said, laughing. 

Petite added that Jeff is better at addressing the players on an individual level while he operates more on the team level.

Like any good partnership, there is give and take between the two.

“It’s nice to have a dictator that actually listens to us because me and (Boys assistant coach) Hunter (Lee) have some of the crazy ideas,” McGuffin said as the two shared a laugh. “It really takes a good leader to be humble enough to listen and take advice.”

Both men pour their hearts and souls into the Callaway soccer program. Just last summer McGuffin raised funds and spent practically his entire summer getting kids involved with club soccer.

“Jeff has beat the drum for club like nobody’s business,” Petite said. “He will find a way to cover the costs, he will get them to practices and games. He will be out here on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays and Saturdays and Sundays in the summer, running concessions and babysitting the soccer field. He wants to give these kids a chance because he sees the potential in them.”

When a player does not have a way to make ends meet and afford club dues, McGuffin often pays them without looking for praise.

While some coaches are a part of the team from the opening day of practice until they put away the jerseys for the final time after a game concludes, not these two. McGuffin and Petite are dedicated to Callaway soccer 24/7 365 days, but most importantly they are always there for the players.