Pursuit of Happiness

Playing On The Go

Volkswagen Passenger Cars India's director Steffen Knapp holds the secret to balancing life, travel and tennis

It has been almost a year since Steffen Knapp, director at Volkswagen Passenger Cars shifted to India. For a foreign national, it is definitely not easy to settle in quickly; Knapp, too, is taking his time. “Living in a big city like Mumbai is not a cakewalk. What is even tougher here is to make time to play every day,” he says.

Knapp has always been into sports but he credits his interest in tennis to his wife. “My wonderful wife is constantly trying out new activities. She started with yoga first and four months later, she told me one day, ‘You are coming with me to play tennis,’” he recalls. The duo started off by playing every morning twice a week, as Steffen says, morning is the best time to play in India. Usually, when a couple plays together, there is a possibility that they may get skirmish out of competitiveness. Luckily, that has never happened with Knapp and his wife. Apart from playing with his wife twice a week, his coach, Sandeep, also trains Knapp for an hour twice a week. He adds, “My coach is tough like any other Indian coach. He points out my bad techniques in every session and makes me run from left to right.” Knapp admits that when he started playing tennis, his backhand technique was not good, and that is something his coach helped to improve over the past few months. “I follow tennis matches but I cannot imagine myself playing it professionally anytime soon.” He gets a good laugh anytime he imagines himself as a professional.

Stories of Knapp’s childhood days are equally interesting. He started playing football at the age of four at a club and continued playing until he was 14. He then moved on to playing volleyball for the next 10 years of his life, until he turned 25. However, these aren’t the only sports that Knapp has mastered — he is an avid marathon runner too. So, it is not surprising to know that his parents were also sports enthusiasts. He reveals that his parents have been playing tennis for 30 years now. “My father is 76 and he still plays tennis very well. His ideologies and the way he leads his life has been a great influence on me,” he adds. Knapp looks back at the year 1968 when he travelled all around the globe with his parents — from France and San Francisco to Africa. Even though his parents did not know the languages, they handled everything perfectly. And no matter where his family was dwelling, making the time to play was always a priority. With this inherited talent, Steffen managed to balance both activities while studying at the European Business School (EBS) in Germany. “EBS was tough since they focused on performance a lot. However, I used to stay up at nights to study and take out time after school to play,” he says.

Now, Steffen is trying to adjust to a new country and mentions that his children have changed five schools till now. He loves Mumbai’s windy weather, but he also misses his game of tennis whenever it is pouring. He is forced to take a break on such days, but Knapp will be back soon on the field with gusto to hit new highs.