By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY — No coach at the Women’s College World Series has as much experience as Mike Candrea. The cagey veteran is in his 34th season at Arizona and has compiled an impressive resume that includes eight national championships and an Olympic Gold Medal.
Yet, when his all-American catcher, Dejah Mulipola heard what Candrea had in store for the Wildcats when practice opened in the fall, even she had to take a step back.
‘My first thought was extremely scared,” Mulipola said. “I was terrified. I was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to die. I’ve never done training like this. I don’t think I’m physically fit, mentally fit.’”
What Candrea put in place that had his team petrified was called The Program. It involved a group of Navy Seals attending the Wildcats’ practice for three days to put them through drills and situations to build championship teams.
“The Program is not concerned about talent or winning individual games,” founder Eric Kapitulik stated on his website. “We care about competing for championships — and to compete for a championship, we must make a commitment as individuals and as a team to getting ‘that much better’ every single day. We do this by being good team leaders and good teammates and by preparing ourselves every day to fill either role.”
According to the Program, they believe leadership and team cohesion can only be developed through the experience of shared adversity. So the instructors put the Wildcats through situations that tested them physically and mentally.
“We did a water workout where we had to swim across the pool, swim back. We were treading water as we were taking off our wet sweaters and then putting them back on,” Mulipola said. “It kind of taught you to communicate with your team to survive or else you’re going to drown. So it was just communication. Learning to listen to commands as well as give them. Just working as a team, just working as one unit to accomplish a mission. I think that tied into season and softball and how we can incorporate that into our softball world.”
The fruits of those three days in the fall are now being seen with Arizona making the WCWS for the first time since 2010.
Mulipola hit a mammoth game-winning 2-run homer in the eighth inning Thursday to lead the Wildcats past Washington in Game 1 of the WCWS.
“The leaders that were leading in the program are leaders on the team now,” Mulipola said. “So Taylor (McQuillin), me, Jesse (Harper), people like that. Just learning to listen to whoever is trying to help you in a way, to help you to survive on the field, you understand it will get you somewhere. It’s for the benefit of you.”
According to Mulipola, it also took one other important decision by the team to get where they are now.
“Our team bought into what coach was selling for the first year ever,” Mulipola said. “Everyone was buying into their positions, their roles on the teams and I truly felt that throughout the season, which I think was very beneficial for us.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Copywriter/Content Creator