Excerpt from A Tribute To The Career Of Peter S. Briggs

Probably the most significant aspect of Briggs’s college career in terms of its lasting impact was the relationship he formed with Harvard’s legendary longtime squash and tennis coach Jack Barnaby, who became a true mentor and role model in every sense of the word, teaching life lessons that were just as sage --- and much more timeless --- as the coaching tips he imparted. Barnaby became the only person, according to Briggs, “who could make rhyme or reason” of the chaos that was roiling every college campus, including Harvard’s, during the social and political turbulence of the early 1970’s while the Vietnam war raged and the civil rights movement and a host of other contentious issues convulsed America. No matter how much mayhem was buffeting Harvard’s student body --- including two school years that ended with the campus shut down and no final exams --- it was a sustaining and nurturing experience for the student-athletes in Harvard’s varsity squash program to know that they had a place to go every day for several hours where they could enjoy and improve in their sport, commune with their teammates and converse (on plenty of subjects besides squash) with their endlessly wise and fully engaged (and engaging) coach. Hemenway Gymnasium became an oasis, offering a sanctuary to train one’s body, clear one’s mind and temporarily escape from everything swirling around outside. The role that Coach Barnaby played for his players greatly informed the way Briggs would lead the youthful charges entrusted to his care when he assumed leadership positions a little more than a decade later.

   After graduating from Harvard in May 1973, Briggs spent the next three years both helping run Boast, a racquet-sports clothing company that he and a few friends founded in 1973, and competing in amateur squash tournaments. In this latter pursuit, he reached the finals of the U. S. Nationals in 1975 --- by mounting a momentous fifth-game rally from 4-12 to 15-13 in his semifinal against Jay Nelson --- and then captured the 1976 edition of this tournament without the loss of a single game at the Ringe Courts in Philadelphia. He thereby became the first left-handed player to win this event in the 38 years since Germaine Glidden had done so in 1938. A few weeks later, Briggs and Ralph Howe swept the Canadian and U. S. National Doubles Championships, thereby culminating a 1975-76 season in which Briggs also won the Gold Racquets and Harry Cowles Invitationals and the Mexican Nationals. It would be 27 years before another player --- the aforementioned Quick, with Eric Vlcek as his doubles partner in 2003 --- would win both the U. S. National Men’s Singles and Doubles championships in the same season. In the aftermath of his excellent 1975-76 season, Briggs was chosen as the recipient of the Edwin Bigelow Trophy “for outstanding performance in play,” which is the most coveted award bestowed by the Metropolitan Squash Racquets Association. Shortly thereafter, he (playing the No 1 position), along with teammates Gil Mateer, Billy Andruss and Tom Page, represented the U. S. at the biennial World Team Championships in England. Thirteen years later, when Briggs served as head coach of the U. S. team in the 1989 edition of this event in Singapore, he thereby became the only person ever to have been a member of the U. S. men’s team as both a player and the head coach. Briggs subsequently was the USA head coach at the World Team Championships both for the men’s team in Helsinki in 1991 and for the women’s team in Vancouver in 1992.