First in a Series
Charlie Pierce's voice was raspy. He had just returned from coaching at a football camp at West Virginia University on Thursday, and hours of instructing had taken a toll on his vocal cords -- but not on his enthusiasm.
Even with Briar Woods High School under construction and the official start of the high school football season many weeks away, Pierce spoke zealously about his new team and what he called a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at the new school.
"Loudoun County is unique in how fast it's growing," Pierce said. "But still, not too many coaches can say in their career that they got to put their stamp on a new program. I'm anxious to start it from scratch and see it grow."
He isn't the only one.
Athletic Director Joe Breinig, who was hired last July to oversee the sports programs at Briar Woods, cited a similar desire to cultivate a new program when ending his 28-year tenure as the head of Loudoun County High's athletic department to move to the new school.
"I think every athletic director doing this job has a fond desire to open a new school, start a new program and get to staff it with people from scratch," Breinig said. "It's that part -- being able to bring a staff on board that you think will really fit in with your philosophy -- that's the key."
Breinig has filled nearly every head varsity coaching position, with the exception of girls' basketball, swimming and gymnastics. He said he hopes to fill those quickly as the Falcons will field a varsity team in every sport except football this school year. Football will start with junior varsity and freshman teams this season and will play an independent varsity schedule the following year before joining the AA Dulles District in 2007.
"Not having the varsity program starting out was something that I had on my list as a con and not as a pro when I was initially making my decision," said Pierce, the former head coach at Park View. "But then I realized it'll give me an extra year to get these ninth- and 10th-graders integrated into our program. They'll have a complete understanding of what we want offensively and defensively from them as players, as well as what we expect from them off the field as individuals before they move to the varsity level. And I now see that as a real plus."
Other coaches won't have such a luxury of time. Just as Stone Bridge (2000), Heritage (2002) and Dominion (2003) did when they were launched, Briar Woods's other programs will jump into varsity play with no seniors -- and likely few juniors.
"It's not everyone who can take on a new school with young kids and handle the adversity that we'll undoubtedly face for the first few years," Breinig said. "So you have to find coaches who can keep up the energy to draw kids into the program. We're looking in terms of being competitive at the varsity level in three or four years, when the kids that will start with us now as freshmen will be seniors. And that's a long, tough road. But it does give the coaches and athletes a unique opportunity to be a part of establishing the tradition at this school."
No one is more familiar with that process than Dave Morris, who two years ago started the Dominion girls' basketball program and now tackles the same challenge with the Falcons' boys' basketball team.
"Whether it's boys or girls, you're starting from scratch, and you know it's going to be tough," Morris said. "But this school is a little different than Dominion in that it's in an area of more growth. I feel that Briar Woods will be one of the places to be in Loudoun County in the next few years. And so it's an exciting place to be."