Thanks to her involvement with youth basketball, Amy Poffenbarger knows most Middletown girls basketball players long before they reach high school.
That familiarity should come in handy.
Poffenbarger has been named Middletown High School’s new varsity girls basketball coach, replacing Bill Miskell.
Miskell, who had a 202-72 record and guided the Knights to three regional crowns and one state title in his 11 years at the helm, resigned after last season.
“We had some ideological differences, and we both agreed to go different ways,” Miskell said.
Poffenbarger coached in Middletown’s program before, serving as a JV coach from 2006 to 2009. While the players she worked with back then are no longer in high school, her current players aren’t strangers.
“I’ve coached all of them but one,” she said.
That’s because Poffenbarger, 42, has served as director of basketball for the Middletown Valley Athletic Association and been a board member for Mid-Maryland Basketball.
“It’s a great advantage,” Poffenbarger said. “I know the girls, know their skill sets. I’ve watched them grow up. We know how they learn.”
Coaching was a natural choice for someone with Poffenbarger’s extensive basketball background. She played high school hoops in Lincoln, Nebraska (Lincoln Southeast High, also the Knights), where coach John Larsen gave her a role model to emulate.
“He always had high expectations,” she said. “Although I might not have been sure I could get there, he knew it. If you’re encouraged, you know you can get there.”
Poffenbarger played for the University of Missouri, then professionally for the Kansas City Mustangs of the Women’s Basketball Association (which started before the WNBA). She also did play-by-play on the radio for University of Missouri games.
Being a former college player, Poffenbarger worked at basketball camps. When she started coaching her younger cousins, she got hooked.
“I love watching kids learn the game of basketball,” she said.
She spent one season as varsity head coach at Saint James in Hagerstown, then the Middletown resident joined the Knights’ JV staff in 2006. She served one year as a JV assistant under coach Ron Engle, then she was the team’s head coach for two seasons.
Poffenbarger eventually hoped to coach a high school team again, but she had to be mindful of the commute because of her family. She had five young children. One of those children, Fordham Lee, died when he was 4 years old.
The Middletown job was ideal for Poffenbarger.
She takes over a program that usually ranks among Frederick County’s best.
“We had some very strong candidates, and the process took a little longer than we probably thought it would,” Middletown athletic director Mike DeSimone said. “She’s the best person to move forward with the program, to take the tradition of Middletown girls basketball and move forward with it.”
Poffenbarger said the program would once again have a freshman team. As for style of play, she likes man-to-man defense. But she planned to do as she did while coaching youth basketball with Rachel Levine-Adkins and Randy Adkins — tailor the gameplan to her players’ abilities.
“It’s mainly dictated by the type of team,” she said.
Under Miskell, the Knights were a force. They won a state title in 2006 and also reached the state tournament in 2011 and 2013.
“I think we did a good job out there, and the key word is ‘we,’” said Miskell, mentioning assistants such as Engle, Wanda Adkins and Randy Steiner. “We had a tremendous staff and players. I enjoyed working with them.”
Miskell said he would take some time off, but that he was interested in coaching again in the future.