For most, the dream of becoming a professional athlete isn’t realistic.
But for former Dalhousie University star Tessa Stammberger, who has signed a contract with Hannover in Germany’s first division, playing pro basketball runs in the family.
“Well, it was always something that I knew was out there because my mom played in Germany and I had watched her play,” Stammberger said. “Because I knew it was so easy for me, being a German citizen and having a German passport, when I was in high school in Grade 11 and 12, my thought was always five years of university and then go play in Germany.
"I have family there, and it’s something I knew was very accessible to me. I know the German language, so it was just something I knew I could do.”
Spots for imports are restricted in the German pro league, but Stammberger, born in Wolfenbuttel to a German father and Canadian mother, qualifies as a domestic player. She lived in Germany until she was 10, when she moved to Canada, playing her junior high basketball in Prince Edward Island and high school at Halifax Grammar School, then being coached by her mother, Anna, at Dalhousie.
There are professional leagues throughout Europe, but Germany also offers the comfort of knowing the culture, the food and the language. Throughout her childhood, Stammberger spoke German, except during summer vacations in P.E.I.
“I would still say I’m fluent, but I think it can definitely get better, and once I’m there for a couple of months, it will get better,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to start in Germany, a place that’s a little more familiar and where I know the language is where I wanted to be for my first year. I could stay there the whole time I’m playing, however long that is, or I could go somewhere else. I really have no idea what to expect.”
Stammberger has travelled through much of Germany but hasn’t been to Hannover before, though the city where she was born is only 30 minutes away. She was connected with the club there through her agent.
“I’ve watched a couple of their games online and it seems pretty quick. I don’t know if that’s just because I haven’t been playing for a year,” said Stammberger, who at five-foot-11 expects to play guard in Europe. She's spending this year earning an education degree at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton.
She leaves in late July and her contract includes an apartment with another teammate and a bus pass. She already has a good bicycle at the family home in Germany, and her father is an accomplished bike mechanic.
“I don’t need a car with a bike and a bus pass,” she said.
Games in Germany are played on the weekends, with practice through the week. Though Stammberger will have her education degree when she gets there, playing pro will take up too much time for her to consider a full-time teaching job.
“That would be way too much,” she said. “I would definitely be interested in either volunteering or doing some tutoring, coaching, anything to do with children, that’s always what I’ve liked doing.”