Many exercises we work on find a progression. They become more challenging as time passes. If we are getting better at performance, things need to become more difficult. After working for years with the soft-sided exercise ball, we moved forward. Inside the rebounding movement of throwing the ball against a trampoline. The trampoline sitting at an angle, giving it the ability to propel the ball back. The soft-sided ball seemed the easiest ball to catch. The design meant it would not be harmful if the catch was missed. Working the exercise with this ball allowed me to improve many skills safely. Improvement came in reaction time, the coordination involved in throwing and catching, while also helping strengthen hands and wrists. It was a more than two-year period with the soft-sided exercise ball in use. Then, it was time to progress the movement. Provide more challenge in the targeting realm of exercises. When Bernard handed me a smaller and lighter ball to use, I was surprised. I had seen the other category of exercise ball in the gym. They are smaller, lighter in weight, but have an unforgiving exterior. While the one we have been using would not hurt if the catch was missed. The one he was handing me would leave a mark if the rebound wasn’t caught. It had a hard exterior and instead of weighing ten-pounds it weighed six.
The hard-sided ball would add different challenges to the exercise. But, also filled the rebounding with new excitement. After working with Bernard for a while, you can tell when he is advancing a movement. Making something we are working on more challenging than previously. The process gives me confidence that my fitness level is improving. Somehow my challenges with cerebral palsy are being worked to improve. So, after two years of strictly using the soft-sided ball, he handed me the hard-sided one. With the anticipation of a new challenge. The ball was resting in my hands. Feeling the size was considerably smaller. The hard-sided ball was lighter in weight, at just 6-pounds. One noticeable difference was how firm the exterior was in my hands. Understanding right away, the impact of this ball would have consequences. If the catch was missed off the trampoline, it was going to hurt. I was mentally preparing myself for this new challenge. My hand had to be open and ready to receive the smaller object. Bernard reminding me it was going to come back to me faster than the soft-sided one. With all of these things running through the mind. It was time to give the smaller ball an attempt.
Standing away from the trampoline at the regular distance. It’s about five feet from the target. The hard-sided exercise ball was tossed against the trampoline. The ball repelled back in my direction along the predictable trajectory. Traveling in an arched motion toward my face. My hands were there in the correct position for the reception. Grasping the exercise ball on either side to end its journey. After throwing and catching this small ball a few more times. The concepts making this more challenging started to surface. One of the first things noticed was how this ball would sort of jump on me toward the end. Appearing like it sped up about half way through the path back. Leaving me surprised with the concluding velocity. Reminding me to focus on making sure my hands were in the correct position to receive. This has been a skill Bernard has been working with me to improve. Helping me concentrate on moving my hands into the correct position more quickly. The process works on improving both my hand-eye coordination and reaction times. With the smaller ball traveling at the quickened speed. The time given to react was much less than the larger exercise ball with its soft exterior. Bernard knew however, the reaction time would be there. By working it over and over, that reaction pathway could be strengthened.
The smaller ball was more challenging to catch. With not as much forgiveness. My concentration on hand position was continuously required. It was an exciting progression on an exercise of familiarity. Learning I could handle the different ball being used. There was a noticeable elevation in the velocity of the return. Leaving me nervous as we begun working with the hard-sided exercise ball of six pounds. My surprise came with my ability to handle the variation. It took a couple throws for me to gain comfort with the exercise. Adjusting my concentration up a few notches. Really focusing in on having my hands ready to receive. The rebounding left me feeling extra coordinated. Often taking me back to playing catch as a kid. Even when it was too challenging for me to play with the others. I still enjoyed being part of sport, which usually involved a ball in the games. While I’m older today, there remains joy in being around sport. As life progresses, I could find myself back in coaching. So, continuing to work on ball skills helps cerebral palsy improvement, and keeps me sharp in case I find myself back on a football field.