This article originally appeared in the August 2009 issue of NCAA Champion Magazine, and was written by Michelle Brutlag Hosick.
Michelle DePolo always knew she wanted to be part of something bigger than herself. When she takes over as Army’s first female softball coach since the program moved to Division I, she will definitely accomplish that goal. DePolo, an assistant at Army since 2007, was chosen to succeed the retiring Jim Flowers.
DePolo likens her new position – and the student-athletes she coaches – to the movie “A League of Their Own.” She coaches at, and her cadets attend, an academy that did not admit women until 1976. Combined with the Army’s male-centric history and the male-driven culture in athletics, female student-athletes at Army have had few role models.
“I think it’s great (I was hired) because it gives them someone to look up to. It gives them an example,” DePolo said. Raised the daughter of a Navy commander, DePolo knew the military life appealed to her.
“I really embrace the atmosphere entirely,” she said. “I embrace the mission of West Point and what it stands for. Every day, you’re doing something to get better: whether it’s academically or the community, athletically, for yourself. Every day you wake up with a purpose.”
DePolo, who played softball at Georgian Court and has collegiate coaching experience at Smith and her alma mater, said coaching at Army is completely different from anywhere else. Everything is built around the schedule of the cadets instead of the schedule of the coach.
“It’s not a college; it’s a lifestyle,” she said. “Cadets are told where to go and when to be there. It’s a great challenge for a coach. I love
that. We want to lose a recruit only if West Point is not the place for them.”
DePolo also loves the actual job of coaching softball. She professes that since she arrived on campus, she hasn’t experienced a single day that she didn’t wantto get up and go to work. Even after a particularly dismal road trip, she’s back in her office the next morning planning what the team needs to work on and noting what it did well.
“When you have a job that you like, there’s a fine line between work and play,” DePolo said. “I skate that line every day. Most of the time, I don’t know which one is which.”