Walking Sponge Ball Catch

The first type of ball Bernard used to play catch. He was looking for something with some size. Making it easier to receive. A smaller ball would require added dexterity in my hands. Dexterity, being the skill we have been working on for a while. Attempting to increase the skill of my fingers. The sponge ball also provided a softness. Meaning the ball would not cause harm if missed. It would merely bounce harmlessly off any surface. Following weeks of playing successful games of catch. Passing the sponge ball back and forth from stationary positions. Bernard wanted to add challenge to tossing the ball back and forth. He was satisfied with my ability to catch and throw the ball from a fixed point. At least, as it pertained to the sponge ball. In the yoga studio of the gym. Where we work often on an assortment of different movements. He had us stand about four feet apart. Beginning near one wall of the yoga studio. The object was to walk the length of the studio. While walking, we were going to pass the sponge ball back and forth. The thinking was turning on more lights in the brain. Having to coordinate the added challenge of walking to our game of catch. Moving while throwing and catching a ball had been part of my past. The activity was part of playing sports during my youth. I would not however, make a claim to doing it well. 

Thinking about all the times I have caught and thrown a ball while moving. Many of us spent hours during our early years doing this very thing. We did this with all kinds of different types of balls. Because, we played all kinds of different sports. Whether done on an organized level, like our school team. Or, in the yards of our friends. We would be using a basketball, baseball, or football. The ball we were throwing and catching was often decided by the time of year. The pathway allowing us to throw and catch a ball, while moving, was well used. Even with cerebral palsy, my ability to handle any kind of ball was at its height. It wasn’t as easily accomplished for me, but I loved to practice. Spending hours in the driveway, working on the handling of a basketball. But, as we age, this skill diminishes. As our time is spent doing other things. Lacking the opportunity to play sports like we did as kids. The skill probably slightly slips away for someone typically developed. We often hear, if you don’t use it, you lose it. I would contend, the skill slips away even further for someone like me, with the disability. Making it important to work on holding onto a skill like this. Having so much to do with hand movement, reaction time, and coordinating movements. This is where Bernard’s ability to think outside the box has such value. 

Reactivating my ability to throw and catch helps more than the specific movement. The challenge helps me work the overall use of my wrists and hands. Which, feels most impactful struggle of my disability. So, he had us begin by standing about four feet apart. Describing we were going to walk down the wooden floor of the yoga studio at the gym. Maintaining the distance apart throughout the walk. After reaching the wall on the far end. We were going to turn around a repeat the walk coming back. As we strolled down the floor. The sponge ball in his hands was going to be tossed back and forth. The idea felt like an exciting challenge. I couldn’t wait to get started with this exercise. Part of my comfort involved the spongy exterior of the ball. The ball would hardly be felt if my hands missed the catch. With the tosses from Bernard coming directly toward my shoulders. The catching part of this exercise was doable without much struggle. He lobbed the ball gently in my direction, taking care to have the ball arrive in a similar location. The addition of movement through walking could make catching more complex. However, I got the hang of the exercise pretty quickly. The return throw was the most challenge aspect when we began.

Tossing the sponge ball back to Bernard required added concentration. Requiring me to turn my shoulders to the side. The hard part was making the turn while continuing my walk forward. With the rigidity in my body, brought about in part by cerebral palsy, making the rotation is challenging. Then, holding that upper body rotation, in order to make the toss. I could feel the tax being placed on my core. Which might have been a component of challenge for this movement. The return throw was easier when my throwing arm was further from Bernard. When walking down the floor from left to right. When we turned to make our return trip. My right shoulder was closest to Bernard. Feeling like my body had to rotate away from my target. Clearing space for the throw. Rather than rotating toward my target, when the throwing shoulder was further away. Attempting to make a compensation when my right shoulder was nearest Bernard. I tried making a backhanded flipping motion. Almost pushing the sponge ball back to him. Saving me from having to rotate my upper body and maintain balance. Well, I got caught trying to be sneaky. Bernard reminded me to focus on opening my shoulders and making a good throw. Took the fun right out of that movement. 

While the challenge of tossing the sponge ball back, didn’t change. The challenge of catching the sponge ball could change. Bernard could change the location of each toss. Forcing me to extend my arms to make the catch. The ball could come to me high, low, or at shoulder height. Mixing up the location of his toss, required quick adjustments in my body. Sometimes asking me to catch the sponge ball out and above my head. Using the ends of my fingers to secure the reception. The variety added the excitement of the movement.  Keeping the mind engaged. Improving my skills of reaction. Which, cerebral palsy has slowed all my life. But, the thing about movements like this one, has been noticing improvement. We have spent hours in the last six months working with different balls. Throwing them, catching them, bouncing them, or tossing them into the air. Each one, helping my body balance and react. Helping my hands work better with my brain. The improvement to my dexterity and focus has been great. While, working with the different motions. Along with working different types of balls within those motions. Can always involve added challenge. Once I can get one of the movements down well. Bernard is already on to using a different ball inside a harder movement. It takes patience at times, moving in incremental steps of improvement. But, working with these different balls, in different ways, has helped coordination and dexterity, tremendously.  

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