Former Olympian now women’s basketball coach for Dal

Anna Stammberger joined the Dalhousie staff this past August and is now prepping her team for nationals.

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Anna Stammberger, Dalhousie's new Women's Basketball coach. Photo: Chris Muise

The new head coach for the Dalhousie University women's varsity basketball program led her team this weekend to their first victory of the season and the first since she took the job in August. Taking on Memorial on Dal's home turf twice, they came away with one win and one loss.

"We're one-in-three right now," said Anna Stammberger. "We lost at UNB, we lost at Saint Mary's, and we lost the first game to Memorial, and now we've won our second game against Memorial."

Stammberger maintains a positive attitude, choosing not to see a series of losses, but one win that shows that the team's hard work is paying off.

"They've been working hard, and they've stayed positive, so it was nice for them to be rewarded," said Stammberger.

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Women's Basketball Forward Laurie Girdwood takes a break during an intense practice session. Photo: Chris Muise

Stammberger isn't your ordinary university basketball coach. She played basketball for Canada in the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Stammberger has been surrounded by sports all her life. Both her parents come from big sporting families, and she attributes her success in sports to being immersed in it all her life.

"I think it was a big part of it because it's the background of where you come from. Everybody in the family is interested in sports, either promoting it or watching it or doing it themselves," said Stammberger.

Stammberger had to excel in sports her whole life in order to make it to the Olympics, having to make university basketball, and then make it to nationals, and then finally, get noticed.

"You're invited to a national team tryout," said Stammberger. "At the tryout, there would be 40 or 50 girls and have to make yourself look better than the rest of them."

Stammberger made it to the Olympics at age 22. She played basketball for Canada in Los Angeles, Calif., where the summer Olympics was held that year. She competed alongside legendary athletes such as Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing. Her team made it to the bronze medal game, but lost to China by five points.

"We came fourth; we lost," said Stammberger. "That was a little bit disappointing, because it really would have been nice to have an Olympic medal."

Despite losing, Stammberger has nothing but fond memories of her time on the Olympic team.

"My good memories are of teammates and how we won games at the Olympics and that we advanced to the medal round," said Stammberger.

"It was the highlight of my basketball career."

Shortly after her time at the Olympics, Stammberger moved to Germany to play and coach basketball there. She stayed there for 18 years, until she moved back to her home province of Prince Edward Island to teach high school physical education, in which she has a bachelor's degree from Dalhousie University.

This summer, the position of head coach for Dalhousie women's basketball became available, and Stammberger jumped at the chance to return to her alma mater.

"Those seven years [spent at Dal] were a very positive experience for me, so I had no reason not to come back," said Stammberger.

Members of Dalhousie's women's basketball team are thrilled to have Stammberger as their coach. Leah and Laurie Girdwood are fifth-year twin sisters who play for Stammberger, and express a lot of faith in her expertise.

"We have noticed since this season that we've gradually been getting better and better every game and every practice," said Leah, who hopes to play in Europe professionally one day.

Her sister Laurie added, "It's good to have her in practices, you know that what she's telling you, she's done it. She knows the limits you can go to."

Both agree that Stammberger's still an impressive player. She played until she was 42 years old, and her many years playing the game certainly show.

"She can still beat any of us one-on-one," said Laurie.

Stammberger's looking forward to February, when her team will hopefully make it to the national finals, where young players might themselves get noticed and make a name for themselves.

"[Before] I made the national team, I don't think many people would have pointed me out and said ‘she'll be on a national team,'" said Stammberger. "I'm never quick to say ‘no, there's nobody that could play at the Olympics.' If someone really wants it bad enough, they will probably do it."

 

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