CBN.com - Mike Candrea is a man who knows how to win. He led his softball team at the University of Arizona to eight national titles. In 2002 he was named head coach of the US national team and they took home the gold in the 2004 Olympics. After 31 years, Coach Candrea has come to realize that coaching is more than winning games or teaching people how to play softball.
"My faith is probably as important to me as any aspect of my life and it's allowed me to do what I do," Coach said. "You know, I try to lead young people in the game of softball, but truthfully my job is not complete unless I lead the in the game of life."
Coach Candrea plans on keeping it that way for the 2008 Olympic team.
Shawn: What do you think your job as coach of this softball team is?
Coach: Well to lead, I think it's two-fold. One, it's managing the game; obviously we are still playing a game, but more importantly, managing people. And I think a big part of that I've found out dealing with young women, because I've coached men and I've coached women. Men have to play good to feel good and women have to feel good to play good. I spent a lot of my time trying to get young women to feel good about themselves and I think a part of that is understanding life. And what life's going to bring. And how do you cope with some of the quote, 'curve balls,' that you're going to get in life."
Coach Candrea has had his own share of "curve balls." Early in his career, he and his wife Sue lost a child.
Coach: I never dreamed of losing a child. Sue had toxemia and at a very young age I was faced with losing a child that lived for three weeks. And it made me grow up really fast and made me realize how important my faith was to be able to get through that. And I promised at that moment that, that will always be the center of my life.
Then in 2004, just before the summer Olympics in Athens, Candrea faced another devastating loss - His wife Sue.
Coach: In 2004 as we got preparing for the Olympic games we sat down and we decided she was going to retire and was going to be with me on the road on a day-to-day basis. And she did. She was so happy to be able to enjoy that journey with me. And we were at our second to last tour stop before the Olympic games and we were checking into the airport and Sue went down and had a brain aneurysm and passed away. It was a very difficult time for me to show the strength that I needed to. And I really believe the Good Lord kind of took me by the hands and led me through it.
Coach Candrea wasn't sure he could continue.
Coach: I didn't know if I could really go through going to Athens. After this I kind of got the family together and my son basically said, "You know, mom would want you to be coaching this team."
Coach Candrea made the decision to coach his team in Athens and led them to an Olympic gold.
Coach: The team helped me heal a little bit. They were a big a part of that. And I just feel like the Good Lord was giving us a moment that we'll never forget.
Coach Candrea is once again leading his team to the Olympic games in Bejing with hopes of capturing the team's fourth consecutive gold medal. But that's his short term goal. He's going to continue to touch lives by planting seeds of faith.
Coach: I want to make an impact that's going to be life long. And to me to make an impact that's life long I think you have to talk about life and how important it is. But I always go back to the balance: you can be the best at your profession but you can still be very unhappy. And for me happiness is having the balance and having Jesus Christ in my life. I think if you're going to be a coach, a coach to me is someone that leads, someone that teaches life long lessons, and I would not go through life without Jesus Christ.