Sports legacies: 2 athletes follow in the footsteps of their family members 

March 24, 2024 — by Amy Miao and Sasha Prasad
Courtesy of Peyton Steffen
Freshman Peyton Steffen prepares to shoot a basket in an away game against Mountain View High School.
 Sophomore Matthias Casanova and freshman Peyton Steffon find benefits to playing the same sport as their family, but also acknowledge the pressure to perform that comes along with it.

At age 7, sophomore Matthias Casanova crouched at the starting line, preparing to race his 11-year-old brother, Class of `22 alumnus Ettienne Casanova — now a California Institute of Technology D3 soccer player — on the soccer field. Their father cued them to start and the boys sprinted across the field. Matthias passed the finish line just inches before his older brother and beamed with pride; it was his first time escaping from the shadow of the men in his family.

Matthias, influenced by many of his siblings and relatives, followed in their footsteps to pursue the same sport. For him, following older family members in soccer is both a blessing, as a way to bond with his father and brother, and a curse, as it puts greater pressure on him to succeed at equal levels. Matthias began playing as a toddler at age 3 and grew up playing alongside his brother through personal training sessions coached by his father.

 Casanova plays winger for De Anza Force’s 08 Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) team and was on the varsity boys’ team. During the school season, he estimates he practices 8-10 hours a week and has games on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For the rest of the year, he plays for his club team, typically having games once or twice a week on the weekends, alongside high-intensity practices throughout the week. 

Despite the competitive spirit he gained from rivaling his brother in races and 1v1 matches at home, Matthias feels that his father has been his main influence in the sport. 

“My father has high expectations for us which helps push me to work harder, but sometimes we get compared to each other, which can mess up our mentality,” Matthias said. 

Nevertheless, he is thankful for his father’s high expectations as his desire to impress family members is one of his primary motivators when playing. 

Love of basketball continues to the next generation

Freshman Peyton Steffen is the daughter of Manny Steffen, a Redwood Middle School teacher who coached the girls’ varsity basketball team this past season. 

She has also continued her father’s basketball legacy as he too began playing the sport when he was young. However, she said her father did not push her to start playing the sport; if anything, he pushed her more in the direction of softball, a sport he favored over basketball.

Peyton first picked up basketball in second grade after playing on a Los Gatos recreation team. She admitted that when she began playing, she lacked skill, but her love for the sport was powerful enough to motivate her to improve. 

Peyton recalled that everyone, including her father, expected her to quit as she got older, but she continued playing and improved exponentially. In sixth grade, Peyton began playing basketball for the Top Flight Elite Club, an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team. Currently, she plays shooting guard on the Saratoga Girls basketball team that her father is coaching. 

“I think he puts more pressure on me, but it’s also helpful to be able to talk to him about things outside of practice,” Peyton said. “He treats me [as an equal in comparison with] the rest of the team.”

Mr. Steffen said his tone towards her is sometimes harsher, not because she is his daughter, but more due to the fact he has individually coached her in the past and his expectations for her performance are clearer. 

The balance between being a parent and a coach is delicate, and over the years, Peyton and her dad have sought to perfect the dynamic. He has managed to separate the role of coach from father when they are on the court and at home, and overall, both find benefits that come with this relationship. 

“As a coach, there are so many times where you feel like you communicated effectively but your athletes might feel different,” Mr. Steffen said. “In our case, we always know where the other is coming from, so we can find a common ground.”

Tags: league, soccer
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