Hi, my name is Steve Cuevas. I am the founder of Ball 4 All and Shake True Hoops. In my playing career I had the good fortune to play with and against some truly great players. This led to my being able to participate in some very memorable moments that have remained with me to this day. I feel fortunate to have those memories because as a youth, I dreamt of having opportunities to compete at the highest levels and I dreamt of success at those levels, both individually and in a team sense as well. Always individually first.
It is that point which brings me to the reason for this message and insight into my goals as an instructor. The gratitude I feel for having lived moments of championship caliber play at various stages throughout my career is vast but also complex.
While I owe a large part of my own success to my teammates, I have to conclude that a significant amount is due to my own diligence as well as the information & methods I had acquired from coaches & other players. Though early in my development I did not have access to coaching I did play on an outdoor court at my neighborhood playground which spawned six or seven future national team players. These players were in my age range and I experienced much competition against and with them while aspiring to be as good as they were. These were individual aspirations. These aspirations drove me to practice when the court was deserted. I practiced in my mind that I was beating these guys. I practiced in my mind that I was receiving passes from them and finishing or knocking down shots.
This practice enabled me to become proficient at certain things. As I got older and attended schools that had basketball programs I discovered that my skills allowed me to not only make the teams but also contribute.
The confidence boost I experienced after making my first club team in Montreal spurred me to work even harder as my teammates were some of the very guys I looked up to. That team would go on to be undefeated and win the City Championship which was a big deal to me at the time. I had managed to become a starter and felt pretty good about myself. I was 16.
I got an invitation to a 5 star camp in Pennsylvania. That was my first real basketball experience! "A Rude Awakening"! I had never seen so many big fast good players my age in my life. I was overwhelmed. Instead of concluding I was one of them I thought that the whole basketball pursuit was futile. I went home defeated after never truly competing. The guys I had gone with had all collected hardware.
I gave up basketball that summer and studied Spanish. The next year I got an opportunity to go to school in Spain. While there, I discovered a basketball club which allowed me to participate in some of its activities. The guy in charge thought I was good and encouraged me to come out more. I did. I loved it! My passion was back! When I got back to Canada I bolted to my playground to resume playing with my buddies. They were gone. Their stellar play that year had led to more camp opportunities and they were not going to let them go to waste. They had trained hard as a group all year, not only on the court but in the weight room.
I went back to practicing on my own at the playground but there was now something different. I was now one of the best players there.
That summer turned out to be pivotal to me, I realized years later.
From that time my career has had its ups and downs. I managed to play senior high school basketball in Ottawa. I played varsity basketball for the Middlebury Panthers in Vermont. I played Men's Industrial league ball in Montreal. I played for the University of Guelph Gryphons and finished by playing professionally in England and Wales.
Throughout my basketball travels which have sent me to many spots in the world, I had these two disparate thoughts about my career.
"Wow! I never expected to do this well and I did"! "Wow, I could have done so much better if I had made more of my opportunities and had I possessed more direction and knowledge".
It was the recurrence of these thoughts that have been the driving force behind STH. After deliberate introspection I was able to identify the shortcomings in my character as well as those found in my athletic ability and my actual knowledge of the fundamentals which combined to keep me from becoming the best I could be. Too late, I recognized the essentials. While I am neither the first nor the last low-level pro to realize he could have been better, I do hope that I can impart some of the lessons I learned to those who have a playing future rather than past to reflect upon.
My experiences are unique to me, but many can be shared for positive outcomes. It is in that spirit that Shake True Hoops and its staff intend to help develop youth basketball skills.
While I can be proud of my accomplishments on the court, it remains with me that the guys who worked harder and were more disciplined, and built up their bodies, all had more opportunities presented to them. The lesson to be learned is "practice makes you better". Intelligent, structured, prepared, disciplined practice makes you better still.
Those guys each made it to high level sports. 5 played high-level pro European ball. 1 played pro football in the NFL. They all played D1 and all but one made it to the Canadian National Team. They all trained right.
As a personal instructor, my main goal as well as my staff's is to teach what I failed to learn:
The value of information
The value of techniques
The value of structure
The value of preparation
The value of introspection
The value of work ethic
The value of perseverance
The ingredients to success
The last word is the key to all which I have written. The two disparate thoughts come back. "Was I successful"? "Did I fail to be the best I could be"? I now view my career as both those ideas combined. I both failed and succeeded.
I realize that it is the moments of my journey that stand out for me. I welcome the realization that I could have done this or that better, because I can now teach others what I may not have known then.
My mistakes can become other's good habits. My defeats can become other's triumphs. My failures, other's victories.
“I failed to understand the necessity to weight train, I failed to research the correct techniques, I failed to seek the advice of coaches, and I failed to comprehend the sacrifice it would take to become truly great. Perhaps even with those advantages I might not have been great, but it is the pursuit of greatness that would have been the reward.”
Not everyone is born with athletic ability in great proportions. It is important to know that by intelligent and correct training one can overcome weakness and through diligent effort turn them into strengths.
Shake True Hoops was born of an epiphany. I was in the middle of blaming one of my coaches for some deficiency of mine, when I realized that it was really my responsibility to become proficient rather than rely on someone else to force me to become so.
In that moment of clarity, I understood that what I needed in order to make me happy was to make myself good enough so I wouldn't blame others for my own shortcomings, and in that way assume responsibility for my career.
It is still a work in progress, but one in which there are no negative results.
My big lesson was: "prepare for all moments of adversity and I'll be happier with the outcome". In order to accomplish this push towards accountability I found I had to develop passion towards achieving my goal. In fact, it became evident that passion was necessary in order to endure the rigors faced by truly training to improve. This passion leads to sacrifice then sacrifice then fuels passion. Without passion and sacrifice it is very difficult to excel.
Everyone I know with this passion has gotten into coaching after their playing careers. It is this type of person that STH is hoping to encounter, develop and employ.
I have played with, against and trained some truly special players. They all had one thing in common. They all responded well to positive reinforcement.
Through comprehensive training, positive reinforcement and patient guidance, your child may turn out to be a truly special player as well and rest assured that should he/she fall short of that goal he/she will have picked up some great life lessons along the way.