Long Toss with The Small Ball

We had been playing catch with the small ball for weeks. Working in the smaller of two yoga studios at the gym. We had been tossing the ball back and forth. Lengthening the distance by a couple steps, as we went. Eventually, Bernard and I were catching the small ball at four different length. Finally, covering the entire distance of the smaller yoga studio. To move the activity forward and increase the challenge. We would require more length to play catch with the small ball. Our gym has a yoga studio, larger than the one we began using. Adding about double the length. Playing catch at the full length of the larger room would change the exercise. Bringing into the activity even broader movements. Tossing the ball back to Bernard would require more force. The throws from Bernard would have a much wider dispersion. Meaning my body would be required to move even greater lengths to make a catch. The focus time on the ball would also be elevated. As the toss would remain in flight for a longer duration of time. These would all be factors for me to navigate with the added space. Each aspect placing more pressure on body movement. Both the fine and gross movements of my body. With it, comes the opportunity to work on improving the challenges of my disability.

Throwing the small ball across this larger room would be challenging. Bringing into question my ability to throw with distance. The new length meant I no longer had the power to make the throw. Something would require changing to get the ball back to Bernard. The smaller yoga studio didn’t present the power problem. Using my usual two finger grip on any round ball, I could throw the length of the first studio. Gripping a ball with two fingers had always been my grip. They had been the fingers easiest for me to operate. As cerebral palsy causes challenges with my fine motor movements. Making use of my fingers has always carried its challenges. So, I never felt comfortable involving a third finger in my throwing motion. Feeling like the ring and pinky finger have been hard to make work, the way I intend. But, I had reached a sticking point in my attempts to throw the small ball across this floor. Having never done it before, to my recollection, a third finger found its way onto the ball. The ring finger being used in the throw gave me added power. I could get the ball all the way back to Bernard with more consistency. The added finger was also increasing the control of making my throw. It was like a light bulb of relief went off in my brain. I could finally throw with better capability. Leaving me excited to continue experimenting. 

With the added ability of throwing already taking shape. The challenge of catching these longer tosses was still in question. The process of catching the throws from Bernard had challenges. Feeling more complex than learning how to best make the throws. With the added size of the larger room, the ball could travel to more spots. The smaller room provided for a more controlled area of dispersion. The new room would be about double in size. Meaning the dispersion pattern of throw grew tremendously. It would mean bringing in the challenge of moving my entire body to make some catches. Shuffling my feet to slide into a better position. Bring into the exercise another challenge. Which would be recognition of where the ball would end its path. The sooner I could process the flight of the ball, the better chance of being in the correct position. This didn’t relate only to the movement of my body as a whole. It also meant getting my arms and hands into a good position. So, while the longer throw meant remaining focused on the ball longer. There would be more things to process, as the ball was in flight. Placing pressure on my brain to combine fine and gross movements. Something Bernard tries working on with most of our movements. The more lights he can turn on inside my brain, the better. Because, it means we are directly challenging my disability. 

Catching the small ball from a longer distance means more gross movement. While in the small room, the gross motor movement was minimized. Using the movement of my arms and hands to make the catches. The distances were short enough, playing catch could happen while standing in one place. Even at the longest distance in the smaller room, a catch might require one step in a direction, but the sliding of my body was rarely required. Inside the larger studio, things were different. Both, when it came to throwing and catching. The catching of the small ball inside the larger room felt similar to fielding a baseball. As Bernard sets to throw the ball, my body needs to be ready for movement. Not only the movement of sliding left to right. But, catching the ball could mean reaching above my shoulder level. Sometimes calling for a jump off the floor in order to attempt the catch. The ball might arrive low as well. Having me reach toward the floor to catch a throw. With all the movement of my major muscles. Catching the ball still requires my hands to be ready. The fine motor movement of securing the catch with my hands and fingers. All of this becomes more challenging with cerebral palsy, as my muscles and brain react more slowly than many of yours. We play this game of catch in an attempt to speed up my reactions. Hoping to make my hands easier to use and better coordinated with the body. Listening more quickly to the brains instructions. Though it will never be typical of my peers. The excitement lies in life getting easier inside my daily tasks. 

One of the most impactful aspects of playing catch has been on my fingers. The ability to have my fingers work better. Though, like many things regarding cerebral palsy, my fingers will never operate like a person typically developed. However, we have seen through training; their functionality can improve. The noticeable difference for me has been in how I throw. My grip on the small ball has changed during this activity. I think a factor in the grip change has been playing catch. Our work in the smaller room really began the frequent use of my hands in playing catch. It improved my dexterity. Making all daily tasks simpler to manage. Having the experience of playing in the small room helped increase the functionality of my entire hand, but most notably, my ring and pinky fingers. With the practice in using the fingers to help make catches. The movement of the ring finger of my right hand was improving. Making it ready to become part of my throws. When the larger studio room required more velocity and control. I found the ability to use my ring finger on the ball, aiding in my throw, which had never happened preciously. Gaining the skill to use the added finger gave me the ability to throw the ball clear back to Bernard. The newfound ability to use my ring and pinky fingers, also helps me in daily activities. As we have worked on my ability to manipulate more of my fingers successfully. Bernard and I play catch with the small ball during each session. The activity has had a profound impact on my ability to use my hands in all tasks.  

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