We have been throwing and catching different kinds of athletic balls for years. The challenge began with a medium sized yoga ball. I was trying to toss the medium red ball into a basket. Everything has progressed from that point. We have worked with a lacrosse ball, tennis ball, reaction ball, and small squishy ball. Our work moved from the tossing of the yoga ball, into bouncing the variety of athletic ball off the floor. The exercise was almost always to catch these different objects as they bounced off the ground. Now, we have moved on to playing catch across the yoga rooms. Sometimes using the smaller of the two rooms, while at other times, using the larger of the rooms. Playing catch across the floor began with the medium sized yoga ball. It was squishy, with absolutely no chance of causing harm. The task was executed to satisfaction and since, we have moved on to playing catch with a small squishy ball. Catching and tossing the small ball has always provided challenge. However, over the months of working with it, improvement has transpired. Enough improvement to result in Bernard introducing something new. Just a couple weeks ago, he introduced playing catch with the tennis ball. Without giving up the use of playing with the small squishy ball. Today, we are using both in the catching phase of our workout session.
Playing catch with the small squishy ball has been helpful. Having many challenges in the usage of my hand and arms. Throwing and catching the ball as often as we do has helped with everyday physical tasks. Bernard has set up for us the play catch with the small ball during each of our workout sessions. Throwing it back and forth across the length of the yoga studio. The consistency of the activity has helped work on the coordination of my hands and arms. His goal has been to get me catching the small ball at the same rate. Bernard usually catches right around 100% of my throws. Sometimes missing one during our sets of ten tosses back and forth. I have done a good job of raising my catch rate to eight or nine catches, out of ten throws. On occasion, the ability to catch all ten has been there, but not frequently. I start finding myself getting inside my head after reaching seven or eight consecutive catches. Even with all the practice, the process of catching the small squishy ball hasn’t been easy. There instantly becomes a nervous energy when the ball takes flight coming toward my body. I understand it won’t hurt me, as it has been missed and hit me in the face. But, the questioning over whether I can make the reception always occurs. I never know where the ball might arrive and it has me immediately question the reaction ability of my body. I feel a challenging test, each time the ball takes flight in my direction, for me to catch.
When the tennis ball came out it caused surprise. Bernard pulled the ball from one of his pockets. He introduced it after we had thrown the small squishy ball as usual. My original thought was the tennis ball would be easier to catch. As I have been more successful handling larger objects in life. Another positive emotion occurring was that of familiarity. I grew up handling a tennis ball. We would play neighborhood baseball using a tennis ball in place of a baseball. Up the street from my childhood home. The neighbor had a large back yard we would play in, with the kids of our similar age, in the vicinity. We played each summer for many years. Usually right up until the sun would set below the trees. Bernard and I also used the tennis ball in our bouncing exercise. Where I would bounce the ball off the yoga studio floor, catching the rebound. So, when the tennis ball came toward me, I had more confidence than with the smaller ball. The tennis ball also felt easier to see as it traveled. With the bright yellow color and the markings on the side. These characteristics of the ball made it easier to concentrate on during flight. Even with the time going by, since I had concentrated on catching a tennis ball. The comfort of fielding the ball came back quickly. The skill feeling much easier to pick up, than that of the small ball. The emotion of anxiety was also lessened with the tennis ball flying in my direction. This ease of nervous energy inside, seeming to make it easier for my body to react and make the catch.
The real challenge came in using both the small ball and the tennis ball. Sometime during our work in the yoga studio. We will play catch on three different occasions, as part of our circuit. Usually, these sets of playing catch are surrounded by performing agilities and jumping rope. They had always been done using one ball, the small squishy ball, until a week ago. When Bernard introduced the tennis ball to our process. When he introduced the tennis ball, we began working on a five and five concept. The idea was for me to make five catches with the small squishy ball. Then, make five successful catching with the tennis ball. Where the exercise had previously called for the most catches I could muster out of ten tosses. Now, the throws would be weighted from Bernard. Adding some positive pressure and hoping to elevate my concentration. Catching the tennis ball did feel like it was a bit easier. The ball was much easier to see from the beginning. I could pick up the rotation of the ball by looking for the writing. Providing me something to focus on with the ball in the air. My arms and hands seemed to move to the location of making the catch well. And the panicking question around my ability to grasp the small object seemed to ease. My belief became that I catch the tennis ball at a higher rate. But, only more time spent working with both objects will form the truth.
One of the overriding reasons for introducing the tennis ball has been variety. Leading to different ways in which I would be challenged to make a catch. When we work with the different athletic balls within the same time period, my mind changes. It requires me to change my approach in catching and tossing the ball back. The requirement on hand dexterity switches rather quickly. Moving from having to catch the small squishy ball, into having to catch the tennis ball. The tactic Bernard has taken in challenging my mind with the differences. He will have me make five catches with the small squishy ball, followed by five catches with the tennis ball. Both thrown the same length at similar trajectories. I enjoy the switching aspect of the challenge. When we toss one ball back and forth for a while, it allows me to get accustomed to one of them. The changing after five throws has my brain scrambling a bit. Trying to recalibrate my hands in order to understand how far open to keep them. As well as how quickly and tightly to close my fingers around the current ball being tossed. I feel like this type of hand dexterity work translates well to my physical tasks of everyday life. When I think about going through my day. My hands, fingers, and arms are called upon for many different functions. If we are training my brain to work on adjusting my hand movements on the fly. It feels like we are making physical tasks in everyday life occur quicker and easier.
There has always been an excitement in challenging my disability. While, it feels like many times we challenge my body as a whole. I find myself impressed when Bernard comes up with exercises feeling more specifically targeted. Ever since our work with the variety of exercise balls began. The building of my hand improvement through the use of these objects has been fun. Bringing into our workout sessions my love of sports. Making use of ball handling allows for the feeling of being athletic in my movements. Similar to the goals I had as a child and the place I found pleasure. Even when walking through the world with cerebral palsy was frustrating. Sports provided me an escape from the challenges of my daily life. Now, we have taken that childlike joy of playing with a ball into real action. Using it to continue helping my hand improvement inside my physical world, today. Playing catch with Bernard still brings joy and provides a momentary escape from my challenges. I like the measurability of the function. Getting good enough to almost hang with someone typically developed in the number of catches. It shows how far we have come within the work being put in, inside our sessions. My hope would be continuing to improve the challenges I face with my disability. Being able to do it with some exercises that also bring joy. That just brings an added bonus.