Cuculick learns to smash a ball without a bat
by Randy Pascal
The natural athleticism of Tyrus Cuculick was evident on the ball diamonds from his very early years. And though his sport of choice would change
through his high school career at Lasalle Secondary, it was that very same raw talent that would draw the Nipissing Lakers men’s volleyball to
the Sudbury native, mutually committing to each other for the fall of 2018.
Court sports were clearly not the first stop for the eldest of two children in the family. “My dad was big on baseball and kind of got me into it, and
any kid in Sudbury wants to play hockey when they are younger,” recalled Cuculick. “I kind of got over hockey around 12 or 13 and got more into baseball.”
Yet even as other identified the latent skill-set that could be developed were he to narrow his focus, Cuculick would continue to eschew sport specific
specialization, at least for a few more years.
“I just wanted to play all high school sports, which is kind of when I really got introduced to volleyball,” he said. “Honestly, I didn’t start to
really, really like volleyball until grade 10, halfway through the season. I was the tallest grade nine and we needed a middle, so I think I was just kind
of put on the court. By halfway through grade ten, I was getting a little better and could actually hit the ball.”
This diamond in the rough needed a little polishing, and who better to do it than the man who has found a way to transform even the most recreational of
elementary athlete foundations into contenders to city championships.
“I really didn’t know how to do anything,” said Cuculick. “Thank god I had “Mr B” (Dale Beausoleil), or else I still probably wouldn’t know to do
most of the things. The coordination and arm swing came fairly naturally, but all of the rest, I really had to work on.”
“In grade 10 and 11, I really didn’t have the best court smarts,” Cuculick continued. “That was the hardest thing to learn. Volleyball is one of those
sports where I find you have to have a really good sense of sports in general to know what’s going on, to be able to fix things on the spot. That’s really
starting to come now.”
As is so often the case, confidence and increased comfort in any given sport often gives way type of attention and feedback that provides this snowball
with the momentum that the builds upon itself. “Honestly, I didn’t think I had a chance to go anywhere in volleyball until the Nipissing tournament last
year,” said Cuculick.
“The (Nipissing) coach talked to me a little bit, said he liked what he saw, but there were some things I needed to work on this year. He saw me play as
a middle, but he saw the natural arm swing, so he knew I could transition to left side. Middles are average 6’6” – I’m 6’3” with shoes,” Cuculick added
with a laugh. “I’m even a short left side for university.”
“The biggest push to play university volleyball was convincing (Lasalle coach) Scott (Thomas) to let me play as an outside hitter instead of a
middle this year. I would be playing left side at university and that’s what I really needed to work on.” And there was clearly work to be done.
“My defense was really bad last year,” Cuculick acknowledged. “Tt started to come along just after the North Bay tournament this year, that’s when my
defense started to click a little bit better. It was a little hard to transition, because you’re in serve receive all the time, and a different spot on
defense, but you get used to it after a while.”
“Blocking was probably the easiest thing, because middle is probably the hardest position to block for. Going in hard for my approach, that was something
Mr B really pushed me hard on the left side. Serve receive and defense is hard in any position, but especially at left side, because you’re stuck in serve
receive the whole time.”
“Once I started getting repetitions, that’s when I thought I had a good chance of playing university.” Spurred on by the support of former teammate
and current Dalhousie Tiger Jeffrey Walton, Cuculick dedicated himself to volleyball, soaring to the level as the most feared hitter in the SDSSAA
loop this fall, the leader of a Lancers team looking to make a third straight trip to OFSAA.
“If not for Jeff convincing me to play senior in grade ten, I don’t think I would have considered playing post-secondary,” said Cuculick. “He and Mr B
really got me more involved in the game.” It all came together just a few weeks ago, as the former ball player completed the latest phase of his transition
to an athlete who doesn’t need a bat in his hand to smack the heck out of a ball.
“The Nipissing coach started to pursue me a little more this year at the tournament,” noted Cuculick. “He had a Letter of Intent written up
already, he was ready to go. He gave me an offer and I couldn’t say no, I had to accept it.”