The Stammbergers are Dalhousie people.
Anna played for Dal’s women’s basketball team for five years starting in 1978. She was assistant coach for two years under Carolyn Savoy and then returned to Dal three years ago to become the head coach.
This year her daughter, Tessa, joined the team.
“I’m very happy she’s playing at Dal because it was such a great experience for me [when I was a player],” says Anna. “I do love to see her in the Dal uniform.”
A basketball has never been far away from the Stammberger family. Anna was even playing in the European Cup league when she was four months pregnant with Tessa. By the time Tessa was in Grade 2, her mother began coaching her for the first time.
“It was an adjustment for her; for me, too, to be giving so much attention to all the other kids as well,” Anna recalled. “So, any time I would praise the other little Grade 2 girls or boys she would get upset and say ‘What about me?’ or ‘How was my layup?’ But, of course, she could do a layup so I didn’t have to praise her and I tended not to give her as much attention as the other children.”
Tessa did not like that at all.
“I actually had to throw her out of practice in Grade 3 and tell her to go home,” says Anna. “She was acting up and didn’t like the attention being given to the others.”
Anna is quick to point out that Tessa’s temper-tantrums are long in the past.
“She has adjusted very well and now doesn’t want any attention from me. She is just as happy if I don’t pay any attention to her,” says Anna, laughing.
By now, Tessa is used to having her mom as the coach. She doesn’t think it’s a big deal.
“I think she is a good coach—even if she wasn’t my mom, I would say that,” says Tessa.
“I don’t call her mom. I call her coach and I find that helps a lot,” she added. “I find other people have a harder time categorizing it.”
Fifth-year teammate Alex Legge wasn’t worried about Tessa and Anna’s relationship when she rejoined the team this January. “Personally, I wondered not so much if it would be weird for us, but if it would be weird for the both of them,” she says. “Tessa is really good about always calling Anna, ‘Coach.’ Sometimes I’m the one that will say, ‘Tessa, what did your mom just say about this?’ or something.”
That’s not to say that the mother/coach relationship is always easy.
“When you’re living away from home, your coach is there. You can tell her things, but sometimes those things are things you don’t want your mom to know,” says Tessa. “It is difficult sometimes.”
There are certainly some growing pains when a mother and daughter work together on the same team, but Legge says she is impressed with how easy the Stammbergers’ make their relationship work.
“I can’t imagine it,” she says. “I think it would be a really tough situation, so that’s why it’s really impressive to me how able they are to deal with it and have that mother/daughter relationship but keep it so separate from our team.”
Anna is never accused of showing favouritism. She has, however, been accused of not playing her rookie daughter enough.
“I’m probably a bit tougher on her because I know she is from a basketball family so she should know better, and I probably have a little less patience with her,” says Anna. “But certainly I have had other people in the Dal community tell me to play her more but I say she’s playing enough.”
Anna says she recruited Tessa for her ability on the court; no other reason than that.
“I wanted her on the team because she’s a good player and a hard worker. I would have recruited her if she was my daughter or not. She is my type of player.”
The kinesiology major isn’t always by her mother’s side outside the court. Instead of living at home, the first-year decided to move out to residence when she arrived at Dal this fall.
“We wanted to help keep things separate. We are both more comfortable that way, I think,” says Tessa. “I think it helped a lot. It probably helps my teammates not seeing me come with my mom to every practice and game.”
Anna agrees that living in residence is a good thing for Tessa.
“Sometimes I miss having her as a daughter,” says the third-year coach. “I see her a lot as one of my student-athletes but not as a daughter.”
At home and away from the court, Anna and Tessa claim they are just like any other mother and daughter duo. They watch movies together, and talk about their common interests, which are not only about basketball.
“I think our relationship off the court is good. I don’t know if it’s different from other mother/daughter relationships, but it’s good,” says Anna. “We are similar in many ways—not in everything—but we share a lot of common ground.”