Soccer coach has team starting fast
Most high school senior girls in their last semester are obsessing over prom dresses or displaying symptoms of senioritis. Susan Bush spent her last semester competing for a chance to play with soccer legends Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy on the 1999 FIFA World Cup team.
Bush’s soccer career has taken her around the world as a member of the US National team; to the UNC trainer’s room with back-to-back ACL injuries that removed her from competition for two years. Eventually she returned to her hometown to become Cougars’ head coach.
“I’ve been a starter and a player coming off the bench with an injury. A lot of the game is mental and a lot of it is related to confidence,” Bush said.
“I try to give the girls confidence and help them find a way to be more confident on the field. I definitely think it helps.”
As a top-rated player coming out of high school, Bush attended the University of North Carolina, a powerhouse in men and women’s collegiate soccer.
It is also the alma mater of soccer greats Hamm and Kristine Lilly. Bush won two NCAA Tournament championships in her first two years as a Tar Heel.
“I had a lot of options, but for me it was choosing a school that I thought I could get better at. I wanted it to be competitive. I was also looking at location in the country; I didn’t want to go anywhere cold, so that was big for me. I also wanted to go to a school where I felt I would enjoy the campus and the university if I couldn’t play soccer.”
Bush was a standout forward for the Tar Heels, earning offensive MVP of the 1999 NCAA Tournament, and was a finalist for the Herman Trophy as a freshman.
But, knee injuries impeded her collegiate career.
“My injuries came my sophomore year and then my junior year, back-to-back,” she said.
“I was out of the game for two years and at the highest level that’s a long period of time, and a setback. I definitely felt like I never met my own expectations or fulfilled my potential, but that’s the game. Injuries are part of it. After college there aren’t a lot of opportunities if you’re not on the full national team.”
Bush would play in the WUSA for the San Diego Spirit before the league ceased operations, but would continue to play internationally until 2003 earning 10 caps; tallying three goals and six assists.
Bush and her teammates won a total of four gold medals from 1999-2000 at various tournaments.
As a player, Bush’s game was built on speed and as a coach, her teams play much like she did.
She would return to UNC in 2004 to finish a double major in history and political science.
“I was trying to create a different path away from soccer with those degrees. I tried that path and hated it. I wanted to stay in athletics and this opportunity presented itself.
“I also like to attack with my team because I was an attacking player. I think you see that in our team this year. We’re throwing numbers forward, scoring lots of goals and going at teams,” Bush said.
The Cougars (6-2-1) are off to their best start since 2005 under Bush. They have outscored their opponents 21-5 this season.
“I think there are a lot of positive things about the University, particularly our athletic program,” she said. “I think we have an athletic director who’s pushing everyone to get better.
“My staff and I have played at a very high level, and I think that’s relatable to the players. We’re encouraging players to come here and make a difference for us — because we haven’t had a winning record the past couple of years.”
The transition from playing on the field to coaching from the sidelines has been smooth for Bush.
“A coach teaches their team to see different scenarios and train for them in practice,” she said.
While Bush misses her time on the field, she hopes her competitive history can guide her players.
“Obviously, I would love to throw on a jersey and get back out there, but I think my influence now is teaching the game in practice, and hoping that they see it and apply it in the games.”
Although she has developed a taste for traveling with the US National team, Bush is happy to be home.
“This is a perfect job for me,” she said. “I spend a lot of time with my family, I’m doing what I love to do and Houston has a lot of talent athletically. It’s a good combination.”