From player to coach, Bustin keeps USA in the Olympics

By on September 8, 2008

By Andrew Hornback

The Olympics are the epitome of athletics; the one event that brings together the best athletes and coaches from more than 200 countries to compete not just for individual or team honors, but for national pride as well.
Pam Bustin, University of Louisville’s field hockey head coach, is one of the few who knows what it feels like to be involved in the Olympics as both an athlete and a coach.
Bustin, who was one of the women’s field hockey assistant coaches for Team USA at the Olympics this past summer and has been since 2005, also played for the national team in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Ga.
“I would consider it the biggest accomplishment of my coaching career,” Bustin said. “Although winning the Final Four this year on [U of L’s] home field would mean more to me than a gold medal would have if we had won it.”
Bustin has a host of other international playing experience, as she played for the U.S. international team from 1989 to 1996 and was a member of the team that went on to win the silver medal in the 1995 Pan-American Games.
This was the first year Team USA qualified for the Olympics since Bustin was a player at the ‘96 games. The team qualified after going 6-0 at the Kazan Olympic Qualifier, beating tournament favorite Belgium in the finals to take the next to last qualifying spot in the games.
Team USA finished fourth in their pool with six points, beating New Zealand and finishing in ties with Argentina, Japan and Great Britain, staying in contention for a spot in the semifinals until the final matches.   
Although the national team didn’t bring back a medal from the games, Bustin was far from disappointed in how the team performed.
“I think in the end, experience prevailed,” Bustin said. “We were good enough to win and played with great tactics. It was just a matter of experience and the energy it takes to step up and perform at [the international] level.”
However, coaching wasn’t the only experience Bustin had at the Beijing games, as she noted there was a significant difference between being a coach at the Olympics and being a player.
“I could absorb a lot more of the events as a coach than as a player,” Bustin said. “The enjoyment and excitement of the Olympics wasn’t as completely isolated to my one sport.”
Being the second trip to the games for Bustin, there were some sights that although weren’t new to her, remained exciting.
“Of course meeting President Bush [was exciting], which was different from the games I competed in because they were on our homeland,” Bustin said. “So although I knew he would speak to the U.S. athletes, it was a different experience in another country.”
She also saw several other athletes which sparked her interest, including U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps and the U.S. men’s basketball team.
“I saw Michael Phelps a lot, just not in the pool,” she said.
“[The basketball players] were the most recognizable athletes at the games,” she said. “We had some players on our team that actually went to Wake Forest with Chris Paul and he was very friendly to us.”
The Olympic coaching experience will never be forgotten by Bustin, but her heart remains with U of L.
“We’ve been building this program for ten years, and I think with the improvements we’ve made in our facilities and our recruitment, we can definitely win a national title here, which is my ultimate goal,” Bustin said.

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