Hopscotch was a game I remember from school. During those days, it involved balance I didn’t have. The game requires balancing and jumping on one foot, then jumping onto two feet, and back to one foot again. It was a game in school that could only be watched. There were certain moments growing up, the game would be attempted. Usually waiting for a quiet moment when not many people were around. In those early years, the fear of being laughed at would often enter into my mind. It was clear my movements weren’t at the level of my classmates. So, when no one else was around I would try hopscotch. The game didn’t work for me on seemingly many different levels. The coordination and balance weren’t there to play. Even the ability to think through the movement wasn’t working. The idea of hoping into specific boxes was foreign and the fear of falling felt real. Cerebral palsy was the primary reason hopscotch wasn’t part of my life as a kid. The disability took away most things needed to perform the task. The most prudent thing for me to do would be keeping out of the way. It was fun to stand and watch, but also left me feeling jealous of the ability. Now, twenty-five years later, the game has made its way back as a training tool.
There does seem to be a feeling of isolation in watching something you can’t perform. All the other kids appeared to have abilities which has escaped mine. They were having fun jumping through the hopscotch course, laughing and joking. My classmates would perform the task even more quickly with practice. I was too embarrassed to even get in line for an attempt at jumping in the boxes. With the experience of hurt from feeling different, I vowed to try when no one was around. At my first opportunity with an empty playground, I made an attempt at hopscotch. The thinking was if hopscotch could be completed with no one around, maybe lining up with the other kids was feasible. My attempt at completing the hopscotch course didn’t work to plan. Cerebral palsy was holding back the coordination in my body. The challenging of timing my jumps correctly and landing in the boxes was futile. The speed and pace at which the hopping had to occur was far beyond my abilities. Each attempt had my mind confused about how to coordinate, my body wasn’t doing the things it was being asked. The process also left me in constant fear of losing my balance and falling.
The first-time Bernard set up the hopscotch course, the childhood fear struck like it was yesterday. He placed circles down to mark places for me to land. It was evident pretty quickly, he was setting up something similar to hopscotch. We had worked on skipping, along with jumping over hurtles to that point, so it did seem like the next logical step. After placing the circles in a design, Bernard went through the short course to provide a demonstration. Upon trying the hopscotch for the first time, the uneasy feeling filled my body. There were people all around as I made my first attempts. My fear was around losing my balance and falling over in front of all the people in the gym. But, unlike my days in school, this form of hopscotch ended up relatively successfully. The first attempt got off to a bit of a shaky start. However, after running through the course a couple times, the movement was becoming familiar. It was still taking some time to think through my movements. I found myself jumping to hit the circles, then taking a moment before making the next jump. It was going to be a work in progress before the process was smooth.
One of the most challenging parts of any kind of hopscotch course has been balancing on one foot. When you jump from two feet, providing a sturdy base, onto one foot, then back onto two feet again. Landing and subsequently jumping off of the single leg has been tough. With most traditional hopscotch courses, there is a requirement of hopping on one leg through squares. When Bernard set up the first hopscotch course, he ended it with two single circles in the middle. Those single circles were meant for me to hop from one to the next using only my left leg. It turned out the balance wasn’t there for me to hop on a single leg. So, Bernard has gone back to alternating from a two-foot base, to one leg, then back onto both feet. The work will continue on improving my balance. The hope will be to achieve balance enough that hopping on one foot with control can be achieved. Ending each run through the course without the ability to balance on one foot at the end was slightly discouraging. But, finding the positive in achieving something new feels important. Being able to achieve any form of hopscotch is an improvement from lacking the ability in my youth.
Getting to the stage of training where we are working on the hopscotch course didn’t happen quickly. We have spent much of the last year working on balance and stability. The process of improving balance has seemed to be multi-dimensional. It began with working on movements like a birddog, which required beginning in a position of hands and knees, like a dog. The movement required extending the opposite arm and leg at the same time. So, if my right arm went forward, my left leg would extend back. The birddog was challenging when we began, but with improved balance became easier, so Bernard slowly increased the challenge of my balance exercises. Now, we have begun moving balance to balancing on one foot, by jumping onto one foot along with jumping off the same leg. Along with the birddog we worked my balance through lunging and reverse lunging. We worked other exercises where balance might have been a secondary target of the movement. A variety of movements seems to be required in achieving full body strength, balance, and coordinated movement. The process of improving balance has led to this activity which eluded me as a kid.
Improving cerebral palsy seems to be about movement. The more movement we can incorporate into our lives, the better our challenge of cerebral palsy can become. Our ability to move doesn’t come as naturally to those of us impacted by the disability. So, it may require us to work more diligently on acquiring coordinated movement patterns. The more we practice coordinating our bodies, the easier a movement will be. Working on this hopscotch course would be a good example of working on a movement over time. We had to build strength and coordination through different exercises to begin. Eventually the balance and coordination was gained enabling me go through the hopscotch setup. I wanted to show how we have been doing it to this point. Then, hopefully show another video later on to give an example of the improvements we can make. It seems important to realize even with cerebral palsy improvement can be achieved. In my life, there have been points of wanting to give up. Thinking my life would be doomed because of my disability. But, in those times it becomes important to understand improvement is about the process. Even when it feels like the steps are small, they are still steps helping you get better. There will be a time when you achieve something you didn’t think possible and look back to see how all those little steps added up to something seemingly impossible.