A One-Handed Catch

The moment was surprising. We were warming up to play our game of catch. The warm-up happens to begin each of our workout sessions. Before we start each of the workouts, we go through a stretching routine. Making sure our shoulders are loose and ready to rotate. I do arm circles, moving from small circles, into larger circles. Along with a rotation of each arm, moving my hand from the hip level, across my body, and up toward the ceiling. Once these stretches get finished, we are prepared to toss the ball back and forth. There have been two length of catch we play. Based around the yoga studio we are working in on a given afternoon. There are two yoga studios at the gym. One of them is about half the size of the other. No matter the room we are using, the catching of the ball starts at about five feet apart. These throws are more like gentle tosses back and forth. They feel as though they are being used to help prime the coordination of the motion. Reintroducing the body to the feeling of throwing and catching the ball. I actually enjoy the small tosses involved in the warming up portion. There never seems to be the feeling of pressure during these moments. When we finish warming up and back away from one another, the challenge becomes presented. Like, catching each of the ball eight times successfully. There has always been a peacefulness to the process of getting prepared. 

When we back away from one another and start tossing the ball, things change. The ease happening during the warm-up tosses gets replaced. The goal of the day comes from Bernard as we get set along the back wall. Lately, the goal has been catching eight tosses with a small ball. Then, moving on to catch eight tosses with the tennis ball. The loose feeling of flipping the ball ten feet has been replaced. Now, depending on the room for the day, we stand twenty-five to fifty feet away. The pressure of catching the ball comes into focus. As I’m trying to achieve the goal of catches in the least number of opportunities. During the warm-up portion of the session. My ability to catch the ball coming toward me doesn’t have consequences. I’m simply getting the feel for throwing and catching to begin the session. It continues to be rare for me to catch the desired number without mistake. I feel like the feat has only occurred a couple of times, since we started the activity. There are usually a few of the tosses missed during one set. My percentage of catching also depends on the room we are using. The larger room has a longer throw and my misses usually rise on those days. Within the confines of the smaller room, my ability to make the catches has been better. Still, over the months of working on the exercise. I notice a few factors playing into how I might be catching during a session. Even though I might take note of a few, I still wonder about the total number of contributing factors. Leaving me often thinking about what contributes to a productive day of catching.

Playing our game of catch can lead me into emotions of frustration. Especially when we are working in the larger studio. The longer of the two throws makes for more challenging catches. The ball often arrives in a larger variety of locations. At times, calling on me to move my entire body in order to attempt a catch. The longer distance also requires a longer duration of focus on the ball. Simply because the ball travels a further distance to arrive in my area. These factors force me to work on my composure. Remaining calm throughout all the throws coming in my direction, allows for my body to move fluidly. Attempting to hold back the frustration from tightening my muscles and interrupting concentration. My cerebral palsy making it challenging to concentrate on all the variables. Nothing feels too automatic when trying to make catches with my disability. From watching the ball travel, to timing the area my hands need to be placed, and finally remaining focused on the timing of collapsing my fingers around the ball in the correct moments. But, all of these factors have become the ideal reason for playing catch. Learning to take a quick break when the missed opportunities to catch, start piling on themselves. The momentary breather can help me regain composure, lessen the frustration level, and allow my focus to flourish, again. Usually, taking the time to break becomes helpful. Moving me back into a calm focus. Helping me reestablish the hope required to feel like the catches are achievable. 

The practice of playing catch with these different balls, finally proved purposeful. All the work being put into learning how to catch, made sense. Bernard has often spoken about having all the catch we play improve my reactions. Giving me the ability to almost slow the world around myself. Providing a sharping focus that enables me to see things happening faster. The practicing of those reactions first led to helping with the sunglasses. The shades that fell from the hat of a woman seated in front of me at the Mariners game. It was the first time I had noticed the ability to reacted effectively to a physical object. But, even having helped pick up the glasses, part of me thought about luck. My physical motions taking place in a positive manner due to happen stance. Because, in my life, there have been random moments where my cerebral palsy, suddenly lacks in impact. I was thinking the circumstances at the game might have been random, when something happened that hadn’t previously. Bernard and I were warming up before our game of catch. Tossing the small squishy ball back and forth. Standing about ten feet apart. I was flipping the ball back to him at my casual pace. Catching his return tosses with both hands. We were chatting about the happenings in sports, like usual. The intensity of the session hadn’t begun. When one of his gentle tosses went a bit off target.

Throughout the time of playing catch. There have been many moments of witnessing Bernard make on handed grabs of a toss. The action fascinates me each time I watch it happen. One of my tosses will be off target and he will reach out with one hand. Given his history of playing receiver at the college football level. The idea that he can make the one-handed snags of the balls, isn’t surprising. They are normally done with his dominant right hand. But, when he makes a one-handed catch with his left, it seems really impressive. It also feels important to note, he doesn’t always succeed in his one-handed attempts. On the other side, I never succeed in my one-handed attempts. Bernard will make a toss that ends up pretty far off target. Leaving me with the only chance of catching it, being to use one hand. Those attempts have always been missed. The ball will hit me square in the palm and bounce away, before I can close my fingers. These one-handed attempts have gone on for months to no avail. That was until a couple weeks ago, while doing our warm-up. It was one of the coolest feelings I have experienced during a session. We were simply tossing the ball like so many times prior. Preparing to break apart and truly get the workout session started. When Bernard made a toss that went out to my right. Instinctively, I put my right hand out to my side. Never really thinking about making the catch. But, when the ball hit the palm of my right hand, I squeezed my fingers just right. The ball came to rest in my hand and I had made my first one-handed catch. I looked up at Bernard in happy surprise and we celebrated the accomplishment. 

The feeling of experiencing diligent work come to fruition is awesome. Bernard spoke for months about the value of playing catch. How catching the ball over and over would help my hand movements. How the simple activity would have a large impact on cerebral palsy improvement. Feeling myself make the one-handed catch of the ball, validated his statements. We moved into the game of catch to start our session. During our long tosses, I made another improbable catch. This time, it was with two hand and above my head. The same feeling coursed through my body, realizing the catch was made out of instinct. It was a reaction from the months of practicing. My hands shot up above my head and I came down with the ball. The same surprise washed over my face. When we started playing catch, the idea of doing it one-handed felt ridiculous. Especially with the small squishy ball we were predominantly using. The ball was challenging enough to catch using both hands. It just shows me how much can be achieved with effort. The impacts of cerebral palsy will never leave my body, completely. Though the work on the most challenging of areas has benefit. I’m thankful the idea of working with a trainer was suggested to me years ago. While, the opportunity to work with someone has been a true gift. The one-handed catch provides excitement and motivation to look toward what might come next. 


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