OKLAHOMA CITY — Arizona’s run to the 2021 Women’s College World Series marks its 24th appearance in program history, all coming under legendary coach Mike Candrea, who has been the head coach for 36 seasons.
During that time, Candrea has won eight national titles turning the Wildcats program into a national power that rivals UCLA as the best program in softball history.
With rumors swirling around that this might be Candrea’s final season, Arizona alumni have shown their support for the man they call “Coach.”
Throughout the first couple of days of the WCWS, Candrea’s former players have spoken out, sharing their thoughts on how much they appreciate what he has done for them and the sport of softball.
In a conversation with former Wildcats power hitter Stacie Chambers, who played for Candrea from 2008-11 and is third all-time on the school’s home run charts with 89, she talked about the opportunity to play for him.
“He’s literally the best,” Chambers said. “I’m so lucky and glad I had the opportunity to play for him and learn from him.”
During the 36 seasons, Candrea has impacted the lives of ladies of all different ages and has made a difference way beyond their playing days.
Former utility player Alex Morgan, known as Lavine when she played for the team from 2011-14, talked about the impact Candrea has on her life.
“There are so many lessons that stick with you when you get the privilege to talk to Coach every day at school,” said Morgan. “I would say the biggest impact he’s had on me after softball is constantly loving, appreciating, and living your fullest life. He was always telling us to be where our feet are and appreciate every day because you don’t know what tomorrow brings and you don’t want to look back and realize you didn’t enjoy big moments.”
“The one thing I learned and really try to relay to my family and kids that I coach is control the controllable,” said Morgan. “Coach would always follow up with saying the two things you can always control are your attitude and effort. So, whenever I’m facing something difficult or coping with something I can’t change I have Coach’s voice in my head telling me control the controllable. As a person that always wanted to be in control this really helped me face adversity in the game and, more importantly, adversity in life.”
— Alex Morgan (Lavine) (@IB_WEAZ7) May 21, 2021
“As a person that always wanted to be in control this really helped me face adversity in the game and, more importantly, adversity in life. When my dad was sick, Coach was one of the first people I talked to about it because I was having a difficult time coping with the lack of control I felt.
“Candrea is more than just a softball coach to a lot of us. He’s a mentor, he’s a second father, he’s the voice in my head telling me to be and live better because tomorrow is never promised.”
Candrea’s program is more than games played, home runs hit, total wins, or even titles. His program is about family and making sure every player who plays for him progresses not only on the field but also in life.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Troy Hutchison hails from Tucson and is a lifelong Arizona Wildcats follower. He has been involved in sports journalism over the last two years while taking communications courses at Pima Community College.