#TuksSport: Mr Steven Ball, new TuksSport Director wants student-athletes to strive to make a difference

Posted on January 29, 2021

Many years ago, a young boy in Ladysmith loved nothing more than to do all kinds of sports and dive into swimming pools. Like many youngsters, he had hoped to become one of the best.

When he realised early on it would not happen, he did not get discouraged. Through his participation, he had learned to make the most of every opportunity. It stood him in good stead. On 25 January 2021, Mr Steven Ball was announced as the new Director and Acting CEO of the hpc, taking over the reins from the outgoing Acting Director, Mr Toby Sutcliffe.

Ball has not forgotten where it all started for him. If he can have one thing that would be a dream come true at TuksSport, it will be that every student-athlete should realise that opportunity is everywhere. The key is to develop the vision to see it and to make the most of it.

"If only 1% of all our athletes and students at UP step up. It does not mean they need to be champions between four lines. If in the end, they excel in the financial world, the law, medical science, or whatever it would mean they are helping lead to make South Africa a prosperous country. That is what we want at Tuks."

Everyone can relate to that moment when you realise what your calling in life is going to be. For Ball, it happened when his dad took him and fellow swimmers to Pietermaritzburg to be tested by, a former fitness coach for the Springboks, Sharks, and Dolphins. The testing was quite intense. When it had finished, Ball was inspired.

"I will never forget that day. When we left, I told my dad that is what I am going to do. I want to work with performance athletes. That is how my journey started."

In 1997, Ball enrolled at Tuks to study BA Human Movement Science. He was only 17 at the time. He went to do his Honours in Human Movement Science specialising in Biokinetics. He also completed the Management Advancement Program (MAP) at the University of Witwatersrand, Wits Business School, and various international high-performance coaching-related qualifications. Ball then obtained an MPhil Business Management Responsible at Tuks.

According to Ball, he was never a brilliant student. He, however, excelled in the practical side of his studies and always tried to apply theory into practice. He started his career at TuksSport and the Institute for Sport Research in 2001 as an intern Biokineticist/Sport Scientist. During this time, he occupied several management positions, including at the hpc, Canoeing South Africa, and TuksAquatics, before he was appointed TuksSport Deputy Director for Coaching & Performance Management in 2012.

Over the years as a passionate coach, he believed the core of success lies in building good relationships.

"I realised quite early when coaching that I won't ever have all the answers. That is why forming solid relationships with athletes were meaningful. If everyone is on the same page, the battle is half won.

"A definite highlight was getting an opportunity to assist South Africa's swimmers during the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games and the 2003 World Championships. It was also exciting to help Tuks's William Diering, Lise-Mari Retief and Suzaan van Biljon prepare for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. All three of them ended up finishing 10th. The same year Suzaan won a gold medal in the 200m breaststroke at the World Short Course Championships (25m pool)."

Ball considers 2017 as a year not to forget in the history of TuksSport.

"Tuks won seven of the nine Varsity Sport and Cup tournaments and nine USSA Tournaments. Seeing headings in newspapers read 'Where winning is an addiction' and ‘what makes TuksSport tick?’ It is something I often use to motivate athletes and myself."

It is sort of becoming the norm for people to talk about Tuks when it comes to South Africa's sporting success. Ball credits this to the culture of playing for the "Stripe".

"Wearing the 'Stripe' comes with responsibility. It is wrong to expect any opposition to roll over. Every Tuks-athlete got to learn to be competitive and be conditioned. We talk about earning your 'Stripes' and respecting the 'badge'. It comes with long hard hours when no one is watching. On leaving the university, the goal should always be to have the left the 'Stripe' at a better place, a higher level for the next generation."

Ball fully came to realise that being a Director comes with responsibility. Sometimes it feels as if there are not enough hours in a day. But he tries to live up to his wife’s request of ‘when you at home, be at home’. A lesson each of us can learn to be fully engaged with what we are busy with. "Stripes", medals, planning for the Olympics will all be forgotten in those few hours.

It is also because of his family that he is serious about keeping healthy. No comrades just fit.

"The fitter I am the longer the time I get to spend with my family is going to be. That is important to me."

The new Director's way to relax, besides being with his wife, two precious daughters (and oh connecting with the 640 kids in the residence where he currently is their house parent at TuksVillage) will seem strange to many, but for him, there is something to be said to go grocery shopping on the early hours of Saturday mornings. It is him, the trolly, and his thoughts.

For the moment, Ball does not want to think about what the future holds for him as the 'Foreman of TuksSport', but he did make a promise to himself.

"Wayne Goldsmith once said that when you wake up in the morning, working in a high-performance sport environment without a sense of anxiety about what needs to be done and the responsibility thereof, it is time to think about quitting. It holds a lot of truth to me."

Many years ago, a young boy in Ladysmith loved nothing more than to do all kinds of sports and dive into swimming pools. Like many youngsters, he had hoped to become one of the best. 

When he realised early on it would not happen, he did not get discouraged. Through his participation, he had learned to make the most of every opportunity. It stood him in good stead. On 25 January 2021, Mr Steven Ball was announced as the new Director and Acting CEO of the hpc, taking over the reins from the outgoing Acting Director, Mr Toby Sutcliffe.

Ball has not forgotten where it all started for him. If he can have one thing that would be a dream come true at TuksSport, it will be that every student-athlete should realise that opportunity is everywhere. The key is to develop the vision to see it and to make the most of it.

"If only 1% of all our athletes and students at UP step up. It does not mean they need to be champions between four lines. If in the end, they excel in the financial world, the law, medical science, or whatever it would mean they are helping lead to make South Africa a prosperous country. That is what we want at Tuks."

Everyone can relate to that moment when you realise what your calling in life is going to be. For Ball, it happened when his dad took him and fellow swimmers to Pietermaritzburg to be tested by, a former fitness coach for the Springboks, Sharks, and Dolphins. The testing was quite intense. When it had finished, Ball was inspired. 

"I will never forget that day. When we left, I told my dad that is what I am going to do. I want to work with performance athletes. That is how my journey started." 

In 1997, Ball enrolled at Tuks to study BA Human Movement Science. He was only 17 at the time. He went to do his Honours in Human Movement Science specialising in Biokinetics. He also completed the Management Advancement Program (MAP) at the University of Witwatersrand, Wits Business School, and various international high-performance coaching-related qualifications. Ball then obtained an MPhil Business Management Responsible at Tuks.

According to Ball, he was never a brilliant student. He, however, excelled in the practical side of his studies and always tried to apply theory into practice. He started his career at TuksSport and the Institute for Sport Research in 2001 as an intern Biokineticist/Sport Scientist. During this time, he occupied several management positions, including at the hpc, Canoeing South Africa, and TuksAquatics, before he was appointed TuksSport Deputy Director for Coaching & Performance Management in 2012.

Over the years as a passionate coach, he believed the core of success lies in building good relationships. 

"I realised quite early when coaching that I won't ever have all the answers. That is why forming solid relationships with athletes were meaningful. If everyone is on the same page, the battle is half won.

"A definite highlight was getting an opportunity to assist South Africa's swimmers during the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games and the 2003 World Championships. It was also exciting to help Tuks's William Diering, Lise-Mari Retief and Suzaan van Biljon prepare for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. All three of them ended up finishing 10th. The same year Suzaan won a gold medal in the 200m breaststroke at the World Short Course Championships (25m pool)." 

Ball considers 2017 as a year not to forget in the history of TuksSport. 

"Tuks won seven of the nine Varsity Sport and Cup tournaments and nine USSA Tournaments. Seeing headings in newspapers read 'Where winning is an addiction' and ‘what makes TuksSport tick?’ It is something I often use to motivate athletes and myself."

It is sort of becoming the norm for people to talk about Tuks when it comes to South Africa's sporting success. Ball credits this to the culture of playing for the "Stripe". 

"Wearing the 'Stripe' comes with responsibility. It is wrong to expect any opposition to roll over. Every Tuks-athlete got to learn to be competitive and be conditioned. We talk about earning your 'Stripes' and respecting the 'badge'. It comes with long hard hours when no one is watching. On leaving the university, the goal should always be to have the left the 'Stripe' at a better place, a higher level for the next generation."

Ball fully came to realise that being a Director comes with responsibility. Sometimes it feels as if there are not enough hours in a day. But he tries to live up to his wife’s request of ‘when you at home, be at home’. A lesson each of us can learn to be fully engaged with what we are busy with. "Stripes", medals, planning for the Olympics will all be forgotten in those few hours. 

It is also because of his family that he is serious about keeping healthy. No comrades just fit. 

"The fitter I am the longer the time I get to spend with my family is going to be. That is important to me." 

The new Director's way to relax, besides being with his wife, two precious daughters (and oh connecting with the 640 students in the residence where he currently is their house parent at TuksVillage) will seem strange to many, but for him, there is something to be said to go grocery shopping on the early hours of Saturday mornings. It is him, the trolly, and his thoughts.

For the moment, Ball does not want to think about what the future holds for him as the 'Foreman of TuksSport', but he did make a promise to himself. 

"Wayne Goldsmith once said that when you wake up in the morning, working in a high-performance sport environment without a sense of anxiety about what needs to be done and the responsibility thereof, it is time to think about quitting. It holds a lot of truth to me." 

- Author Wilhelm De Swardt
Published by Bhekani Ndebele

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