Before flying halfway across the world to pursue his athletic goals, Marc Steinsberger was a young boy searching for a sport to call his own.
“My father was a handball player, which is quite a popular sport in Germany,” Steinsberger said. “He thought, ‘My son will become a handball player as well.’ I was trying out for [handball], but I was always a rather small guy, and in handball … you have to be rather big, just like a football player for example. But he would sometimes just go for an easy run, and he took me with him.”
Weaving along the lush forest trails surrounding his hometown of Stuttgart, Germany, Steinsberger finally stumbled upon a sport at which he could excel.
“We would just be running easily, and then I made some little competitions just for fun,” Steinsberger said. “It was pretty obvious that I had a certain talent for running and as handball wasn’t the right sport for me, we just thought of something that would maybe [better] fit my body conditions.”
Those “little competitions” would eventually lead to an impressive number of accolades as a cross country runner: a third place finish at the German national University’s Cross Country Championships, back-to-back appearances at the European Cross Country Championships for the German national team in 2014 and 2015 and an appearance last March at the World University Cross Country Championships.
Now, 11 years after discovering his passion for running, and with his European collegiate career having recently ended, Steinsberger is eager to train in the U.S. as one of the newest members of the Temple men’s cross country team.
“When I arrived here it was my first time out of Europe, my first time in the U.S.,” he said. “I thought, ‘OK, there will be some issues, for sure.’ But everyone is just so, so helpful here.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree in communication science at the University of Hohenheim, Steinsberger received a full scholarship offer from coach James Snyder. He accepted the offer to come to Philadelphia to compete while pursuing a master’s degree in adult and organizational development.
The graduate runner, who is fluent in German, English, French and Italian, is leaving Europe to follow in the footsteps of other German collegiate athletes at Temple. Volleyball’s Carla Guennewig, rower Angelina Wex, soccer player Hermann Doerner and tennis player Florian Mayer all hail from Germany.
“It’s quite a thing that happens very often, that there are [athletes] who come to the U.S. …because the surroundings here are much more professional,” Steinsberger said.
In Germany, athletics and academics exist separately from one another. Because of the country’s club sport system, Steinsberger was constantly juggling the commitments of classes and sports, and received little sympathy from teachers and coaches when one inevitably interfered with the other.
“The problem was I couldn’t train on campus, so I just went there for classes and then I had to drive back to where I lived,” he said. “If you’re on a competition the weekend before you have exams, it’s your problem. If you have to miss classes because of workouts, no one cares about it.”
“Here everything is integrated, sports is integrated into your university life,” he added. “It saves so much time and energy.”
Besides the advantages offered by the American collegiate system, Steinsberger is excited to explore this foreign city and immerse himself in Philadelphia.
Replacing the forests of Stuttgart with the skyscrapers of Philadelphia will surely take some adjustment for him. But in coming to Temple, he believes he has found a better situation to accommodate both his academic goals and his cross country dreams.
“I really want to embark on this adventure here, I really want to try out something different,” he said. “To try something out new, to make again a step forward, is maybe not the worst thing.”
Ben Blaustein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.