Steven Ball is the new director of TuksSport and Acting CEO of the High Performance Centre. He tells Tukkievaria more about his passion for sport and why he chose this career path.
Newly appointed director of TuksSport Steven Ball chats about his new role and the values that he will bring to it, and offers advice to aspiring sports champions.
Tell us more about your new role.
As Director of TuksSport and Acting CEO of the High Performance Centre, my focus will be on the overall oversight of sport at UP. All elements of TuksSport are part of the mix: this includes TuksSport (professional service department of UP), TuksSport Pty Ltd (the High Performance Centre) and the TS Study Centre (TuksSport High School). Through this role, the total pipeline of sport can be considered as we drive the mandate and vision to be the leading powerhouse of sport in Africa.
Why did you choose this career path; and how rewarding has your career been?
My dream has always been to work in a high-performance sporting setting where I can contribute to creating and managing an environment that is conducive for others to grow, thrive and perform at their optimum level. I was very fortunate to be challenged at an early age in a way that made me realise that my dream was to work in a sporting space. I never set goals for myself with regards to a position that I would like to be in; instead, I embrace the role I am in. When new opportunities arise, I consider whether or not it fits in with my larger focus of being in and creating a space where high-performance and sport, and especially people, can thrive.
To date, my career has been really rewarding. All along the way, people have believed in me and given me chances and responsibility. I have tried to grab those opportunities and responsibilities with both hands, embrace them and give the best I could give. Also, being in a high-performance space, I have been blessed to see athletes thrive, and in some small way make a contribution to it. The words of Mother Theresa ring true for me: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”
What has been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
I can’t think of one challenge. However, in the world of sport, and especially high-performance sport, change is constant. Embracing it, adapting, and finding ways of getting through it is a daily and weekly occurrence. That’s what sport is about. I would like to believe that over time I have developed an adaptability quotient.
How important is the culture within TuksSport and what measures would you take to maintain your desired culture?
Culture in any organisation is crucial and critical. All organisations have them. The questions we should be asking ourselves are: do we like the culture of our organisation; and do we need to work towards improving it or moulding it?
The biggest challenge is understanding the culture: does it talk to what we believe our values are; does it embrace individuals’ cultural backgrounds; and is it destructive or inclusive? If we don’t like it, we must change it, one step at a time, by getting the larger group to understand how the culture that we desire would look; how it plays out when no one is watching; and what makes us different and unique, while acknowledging individuals within.
It takes time to mould, grow, shape and deliver the culture you want. It takes feeding it positively and rebuking what does not talk to our culture. However, we should never forget that it can be destroyed very quickly.
What are your values as TuksSport Director?
Firstly willingness – to do, to listen, to try and to grow. Secondly, dependability – to be the same person today that I was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Also, openness and approachability; I would like to be there for people when I am needed and allow people within the greater organisation to know that I am reachable. Finally, vulnerability and honesty – we are all human; we suffer and battle in similar ways. And we don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay – it’s okay to not be okay.
What features make a good leader?
The ability to get others to believe in the way forward, all pointing in the same direction. But it is also important to have an ability to determine who in the boat is drilling holes in it, addressing it and bringing us all back to the culture and values we believe in.
How can young people help to build a stronger South African sports team that can compete globally?
All success in life requires effort. Put in the work, but be smart in how you apply yourself. Communicate – you are central to everything. And always seek to drive balance by filling your proverbial cups – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.