Aug. 1, 2008
BERKELEY - CalBears.com caught up with Shellie Onstead on one of her last days in Berkeley before heading to Beijing with the U.S. women's Olympic field hockey team. The 14th-year Cal head coach is an assistant coach with the United States, which will compete in Olympic Pool B against Argentina, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and Great Britain. Onstead, Cal's first All-American as a player, was a U.S. Olympic hopeful in 1988.
CalBears.com: How do you expect the U.S. team will do in Beijing?
Onstead: "We're talking medals. I've never been around a U.S. team that talked that way. It's legit. I very much trust in the overall planning of our technical director, Terry Walsh, who's been involved in eight different Olympics Games. We just went on a tour that, results-wise, we didn't do that well in. But by the end of the tour we tied Holland, which is ranked No. 1 in the world.
"We have three more weeks of preparation and we like our chances. It's two pools of six and the top two will cross over in the medal round. You have to have a little bit of luck, and we're happy with our pool. We've beaten Argentina before. We've beaten Germany before. We've beaten Japan. It's going to be awesome. We're really hopeful, which is cool."
CalBears.com: What are your duties with the U.S. team?
Onstead: "At home, I'm coaching. I'm on the turf with Lee [Bodimeade, the U.S. head coach]. I'm the only assistant there. On tour, I'm the video analyst. I'm on the endline view. We have a coach in the stands and we have a coach on the bench, and we're all wired. We all sort of help manage the game from our perspectives, and it's a lot of breaking down the data afterwards and scouting."
CalBears.com: You've coached U.S. men's and U.S. boys' teams in the past. How is it different coaching the U.S. women?
Onstead: "I've always said it's easier coaching men than women. I'd have to say, now that I've been at this level with the women, it's all very similar. The only reason I joke about that is, when I compare men to my college team, you have to more careful in how you approach them and you have to be a little more aware of the emotional side. But at this [national team] level, these girls are practically professional and are all business. There's not much difference at this level."
CalBears.com: You weren't able to reach the Olympics as a player, after getting close to making the U.S. team in 1988. Will it be more or less satisfying to be in the Olympics as a coach?
Onstead: "It's a lifelong dream. It's one of those things in athletics that you aspire to. I was just in Holland, which is where I went after college to try to get good enough to make the national team to make the Olympic team. I actually had dinner with a lot of my old teammates and said, 'Well, I didn't make it as a player.' I was one of the last two left off in '88. 'But 20 years later I'm going back.' I'm fired up. It's amazing to me. Certainly, I probably would've rather gone as a player, but I'm very happy to be involved. I think I'll have a different perspective and I think I'll be able to see a much bigger picture from where I am now."