Paradoxically, it was the moment it became clear that the Amidon-Bowen boys’ basketball team had no chance of winning their first playoff game in over two years that their coach, Frank Briscoe, felt his greatest pride in them.
“Anybody can win,” he said. “It’s how you lose that shows the strength of your character, your discipline, sportsmanship and how you handle adversity.”
The boys, he said, continued to play hard as the clock ran down, and shook hands respectfully with their victorious opponents, the boys of Moten Elementary School.
Closing out the season with a stellar five wins and only two losses, the Amidon-Bowen boys’ basketball team had garnered more than a winning record. Coming off of two years with no basketball team at all, they had begun the season as the smallest team in the league with only five players. By season’s end, that number had grown to 11.
Coach Briscoe attributes that growth and the team’s success to the vision of Amidon-Bowen Principal Izabela Miller, the support of teachers, parents, and the community, and the dedication of the support staff—custodians, referees, clock minders—all of whom worked together to bring this season to fruition. But more than a little credit belongs to the coach himself.
“[Coach Briscoe] is a mentor, a brother, a teacher and a coach all in one,” said Principal Miller. “Students and staff have the highest respect for him.”
Indeed, Coach Briscoe knows a thing or two about building a successful sports team, having begun his career in 1974 at his alma mater, the Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, Nebraska. There he coached basketball and football until he returned to his hometown, Washington DC, to continue his coaching career at the high school level. He remained at Anacostia High School for 31 years. In 2012, instead of accepting retirement, he decided to dedicate his talent to the children of Amidon-Bowen.
“I was scared to death,” he said of the transition from coaching high schoolers to elementary school students. But Principal Miller had a clear vision for the opportunities she wanted for her students, and Coach Briscoe offered her the perfect combination of experience and proven ability.
“Coach Briscoe has brought new energy, perspective and vast experience into Amidon-Bowen,” said Principal Miller. “He is a walking example of words in action. He coaches students in a holistic way.”
The once-dormant sports program at Amidon-Bowen now boasts a basketball team, track team and cheerleading squad. The number of students eligible to participate in the program is eight times larger than when the year began, with some 40 students now having legitimate physical examinations on record.
Still, the program faces its share of growing pains. In the two years without a sports team, Amidon-Bowen’s school colors changed, but the children this year had no choice but to compete in generic red and white uniforms. It is Coach Briscoe’s hope to have Amidon-Bowen’s blue and orange uniforms for his students next season, even if it means buying them himself.
Indeed, Coach Briscoe and Principal Miller share a similarly ambitious vision for the student-athletes of Amidon-Bowen. Their goal is to see Amidon-Bowen graduates recruited by the District’s middle and high schools that recognize the students’ achievements in the classroom and on the playing field. In this year’s basketball season, it seems they are finding early success.
“Students are able to achieve greatly only because of his patience, fervent commitment and understanding of children’s minds and hearts. I cannot imagine this school without him now,” said Principal Miller.
Even facing defeat in the season’s final game, Coach Briscoe saw boys who had learned to work together, trust each other and who had developed their skills as players.
“I was very proud of how they handled themselves,” said Coach Briscoe. “They represented themselves, their parents, Amidon-Bowen and Southwest admirably.”
As the boys left the game, any disappointment in the loss was outweighed by their excitement about the future.
“They kept asking me, ‘what’s next?’” said Coach Briscoe.
What’s next, he told them, is outdoor track and flag football. The season begins in March.
By Lucy Rojansky
Editor’s Note: Are you interested in making a donation towards new school uniforms for the team? If so, contact Coach Briscoe.