As a child, Lukas Röll had a dream: to become a professional athlete. “I was passionate about basketball,” he said. “Really passionate.” The only problem was that Lukas wasn’t actually supposed to engage in any sports at all at the time. Born with a heart defect, his risk of suffering a heart attack increased dramatically whenever he physically exerted himself. Stuck between a rock and hard place, his parents were continually at a loss to reconcile his natural energy with the doctors’ warnings. It wasn’t until he underwent heart surgery at the age of 13 that Lukas was finally able to get out onto the basketball court. But two years later, more bad tidings arrived. Doctors diagnosed Lukas with a brain tumor — thankfully, a benign one. Lukas didn’t become a professional athlete. “But I realized how important it is for children and teenagers to have a trustworthy environment and supportive contacts,” he says. An insight which has shaped the whole course of his life. Lukas now uses his experiences to help other young people.
Because his difficulties have only made him stronger. “I’ve learned to relax and be optimistic about life, and I’m good at handling stress,” he says. He’d like to share this experience with others in similar situations. As a teenager, Lukas volunteered as a youth coach, and after completing his advanced school-leaving exams, he worked in a school as a teaching assistant. Lukas, who grew up in the city of Gießen, then moved to Munich where he helped to coach the U12, U13, and U14 basketball teams for FC Bayern Munich. Like Lukas, one of the teenagers on the team also suffered from a genetic heart defect, which worsened considerably during adolescence. Lukas could relate him to him very well. “He also had to abandon his dream of becoming a professional basketball player,” he recalls. For two years, Lukas mentored and encouraged the players, sharing his own experiences with them. Once he graduates, he plans to increase his social involvement. Professional sport, and the immense pressure that is part and parcel of this world, is no longer Lukas’ focus.