Paul Casarez, Apple Valley Storm SC’s Technical Director, has helped transform the club from a small town team to a southern California powerhouse.
Paul Casarez is among the most experienced and well-respected coaches in southern California. With over 30 years of experience working in grassroots soccer in the High Desert, his commitment to the game has impacted thousands of players. Coach Paul understands the nuances and requirements for a local player to improve, develop, and go on to play at the highest levels our state has to offer. He was part of the first great generation of soccer players in the High Desert and has been ever-present in the local scene since.
Back in the late 1980s, the Apple Valley Highschool Boys Soccer Team started a dynasty, going on a long run of league championship-winning seasons. Paul Casarez was part of this original dynasty that put the High Desert region on the map as a producer of elite soccer talent. The success of the high school team drove Paul to continue his soccer journey through coaching.
He got his first big coaching opportunity with the Granite Hills High School as Junior Varsity Coach. In 2002, he took over as Varsity Coach, leading the team to its first-ever league championship. But he didn’t stop there. Granite Hills have since gone on to win the DSL numerous times. The school now has an elite reputation in the region and is consistently ranked in the top 10 of the CIF division.
Coach Paul joined Apple Valley Storm Soccer Club in 2009 as President, Technical Director, and coach. The job he’s done over the past 14 years has been immense. When he first arrived on the scene, Paul explained to us that the primary objectives were to keep the club alive and expand.
“By 2009, there were only about four teams left. The club wasn’t recruiting and bringing in new teams so the older teams were aging out. When I took over, the league said, ‘You’ve been here a while (the club) but you only have four teams so you have to start building’”. Thus, he began building on the foundations that he had inherited.
One of the first and most important actions Paul took as Technical Director was to make full use of Brewster Park (Lenny Brewster Sports Center), the home of Apple Valley Storm. Paul worked with Cal South to bring the State Cup to Apple Valley, leading to a rapid transformation of the club.
“Cal South started doing State Cup at Brewster, our complex. This gave us revenue and financial backing so I started recruiting. All of a sudden, we went from four teams to seven, to twelve. We were at fourteen for a while but we eventually grew to 24.” Within 10 years, the club more than tripled in size, becoming the High Desert’s largest and most successful club.
“It was almost done with so I’m pretty proud of that” Paul added, “We talked to Cal South and that really helped save us and helped me get more coaches and more players so we didn’t have to disband. It was a lot of work but it was worth it.”
Like most other clubs in the region, the pandemic took its toll on Apple Valley. However, rather than waiting around and simply hoping for the best, Paul and Apple Valley Storm got to work building a solid recreational soccer system. The rec program not only provides locals with a fun and safe environment to play the game of soccer, but it also works as a development platform for the Apple Valley Storm competitive teams.
“Because of COVID, the number of teams went down to 17 but we started building rec over the last few years. Now we have close to 1,400 players. That’s how we’re really getting stronger and getting our club back up.”
Coach Paul has managed to oversee and lead multiple Apple Valley Storm teams to State, Regional, and National Championships over the years. He’s helped make AVSC a powerhouse in southern California, despite the current trend of larger clubs poaching the top players from “smaller” teams. This is a testament to the tremendous work Paul and other coaches in the club are doing. It demonstrates that quality coaching and a player development focus are the keys to success in a homegrown club.
Located in the desert with a relatively small player pool to choose from, Storm has consistently produced highly competitive teams and won several major competitions in southern California and beyond. This is no surprise given the vision and belief that Paul and his AVSC compatriots share.
Perhaps the most important moment in the club’s history was when Paul became the first ever AVSC coach to take a team all the way to the Premier Division of Coast Soccer League (CSL). Not only that, but the very same team became champions in their first season in the Premier League. No team from the High Desert has ever had a Premier League team, let alone Premier Champions.
“The 2002 team was the very first team to get to the Premier Division. We had to play in a playoff to get in. We crushed it. We got the first team to be accepted into Surf Cup and now we always have teams coming through and winning the Premier and the Surf Cup. That team won the premier in our first season.
Now if you look at our profile, you see a lot of Premier teams, a lot of champions. We’re proud as a club of being as competitive as we can and having success. That first team was the one that opened the door for the rest. It got us ranked and we started that journey to opening the doors for our whole club.”
Over the years, Coach Paul has also led the first-ever High Desert’s girl’s team to the Premier League along with several others. He has won over 100 medals at tournaments, including Cal South State Cup, Cal South National Cup, US Club Soccer National Cup, SCNPL, Surf Cup, and the USYS Presidents Cup. His Premier Boys 2002 team was ranked #1 in the nation during his tenure as coach.
Many of Coach Paul’s players have gone on to play at the collegiate level, from NCAA Division 1 to Junior College. He has an outstanding record of helping student-athletes achieve their potential. Paul has the type of experience that most coaches crave, a real homegrown soccer experience made by High Desert soccer players for High Desert soccer players.
Paul understands the importance of fostering a coaching community within the club. Everyone buys into the Apple Valley philosophy and keeps up with the latest developmental trends, as well as coaching education and licensing.
Speaking about the current coaching landscape, Paul said, “I’m constantly watching higher-level soccer and professionals. I’m learning their verbiage and the modern game, and turning them into practice sessions. I use that as education…We have coaching clinics once a month. It’s online but I feel that the coaches I have now are way more open and we have a better group for doing on-the-field clinics for them.”
Paul Casarez and Apple Valley Storm Soccer Club have created a quality soccer eco-system, tailored perfectly for their region. The club is a shining example of how to build, develop, and foster a grassroots sports organization in a small town. AVSC was well represented in the 2023 Cal South State and National Cups, taking home three winner’s trophies. The future is looking bright for Storm.
“We’re working toward 2025 with another complex. It’s a smaller one but it’s got good soccer fields and it’s got lights so I’ll be able to bring in more teams. We’ve also been talking with the town about getting more fields. Right now, we’re packed, but you’d be surprised, we make a lot of space for our teams.
By 2025, I think we’re going to be looking at around 30 teams, which would be an all-time high. That’s a lot for our area. We’re always the little guy against the big one. But we’re at a higher level. For us, we’re not trying to be a 50-team club. We want to keep it where we have quality and coaches for all our teams to excel and play at a high level.”, said Paul as he ponders the future.
There’s no place like Storm! Thanks to the work of Paul and all those at AVSC, the High Desert has become a hotbed for soccer talent in our region. Cal South is proud and honored to have such dedicated members and contributors to our sport. A big thanks goes out to Paul Casarez for taking the time to speak with us. You can keep up with all the news from Apple Valley Storm Soccer Club on their website.
Paul Casarez Major Trophies
2023 National Cup Champion G09
2022 Surf College Cup Finalist G05
2022 Champions 08 Division Champions G09
2022 Premier B06 Champions B06
2022 CRL Champion G05
2022 National Cup Finalist
2022 Far West Semi Finalist G05
2022 Far West Quarter Finalist G09
2021 National Cup Finalist B04
2021 Premier Champion B04
2021 National Cup Finalist G05
2021 Man City Cup Finalist B04
2021 Surf Cup Champions B04
2021 Surf College Cup Champion B06
2021 Surf College Cup Champion G05
2021 Surf College Cup Finalist B04
2021 National League B04
2019 Premier Champion G05
2019 West Regional Champion G05
2019 USYS National 3 place G05
2019 NPL Champion G05
2018 Premier Champion G02
2018 NPL West Champions B02
2018 National Cup Finalist B02
2018 State Cup Finalist G05
2017 Premier Champion B02
3 US Club National Champions
4 US Club Regional Champions
2 US Club Regional Finalist