It seems positive to want the ball in your hands when the games result is in question. We don’t all play sports, so maybe it’s the desire to lead. Whether leading as a manger, coach, or through friendship. The desire to be the person who becomes relied upon. Still, it could also be the faith that you are well equipped to perform the task. We probably won’t be able to get it right every time. But, that drive to succeed seems a valuable quality. It can shape the way we look upon ourselves and the world around. When cerebral palsy is added to the equation, things become interesting. A disability can often hold us back, making task performance more challenging. It can result in feeling like it’s easier to stumble in the physical world. When success at a task doesn’t often happen, discouragement can take over. The emotions can find us shying away from wanting the ball or responsibility in a pressure moment. You don’t want to fumble the responsibility, letting down the people who are counting on you. So, the alternative becomes gaining attention for messing up when attention is pressed upon you. The old, “oohh, so close!” or “good try,” seems to be what we can be known for over time. Everyone makes light of the stumble and we go on our merry way. The trouble turns into being recognized for those fun provoking stumbles, instead of the satisfaction often resulting from succeeding. What if success in these situations boils down to learning, understanding, practice, and concentration.
The easiest thing to do seems to be giving up. The process of giving up on something involves no effort, other than the effort of using your legs to walk away. When things get really challenging, giving up probably becomes more appealing. Throw in a built-in excuse and we’re really wondering down the path. Cerebral palsy can seamlessly become the built-in excuse. Having the disability can naturally lower the expectations of society. It can be pretty obvious that physical tasks are more challenging. So, those around us often rejoice in the simplicity of giving effort to a challenging task. They may recognize, the physical world wasn’t created for someone with a disability. All of these ideas can progress into the thinking pattern that results don’t matter, only effort does. The thought probably isn’t faulty, as giving effort often leads to accomplishment. However, when effort still results in stumbles, we may have an issue. Maybe we need to look at the process of effort differently. Instead of simply giving effort to give effort, we look at giving effort in ways to achieve successful results. It is an alternate way of thinking inside of my cerebral palsy journey.
This past week Bernard gave me a challenge with the lacrosse ball. The task really put into question my form of thinking. He wanted me to throw the ball down left handed, catching the ball with my left hand facing palm down, as the lacrosse ball bounced off the floor. It has been the most challenging form of catching the ball. Bernard ask for twelve successful catches in a row. If the ball was not caught at any point, the challenged had to begin again. The first few times, the lacrosse ball was fumbled between the eighth or tenth bounce. The reaction from Bernard was the same I’ve heard many times throughout life. It was, “oh, almost.” But, the difference was he didn’t let me off the hook. After Bernard made light of the fumble, I had to begin again with my first catch. It seems others trainers my past would have lessened the challenge after slipping up during the second or third attempt to gain twelve catches in a row. However, the fumbles didn’t faze Bernard, he would just make light of the mess up, and calmly have me begin again. There was no getting around catching the lacrosse ball twelve consecutive times before moving on. It didn’t take long for Bernard making light of the fumbled attempts to become down right annoying. For the first time in my memory, I no longer wanted to be known for letting cerebral palsy take over. I wanted to succeed, catching the lacrosse ball twelve times in a row.
Bernard played football in high school and college. In college he was a walk-on, which means he tried out with something like sixty-five other guys. The college football team had spots for just five of those sixty-five players. With hard work and determination, Bernard claimed one of the five spots. He comes from a world of beating the odds when things are stacked against him. The idea of giving up doesn’t seem to enter into his thinking. Bernard continues to remind me of my abilities to accomplish his challenges, they just require concentration and effort. When we moved onto another exercise, before coming back to the challenge of twelve catches, we began chatting, as normally occurs. The thought bouncing around my mind was that you gotta want it. You have to want to catch the lacrosse ball twelve times in a row on the first try. It involves being looked upon as a success and it seems you gotta want to be viewed that way as well. If someone doesn’t want those two things, then it seems success becomes less likely. Bernard seemed intrigued by the line of thinking when he responded with his wish that someone had told him that in college. When he was playing receiver, it would have been nice to be reminded of the fact that he had to want to catch the football. His comment struck me, as I would have thought the idea would be a given for him. But, maybe he relied more on his athletic ability, not thinking about the desire to catch the ball on each play.
After another couple exercises, we arrived back at the lacrosse ball challenge. It was a circuit of three exercises, with bouncing the lacrosse ball being one. When we got back around to the lacrosse ball, it was attacked in a new way. The first few bounces and catches seemed routine. They had been executed with relative ease and the same was holding true. However, the high number of successes brought on more apprehension, as we neared the number twelve. Usually, as my muscles would tighten with anxiety of possible failure, my mind would tell myself it’s okay to fumble. But, this time I told myself something different. Instead of bracing myself to stumble, my concentration on the task increased. My focus sharpened around the process of throwing and catching the lacrosse ball. It seemed to ease any anxiety. The challenge of twelve consecutive catches with the ball was completed in half the time. My desire to complete the task sharpened my concentration as success neared. The focus turned from emotionally guarding against failure to concentrating on the process leading to success of the challenge. Maybe it simply comes down to how bad someone wants to succeed.
Cerebral palsy adds to most any physical task or challenge. The disability makes most physical tasks more complex. However, part of having cerebral palsy has been finding ways to overcome the challenges. Most of my life, overcoming challenges was simply about giving effort. The end result of whatever was being done, didn’t carry much weight. It tended to leave me feeling like good was all I was capable of accomplishing. The beauty of working with the lacrosse ball has been the slow change in attitude. The change has been a focus on the result of consecutive catches of the ball. If the goal doesn’t get achieved, the only option becomes to begin again. The process has included learning about my ability to succeed. That it is possible for me to accomplish things that didn’t seem possible. I can look at trying to achieve results, instead of shying away from them. It does take more concentration and practice to achieve challenges, rather than simply giving them effort. There is also an adjustment in the ideas I have about myself. Changing from accepting the light-hearted laughter of stumbling, to the positivity that comes with succeeding at something. The change takes more discipline and effort, also requiring that gotta want to attitude. It seems just another step in lessoning the effect cerebral palsy has on emotions.