Catching A Variety 

I enjoy thinking about the progression of an exercise. Remembering where things began and where they stand currently. The playing of catch feels like the most impactful activity in our workout sessions. Because, I have always felt the movement of my hands has been my largest challenge. Cerebral palsy has impacted the way my hands function. Making them difficult to manipulate in a variety of situations. While, trainers have helped tremendously with improving my disability. Helping me gain strength, stability, and coordination in my body function. There hasn’t been one to understand ways in which to target my hands. Trying to challenge my finger functionality in a manner to improve physical tasks. Bernard has trained multiple clients with cerebral palsy during his career. Along with having a child with cerebral palsy, he has tremendous experience with the disability. During his time of working with people who have the disability. Bernard has found the majority of us, experience challenges with the use of our hands. He has worked to find tools that would help people in my circumstance. As we continue down the road of playing catch with each session. We continue experimenting with things that are most helpful. Mixing up the ways we are going about playing catch. I enjoy writing about them in an effort to pass along our progress. The experience of Bernard shows us the number of people with cerebral palsy, who have impacted hands. Hopefully, our work can help inspire others to find creative ways to reach improvement. 

Something positive about working with Bernard has been the variety. The ways in which he changes the exercises keeps me engaged. Bringing in different games that prove themselves to be challenging. The plan helps appeal to my joy for the competition of sport. Instead of running me through the typical gym exercises. Playing catch was always a fun aspect of growing as a kid. The task of catching and throwing any kind of ball brought excitement to any afternoon. So, to bring into my workouts, an enjoyable aspect from childhood, seems great. As a kid with cerebral palsy, the competitiveness of trying to catch was part of a game. I loved the challenge of even the simplest of catches. Knowing inside of me, making a catch was harder for me to execute. Unlike, things like the crab walk, and jumping rope. Activities I was unable to achieve and watched my peers do with seemingly little difficulty. Catching a ball was something I could share with my friends. Maybe I couldn’t do it as well as they could. But, I could relate to the feeling of catching a pass. The activity was something I enjoyed practicing. Feeling like if I had the ability to catch a ball, I could improve upon the skill. The aspect getting me most befuddled when attempting a catch was the speed. When watching sports on television, it didn’t look like the ball was moving too quickly. However, when I would play organized sports, or even sometimes with friends, passes could really come quick. Having slowed reaction time, because of my cerebral palsy, made catching those moving balls a challenge. 

My ability to react correctly to a moving ball wasn’t instinctual. As those quick passes came steaming toward me, I would often lock up. The body would freeze to the point where all I felt was confusion. Then, at the last moment, I would through my hands up just in time, and knock the ball down. Saving myself from getting hit in the face with an oncoming pass. The situation wasn’t the fault of anyone. It simply showed the slow reaction time I had from my disability. Somewhere inside of me, it felt like that reaction time could be improved. Well, years later, we work on that very thing each day. Throwing and catching the different balls to provide variety. The skills required to catch any type of object can be different. The change in motor skill might depend on the ball one is attempting to stop. At a younger age, the basketball was probably the easiest for me to grab. It was the largest of the sporting balls we used. The most challenging felt to be the football. I remember electing not to be the receiver who ran down field. The skill to catch the oddly shaped football from out of the sky wasn’t part of my tool box. Though, I did enjoy passing the football. While, making catches of the baseball had an advantage. The only sport with the help of a glove. The baseball glove provided more space than just the hand to make a catch. I loved playing catch with a baseball. Today, my hands are the only tools I have to catch the throws from Bernard. When he started adding a ball to our games of catch, the games became more interesting.

The reaction time I couldn’t find growing up, has been worked on for months. Improving my ability to react more quickly, seems to have driven Bernard into adding another element to the catching activity. He decided to place another ball into our mix. In addition to the small squishy ball we have spent months tossing back and forth. Bernard brought into our game of catch, a tennis ball to use. When the new ball was introduced to our game, I was excited. The implementation of the tennis ball was a way of keeping our sessions interesting. Adding a wrinkle to something we had been doing. It keeps my mind engaged and away from feeling that we do the same things during our workouts. When the tennis ball was introduced, we kept the two athletic balls separate. Beginning with tossing the small squishy ball ten times in a row. Then, we moved into tossing the tennis ball ten times in a row. The sequence allowed me to grow accustomed to each ball, during its tosses. It took one or two catches to familiarize myself with each. Leaving me with about seven opportunities to really focus on making catches. We kept track of the number of successful catches during the ten throws. Looking for the differences in the challenge of each ball. The number of successful catches would also change depending on the yoga studio we used. Catching the tennis ball in the smaller yoga studio seemed easier. 

When we moved to playing catch in the larger studio, the catches became more complex. The distance increases by double the length of the bigger studio. Bringing more gross motor movement into the equation of securing a catch. Moving into the larger of the two rooms, also made things more exciting. The move added challenge to our game and my number of catches took a nose dive. I thought catching the tennis ball would be the easier ball to catch, just like in the smaller studio. My belief didn’t take into account the different elements of the larger space. The added distance brought in variables I wouldn’t have thought would have an impact. Even the lighting in the larger room impacted my ability to catch the tennis ball. The light had never impacted tracking a ball traveling in my direction and in the smaller of the two rooms, the light had no impact. But, with the size inside the large room, the lighting caused the tennis ball to move from light to shadow. It called upon my concentration to be even more in tune. It remains an aspect of our games of catch that I haven’t gotten used to experiencing. The large room also has me moving around to make my catches. The longer tosses make for a wider dispersion of the throws. Meaning my gross motor movements are called upon more often. Forcing my arms to reach a further distance, or move my entire body to arrive in good position to field the ball. All the aspects cause the game of catch to be much more interesting.

The introduction of the tennis ball into our games of catch has been exciting. Adding a challenge to the exercise that I didn’t envision. When Bernard pulled the tennis ball from his pocket, I could feel my face light up. It was a ball I had years of experience catching. Whether playing baseball with it in the backyard, as a child. Or, playing tennis on the courts around the schools I attended. It felt logical that I would have greater success catching the tennis ball. As opposed to the small squishy ball we had been using. While, my prediction seemed to hold true in the smaller of the yoga studios. Catching the small squishy ball in the larger of the two rooms, has been easier. The smaller of the balls doesn’t get impacted by the lights. It has a dark colored exterior that hasn’t been impacted moving from shadow to light. The tennis ball calls on me to be more focused. Making sure to watch it from the time Bernard releases the ball. Bringing in the element of maintaining concentration for longer time periods. I really like the addition of the challenge. The different element seems to add pressure to my cerebral palsy challenge. I have to think about my hands being in the correct place and closing my fingers around the ball. Which, has been the largest of the challenges in making the catches. Now, I need to keep my mind engaged with how the tennis ball might be traveling. It feels like cerebral palsy is improving.  


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