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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Candrea provides stabilizing presence

    Arizona head softball coach Mike Candrea tosses the ball toward one of his players during Tuesdays practice at Hillenbrand Stadium. Candrea has helped guide the Wildcats to a 7-2 record through the first two  weekends of the season.
    Arizona head softball coach Mike Candrea tosses the ball toward one of his players during Tuesday’s practice at Hillenbrand Stadium. Candrea has helped guide the Wildcats to a 7-2 record through the first two weekends of the season.

    The name Mike Candrea has become synonymous with Arizona softball. His name is legendary around the NCAA softball circuit and it’s hard to ignore based on his achievements.

    Eight national championships, 20 trips to the Women’s College World Series, and gold and silver Olympic medals are just some of the UA head coach’s accomplishments.

    Since he started coaching the team in 1986, Candrea has taken two leaves of absences to coach the USA softball team, in 2004 and 2008. After retiring as head coach of USA softball after the recent Olympic Games, Candrea returned home to the desert to pursue his goal of getting another Arizona championship.

    “”He told us that he wants us to be in the last game of the college season,”” said sophomore outfielder Brittany Lastrapes.

    Candrea’s approach was missed last season when the Wildcats made it to the first round of the College World Series. This year’s season-opening tournament, the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, started out with the same feeling since the Wildcats didn’t come away with a winning record. But at the USF Wilson Tournament in Tampa, Fla., Arizona won five straight games, and with his team off to a 7-2 start, Candrea’s presence can already be noticed on the field.

    His approach was seen from the very beginning of this season when Arizona opened spring practice at Hillenbrand Stadium. He and his staff began the season with an analysis of the major strengths and weaknesses of the team.

    “”The next step is we will get together and I will put on the board everything we listed,”” Candrea said. “”We will go through it and prioritize it and really give them a snapshot of where they’re at right now, and what can get in our way.””

    Candrea opened up spring practice with a 45-minute speech to his squad, outlining the expectations for the season and the path the team would take to reach their final goal. Over the years, Candrea has shown that simply instructing players does not produce the right results. Their feedback and opinions are the only way players can grow to better understand the game.

    When it comes to the player’s attitudes about their head coach, their opinion is clear.

    “”We have more support with him and more positivity,”” said senior Jenae Leles. “”Coach just brings a different aura and atmosphere with the team.””

    It is not just his words that inspire the players, but it is his method of clearly outlining the goal for the team that makes his vision so clear. Like fitting pieces to a puzzle, every player has a role to help the team and Candrea finds ways to fit the right pieces together at the right time.

    Because of his absence last year, both freshmen and sophomore players will get to experience Arizona softball under Candrea’s leadership for the first time.

    “”Coach adds a really good emotional stability. He helps the younger girls a lot, to keep them stable,”” said K’lee Arredondo. “”He helps the older girls, too; he just helps everyone. He’s a great coach to have around.””

    Throughout his years with Arizona and USA softball, Candrea has developed a winning recipe that has proven to work consistently. He starts with the players’ mental attitude toward the game, an aspect that can run high with such great expectations. From there, he and his staff develop clinics and simulate game situations to prepare the team for anything that could stand in the way of their goals.

    “”It’s just a learning experience, that there’s a certain way to play this game,”” he said. “”You’ve got to play the game instead of playing yourself.””

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