Small Ball Toss

The time had arrived to move forward from the lacrosse and tennis balls. We weren’t going to abandon working with them. But, Bernard wanted to progress the movement by adding another challenge to the mix. The new ball was small and squishy. Similar to the size of the small bouncy balls we used as kids. You remember the one about the size of ping-pong balls. They came in all different colors with firm exteriors. When they were tossed on the ground to bounce, they would spring in any direction off the floor. This new ball was about that size, only it possessed a spongy surface. Meaning it would not bounce off the wooden floor of the yoga studio. Bernard created the example by throwing it forcefully against the wood. The ball simply stuck, without rebounding more than half an inch. Proving to me, we wouldn’t be working this ball against the floor. Instead, the exercise would be completed by tossing the ball into the air. Catching it in my left hand, as the ball fell back to the floor. The toss and catch would be done with only my left hand, causing immediate trepidation. His gift to me would be withholding the repetition penalty. Giving me the chance to become familiar with the new object. So, the work with this smaller ball began. 

When Bernard handed me this small ball, I sensed my body clinch. Thinking of experiences from the past with small objects. Always concerned with my ability to handle something small. Whether it be the buttons on a shirt or a remote. Any object presenting itself small in stature provides uncertain emotions. Because, having cerebral palsy in my case, means I can’t predict hand reactions. Somedays they work in ways that impress me, others they send me into confused oblivion. The ball was placed in my left hand with instructions. Toss it into the air and catch it on the way down. The soft and textured exterior should help me with securing the grasp. My first few tosses went okay, the movement more challenging than expected. I managed to get the ball up into the air by maybe a foot or two. Attempting to get the feel for releasing it affectively. I was finding that the shallower tosses provided the best opportunity to make the catch. But, it was challenging to control the height at which the ball traveled. Trying to gage the force needed in my wrist. While, encouraging my fingers to allow for uninterrupted flight. The task felt complex and most attempts were missed. Because, after all of this, my hand needed to resituate for the underhanded catch. I had to find a way to bring all the factor together. 

Following the trial run with the small ball being tossed upward. Bernard brought the lacrosse and tennis balls back into the exercise. My task would be to would be to bounce both the lacrosse and tennis balls downward against the floor. Catching them in my left hand on the bounce back upward. Doing this underhanded just like before with the two balls. The only difference would be a repetition penalty with the bounces. I had to complete by bouncing and catching each ball ten consecutive times. If any one of the catches were missed, I had to start all over. Meaning the penalty for a fumbles catch was to completely redo the set, rather than only the missed repetition. For tossing and catching the small ball, I had to achieve ten catches following the toss. But, there would be no cost to the amount of attempts it took to complete. So, I was off on the challenge. Doing something I was familiar with first, followed by something new. We ran through this three-tiered process three times. The lacrosse ball first, followed by the tennis ball, and on to the small ball toss upward. To my delight, in all three sets, I didn’t miss any catches with the lacrosse or tennis balls. It was a first for me, being able to adjust finger pressure quickly enough to catch each. The tennis ball being the more challenging with its lighter weight. Working with the smaller ball wasn’t as smooth a transition. 

Sometimes I chuckle to myself when working with Bernard. He will come up with an idea for a new exercise. Working on tossing and catching this smaller ball is a perfect example of this entertainment. He introduces how he would like me to toss the ball into the air and catch it with lefty. Only trouble is, when he goes to show me how, he tosses the ball upward and misses the catch. This isn’t the first time something like this has occurred. As my mind thinks, “sure, the ex-WSU receiver can’t make the catch. But, let’s give it to the handicapped guy to try.” I realize it only had to do with a lack of focus. It still makes me laugh to myself. The most challenging aspect of catching the small ball was its tendency to bounce off my palm. The higher the ball was tossed into the air. The more fiercely it would contact my palm. Sending it scurrying back into the air. I struggled to time it well enough to close my fingers in time for the catch. Because the timing wasn’t there, my goal was to be gentler with the toss. Making the balls contact my palm softer. Giving me another split second to close my fingers. The other piece was to have more anticipation. Attempting to begin closing my fingers before the ball contacted my palm. There were many aspects playing into working the small ball toss. 

The small ball being tossed upward added another good challenge. Working another step of improving hand and wrist functionality. Unlike bouncing a ball against the floor. Tossing the small ball upward required more wrist care. I had to think about the height it was being tossed. Understanding the higher this ball traveled, the more challenging it would be to catch. Getting the wrist action correct certainly didn’t guarantee a catch. But, it I could get the ball moving upward inside a couple feet, my odds of a catch elevated. Impressing myself at times with four or five catches in succession. I kept attempting to toss the ball a little higher. Understanding that was the place true challenge occurred. Trying to anticipate enough to close my fingers around the ball in time to secure it. But, the ball kept hitting my palm and bouncing to the floor. So, I toyed a little with varying the height. Hoping to get the consecutive catch string expanding, while expanding the degree of challenge. It seems difficult to know just how this exercise will be helpful in future daily activities. But, if I know one thing about working with Bernard. I know someday, I’ll be performing a physical task, that will somehow be easier. In that instance, I will know who to thank. 


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