The time had arrived to move on from the lacrosse ball in our bouncing exercise. Life had found me beginning to play tennis regularly. That play gave Bernard a couple new ideas for our sessions. One was starting to work with the tennis ball in my hands. It was going to be a more challenging ball to handle. I found out quickly the tennis ball is weighted differently. Making it more likely to bounce out of my hands. The lacrosse ball had enough weight to be caught in whatever way felt comfortable. The ball could be griped with tension in my fingers. With the weight allowing it to settle better into the palm. Working with the tennis ball was almost the opposite feeling. The way I gripped the tennis ball when it contacted my hand was important. Finding out quickly the tension in my fingers could cause the ball to pop out of my grasp. The tennis ball would bring finger control into a prominent role. Both tossing and catching would call for a softness in my hand, not yet required. The impact of cerebral palsy has brought challenge to finger control. My fingers want to bend inward toward the palm of my hands. They want to do so with rigidity and tension. Making it challenging to grip things with the appropriate tension in the fingers. Especially if the tension being called for is one of softness.
The idea for using the tennis ball came from playing. I had played tennis as a kid growing up, but it had been years. This summer, attempting to take up the game again sounded fun. So, I began trying to play, again. While getting going on that first day, I noticed handling the tennis ball wasn’t easy. It felt more complicated to work with than the lacrosse ball had been. Holding the racket in my right and maneuvering the tennis ball in my left was taxing. Throughout the afternoon, I continued to work on catching the ball with my left. Sometimes the left hand could grasp the ball, but often it would pop out of my fingers. Causing me too often use my racket to help secure the ball against. Another technique was to stop the tennis ball from rolling and reach down with my left hand to grasp it. One thing seemed obvious during that first day of playing tennis. It would require some practice to learn the manipulation of the tennis ball in my hand. I knew exactly who to elicit help from for the challenge. After working with the lacrosse ball and yoga ball, Bernard could probably help. When we talked about my struggles with the left-handed ball handling. He asked me to bring in one of the tennis balls and we would work on improving some skills.
We worked on more than bouncing the tennis ball with my hands. Another challenge I was having with the ball was throwing it accurately into the air. When serving in tennis, the ball is tossed into the air and struck at its apex. Hopefully causing it to travel downward as it clears the net. To gain consistency in the serve, it would seem advantageous for the ball to be tossed up accurately. The challenge of cerebral palsy in my wrists was making the toss difficult. My wrist wanted to fold inward too much. Causing the tennis ball to travel up and back instead of directly upward. It took Bernard pointing out wrist control as the problem. My thinking was it could have been trouble with my fingers. After a few of throws upward with the tennis ball he was able to identify the culprit. We began working on tossing the tennis ball skyward in a serving motion. Trying to gain a more consistent trajectory to strike my tennis serve. The process was frustrating because I could hardly feel my wrist making its mistake. Bernard suggested attempting to lighten up the grip being taken with my fingers. It felt like I was using my fingers in a death grip. Once the finger grip was made gentler. The tennis ball began moving upward a little more consistently. There was still struggle with holding the ball more gently. But, I knew what to practice in order to achieve some consistency. While, we worked on the upward toss, we also worked on bouncing.
In a two-part circuit, we tossed the tennis ball upward, and bounced it against the floor. Just like we had been working with the lacrosse ball for years. We placed the tennis ball in my left hand and it was tossed downward. My objective was to catch the ball in my left hand on the return bounce. Like was felt on the tennis court the previous weekend, this was challenging. The light weight of the tennis ball made it more challenging to securely grasp. While bouncing it against the floor, I was too aggressive with my fingers on the catch. I couldn’t grip the tennis ball by clutching onto it. This was the method working so well with the lacrosse ball, due to its weight. Learning that squeezing the ball wasn’t working, I focused on being gentle. Fighting through frustration with my fingers. It took added concentration on easing the tension in my fingers. Over time, just like occurred with the lacrosse ball, I slowly improved. Focusing on allowing the tennis ball to fall into my palm, then softly close my fingers. We moved back and forth from throwing the tennis ball into the air and bouncing it to make the left-handed catch. Both helped me learn to use the wrist in tossing the tennis ball, which asked for a different motion from the lacrosse ball exercise. Throwing the tennis ball against the ground required a little firmer motion. The tennis ball was lighter, therefore my wrist flip needed more velocity. Which, gave me less time to react with my hand for the catch. Working with the tennis ball was more complex.
These exercises with the tennis ball were good for my hands. They progressed the movement of the lacrosse ball work. Requiring me to use my hands in different ways to achieve ball security. I had to find a solution to making my hands softer. Taking away the death grip working with lacrosse ball catch. After the tennis ball popped out of my fingers a few times. My frustration turned into concentration. Knowing the only way to work successfully with the tennis ball was to focus on my fingers. Instead of allowing the frustration of cerebral palsy to overpower me and lead to quitting. So, I focused on becoming gentler with my fingers. It was required on both sides of our circuit. Gentle fingers helped toss the tennis ball up in a direct line toward the sky. The gentleness in the fingers also allowed the tennis ball to be bounced and caught. All of the successes led to more confidence in my hands. Increasing coordination on many activities out in my daily life. Bernard goal has been to apply pressure with these exercises. Believing it will allow my hands to manage tasks each day with greater ease. His plan seems to be working as my dexterity improves. Gaining more control over the tension in my fingers while manipulating objects. So, moving onward, we work in pursuit of as much cerebral palsy improvement as we can achieve.