Chicago standout Tesfamikael gears up for new season


photo by Dakota Craig

Tesfamikael is pictured as her JV Boys Basketball team faces Walt Whitman (2018).

by Maraki Solomon, Staff Writer

Coach Miriam Tesfamikael is returning this year to lead Springbrook’s JV boys basketball team. In 2017, she worked as an assistant coach for the Boys varsity team under Coach Myers, and was one of five women to hold such a position that year, according to her feature in the Washington Post. This year, she’s in both the gym and the G-Hall, as a new IB Environmental Systems and Societies teacher and an ambitious head coach.

Tesfamikael kicked off her coaching career as an assistant middle school girls coach through a program she joined while playing basketball for the University of Chicago women’s team. The following year, she decided to coach middle school boys instead. At that time, Tesfamikael was teaching 7th grade science at the University of Chicago Woodlawn Charter School. Soon enough, she took over as Woodlawn’s head coach, and hit several milestones during her time at the helm. 

“They’d never had a winning record, and we went 11-4 that season. They’d never made city playoffs, and we went to the quarter finals or semi finals,” she said. 

After one season as head coach at Woodlawn, Tesfamikael moved to Montgomery County, Maryland, begining a new chapter of her coaching journey here at Springbrook. After over ten years in the Chicago city-life, arriving in the suburban neighborhoods of Silver Spring was quite the transition.

Her experiences as a woman in a male-dominated field, however, remained consistent even after the move. While coaching at Springbrook, Tesfamikael says she has continued to face disrespect from male referees and coaching counterparts, who Tesfamikael says to speak to her in a condescending manner. 

I know that I yell, I know that I question a lot of calls, I just don’t think I do them any differently than my male counterparts.”

The biggest frustration, according to Tesfamikael, is trying to make sure her players aren’t treated unfairly because of the fact that their coach is a woman. 

For Tesfamikael, one of the greatest rewards of coaching is the bond that is created with each player and the team as a whole. Tesfamikael believes that it is important for the players to have a good relationship with a woman, and gladly takes on the responsibility of being a role model for the team.  

When asked what advice she would give to young girls aspiring to work in male-dominated fields, Tesfamikael stated that building a support system outside of work is essential, whether that be friends or family. Her support system consists of a group of college friends that she keeps in touch with and her husband. 

One way Tesfamikael comes to grips with the obstacles of her job is by taking a moment to look at the collage of images hanging on the chalkboard beside her desk.

“I call this my sanity wall. I like to find the closest wall near me to put up pictures of like friends in family so that when I’m sitting here irritated I can  think of them, ” she said, pointing to a picture of her baby cousin smiling at her. 

The largest picture on her wall is of her old team back in Chicago. Tesfamikael was very close with her team, and they still remain in contact to this day. 

Next season, her main goals are to build off of last years momentum to get a quick start to the season, and to never see another buzzer beater, which accounted for 4 losses in Tesfamikael’s 2018-19 run.

She also, of course, plans on beating Paint Branch.