Sports spotlight: Mathis Baumbach


Mathis Baumbach is finishing off his fifth year at SFU, he was one of Clan football’s graduating seniors celebrated last week on Terry Fox Field

By Clay Gray
Photos by Mark Burnham

Anyone who has stepped foot on one of the three SFU campuses will know the school’s current motto, “Engaging the World.” For some, this slogan is nothing more than a catch phrase. But for Mathis Baumbach, engaging with the world is something he does in his daily life. He is an economics major from Dusseldorf, Germany and is in his fifth and final year at Simon Fraser.

Throughout his university career, Mathis has not had many opportunities to return to Dusseldorf, and now considers Vancouver to be like a second home. “I see myself as a German, but your environment shapes you as a human being.” However, Mathis hasn’t given up all of his German roots, and when asked which country’s beer he preferred, admitted that, “I love my Alp beer. It’s a refreshing good taste, but I have to admit that there are some really good micro-breweries in Canada.”

As a student of economics and number 11 on the Clan’s football team, Mathis has a working knowledge of how time is a limited commodity. In fact, Mathis attributes his success in time management to his studies, saying that, “In economics you learn that you only have 24 hours in day . . . you only have so much time.” However, Mathis said, “I go to class and I enjoy myself. Stephen Easton is my absolute favourite professor.” He continued to say, “[Although] I have been influenced by [the football team], I think the things that have shaped me the most are my professors. As I made progress in my first and second years of university, I really learned to appreciate economics . . . the SFU economics department is something special.”

With most days starting early and ending late, being busy is a regular occurrence for this 6’5” tight end, and even though he is over 7,000 kilometers away from his hometown, Mathis stays connected with home through his early morning routine.  Mathis gets his day started with a healthy breakfast and a reading of the Handelsblatt, the German equivalent of The Wall Street Journal. Mathis said, “My mother taught me that you can’t go to school without a good healthy breakfast, and I always make sure I have my lunchbox packed.” After breakfast, Mathis heads up the mountain to attend class for a few hours until it is time for the daily team meeting, which also doubles as lunchtime. Mathis then hustles into the basement of the Lorne Davies Complex, where he straps on his pads and runs onto Terry Fox field for a two-and-a-half hour practice. After practice, number 11 hurries home, where he spends a few hours hitting the books before rewarding himself with a few games of FIFA Soccer. Mathis says, “It’s my favorite game. I usually play two or three games online and then go to bed.”

During his five-year stint at SFU, Mathis has seen the Clan’s football team come up against its fair share of challenges and tragedies. In Mathis’s first year at SFU, 2008 the Clan’s football had turned the corner, finally finding success in a 5–3 season and a trip to the Canada West Universities Athletic Association Conference finals, after three straight winless seasons.  However, just a week after the season ended, the announcement that SFU would be joining the NCAA erased much of that progress.  The discrepancies’ between the eligibility bylaws would see many forced out of the locker room due to a technicality, as the CIS allows six years for an individual to compete in varsity athletics while the NCAA allows only five. Mathis said, “A lot of soon-to-be seniors lost their last year.”

Sadly, the switching of leagues would not be the only adversity faced by the Clan. On Nov. 11, 2009, SFU’s quarterback, Bernd ‘Bernie’ Dittrich, passed away after losing consciousness in the swimming pool on Burnaby campus. Mathis said, “To this day, I think about Bernie all the time and how much he would have deserved to have had the chance to be a senior here as well.” Mathis continued, “A lot of people don’t know anything about him, but he was a hard worker . . . and he treated every person the same way no matter where you were from.”

All the trials SFU football faced during the past five years had head coach Dave Johnson craft a simple yet powerful saying for the Clan, “Celebrate adversity.” On Nov. 3, SFU football hosted their last home game of the season. A game, which Mathis felt, embodied Coach Johnson’s motto, as it was a come-from-behind victory where the Clan were down 24 points at half time, but rallied back to win 41–37.  Mathis said, “I feel like I’ve internalized the idea of celebrating adversity. After fighting through these hard years and all this pain and all the suffering and adversity, finally we reap the benefits of not giving up, and won against the best team in the conference [Humbolt State].”