In 2008, the Mountain View boys soccer team reached the 4A state finals and senior keeper Michael Chesler was named the Daily Herald Utah Valley Player of the Year.
Nearly 13 years later, Chesler is leading another soccer team based in Orem but at the collegiate level.
Chesler took over the UVU men’s soccer team as the interim head coach when long-time Wolverines coach Greg Maas resigned to pursue other opportunities.
“It’s been fantastic so far,” Chesler said in a phone interview on Thursday. “I just want what’s best for the guys and I’m hoping that we can make the tournament. That honestly is my focus right now. It’d be great to get the job but I can’t focus on that right now. The task at hand is making the tournament and that’s what we’re working towards.”
He said that he didn’t feel nervous when he coached his team for the first time in Wednesday’s 3-2 OT loss to San Jose State but added that he did have to change his routine.
“The one thing that was weird was the pregame and not being involved in the same way,” Chesler said. “I had to dress like a head coach and so that was a little different for sure. I’m usually so active, running around and putting my nose in everything with the warmups. That was definitely the biggest change.”
It’s been a winding road for Chesler since his days leading the Bruins. He played college soccer at High Point in North Carolina, then had some pro experience with Real Salt Lake and the Carolina Railhawks.
Soccer became a lesser part of his life, however, until Maas gave him an opportunity.
“I was actually out in West Virginia, working as a warehouse manager for a coal mining company when Greg kind of gave me a shot,” Chesler said. “I was making some decent money but I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, so I decided to dive into coaching. In 2014, I came out here and got involved with Greg as a volunteer assistant. After that first year I became a club director for Utah FC in Provo and took on coaching full time. I then moved up to be an assistant coach with Greg.”
He was part of the UVU staff when the Wolverines earned an NCAA tournament bid, the first ever for the university.
He left to coach at his alma mater (High Point) before Maas had another opening and invited Chesler to return to Orem. He has now been with the team since 2017.
Chesler said he has known Maas since he was 10 years old and that relationship benefited him a lot as a player when he was young and then as a coach.
“We always share the story about how he cut me four or five years straight before I made the team the sixth year,” Chesler said. “Coaching with him has been a lot of fun. Greg gave me the freedom to just take it and go because he’s trusted me. He had that faith and we saw eye to eye on how we wanted things to be done.”
When Maas started considering other opportunities, he talked with Chesler and let him know about the situation.
“He talked to me as soon as it was a real consideration,” Chesler said. “It was one or two days later that the decision was done. He was super open and just said, ‘hey here’s what we’re gonna do.’ He said he wanted this for me and that he thought I was doing great job.”
Chesler would love to have the interim tag removed and just be the head coach but he said right now he’s more focused on seeing this group of Wolverine athletes become their best.
“I’ve recruited all these guys for the most part,” Chesler said. “I’ve spent countless hours with them and I just feel like we all have great relationships with each other. We’re willing to fight for each other. What I want is what’s best for them and I think they’re capable of dominating the WAC. We’re a young team. We only have three players that started in the 2019 group — but just because we’re young, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be good.”
He took a moment to remember playing just up the road at Mountain View and what he’s gone through to get to where he is at now.
“I remember after we had lost in the state finals that UVU came to our school and made a pitch, and we wondered why anyone would go there,” Chesler said. “Now it’s the largest school in the state and the green is everywhere. It seems like everybody has gone there. It’s kind of cool being the guy that played down the street and then worked my way up as a volunteer and assistant, as associate head coach and now I’m the interim head coach. It seems like kind of a movie or a fairy tale story. I don’t feel like there are a lot of people that get that opportunity.”