Another ball was added in the last few weeks. It is referred to as a reaction ball. Completely different from the three balls we have used. I have been working with a lacrosse ball, tennis ball, and small spongy ball. Each of those are perfectly round. Giving them predictability when bouncing off the floor. The reaction ball is different in this important regard. It doesn’t have a perfectly round shape. Instead, the reaction ball is a small round ball with bumps on the exterior. Meaning when this ball is dropped it can bounce in many different directions. Forcing me to react to where the ball is going. Then, gather myself in order to make the catch. The process needing to be done quickly, in order to secure the catch. Luckily, the surface of the reaction ball is much like the lacrosse ball. Removing the need to be concerned with finger tension. The ball can be grasp using any kind of grip. The largest obstacle with the reaction ball would be reaction time. Being able to get my hands in the correct place to make the catch. The bounce might even require my feet to move. Helping the body achieve the position needed to make a catch. There would be many aspects taking place once the reaction ball hit the floor. Cerebral palsy adding to the challenge of combining all the aspects to execute the challenge.
My first experience watching the reaction ball was startling. Bernard showed me how it worked a few days before our beginning attempts. He walked out into the middle of the gym. Using the ball against the rubber floor instead of the wood in the yoga studio. He wanted to give dropping it a try, while allowing me to check out our next step. The reaction ball hit the floor and bounded away. Not getting much elevation from the floor before skirting back and to the right. Bernard retrieved the ball and gave it another bounce. This time it jumped further off the mat and to the upper right. Showing me there might be potential for securing a catch. It still looked pretty close to impossible. So, when we began in the yoga studio, catching the ball wasn’t the first priority. Our first goal was to simply react in the correct direction of the ball. I was to extend my arm out fully at shoulder height. Dropping the reaction ball to the wood surface below. Bernard coached me to concentrate on keeping my eye on the ball. Allowing me to be better prepared when reacting to its bounce. Even though the goal was to react in the correct direction of the bounce. He wanted me to continue attempting to make the catch.
In the beginning, there would be no penalty for a missed catch. Bernard wanted me to drop the reaction ball ten times with each of my hands. Watching the ball all the way to the floor. Then, reacting to whichever direction it bounced. Making at least the move it that general direction with an effort to secure the ball. One of the challenges in cerebral palsy has been managing my body in space. Recognizing where it needs to be in position to accomplish a task. As my left hand held the ball out in front. I bent my knees into an athletic position. Giving myself a better opportunity to react to the bounce. My hands went into an open position after it was released. Arms hanging out to the left and right side. Ready to grasp the ball bouncing in the left or right directions. It was going to be a tricky challenge. Through the first twenty drops, I might have snagged a couple. The reaction ball ricocheted in all kinds of directions. Sometimes staying low along the floor. While, at other times, the ball bounced with some height. It would also travel at different speeds. Providing time for me to have a chance to make the catch. But, speeding off at others, when there was no hope. When it sped in one direction, it was about learning to move and trying to reach toward the ball speeding away from my grasp. Because, the more I practice reacting in the correct direction, the better my chances become of catching it later. Elevating my ability to react when something occurs in my natural environment.
When the ball bounced more slowly, I could feel the rush. The excitement inside the brain telling me I had a chance. The reaction ball could bounce straight up off the floor. Providing time for me to react and catch. It might bounce gently to one side or the other. Making a slow arch that again gave me enough time for the grasp. The ones giving me the most fun had a little speed moving to one of the sides. There was just enough time for me to react on some of them. Surprising my brain when the hand was in the correct spot. Those shocking catches brought a smile across my face. When I wasn’t thinking about placing my hand at the necessary point. It just made the reaction and my fingers squeezed idealistically around the ball. Those are some of the moments showing me how much improvement is possible to make. This was one of the movements we do, when I felt there was little chance for achievement. The unpredictability of the reaction ball seemed impossible to solve. As I have become better with my reactions, confidence begins to rise. Transitioning into getting a little faster with my hands. My body starts to react with more life. Even moving one foot toward the direction of the ball. Placing my body in a more advantageous situation to make the catch.
The reaction ball adds new elements to our work with the balls. It brings in the ability to react to unpredictability. Bouncing the lacrosse ball and tennis ball off the floor is predictable. The way it leaves my hands indicates how it will bounce. Giving me a strong idea of where to be in order to make the catch. Even the smaller sponge ball we tossed upward instead of down. It seemed to have slightly less predictability, but remained steady. The reaction ball has little to no predictable features. Taxing my cerebral palsy by bringing into play more movement. Bernard refers to it as turning on more lights. Working multiple muscles, reactions, and pathways inside my body. Better preparing me for the things requiring reaction in the world. When something begins falling off the table. Or, an object is flying toward us unexpectedly. The reaction ball also helps with predictable physical tasks. Helping understand how to get my body into positive positions. Getting there more quickly and with less doubt. These concepts can make those tasks happen more efficiently. Which, in turn has me feeling better about life. Cerebral palsy takes away the ease associated with physical tasks. But, all the creative work helps get some of it back. Taking on challenges makes life better.