Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The "Swish" of the Hoop

By Lori M. Miller
Whether I have just laced up my Jordan classics to play one on one with my niece and nephews or I'm taking a moment to teach my three year old how to dribble a basketball, I am always thinking of ways to improve my game of basket ball. I grew up with an older sibling who played basketball at the junior high and high school level. I remember sitting in the bleachers cheering on the home team with chants of D, D, D. Defense and so on. It was my sisters friends who excepted the challenge of teaching a totally blind Kindergartener how to dribble. From that point on, I aspired to be like the other neighborhood kids out on the summer days shooting hoops. Our basketball goal was mounted on a single pole at the edge of our driveway. I adapted to the environment using echo location to hear the pole, or physically walking up to the pole, touching it, and then backing away a number of steps. A natural crack in the driveway just about where the free throw line would be served as a great tactile marker to feel with my foot and from there, it was bend at the knees, shoot, and SCORE. Early on I used a two-handed technique but while in high school I was taught how to shoot one handed.
I found knowing the fundamentals of basketball to be an integral part of my participation in Physical Education classes which ultimately and positively impacted social development too. . Since I could dribble, I could participate in dribbling relays right along with my peers. I also enjoyed being included in games like H O R S E and Around the World. It was fairly simple to participate in these games because either you picked the spot, or you had to shoot from the same location that someone else had.
One of the major challenges along the way has been to exactly pinpoint where the hoop is. I don't always want to have to get close enough to the goal to line myself up from it. So, I implemented having another person tap the rim with my cane. In my experience, this isn't always practical to have another person assigned to this task, so I've experimented with placing an electronic metronome on the backboard is a consistent sound source that doesn't echo too much. I found that placing something on the basket was extremely helpful if the basket is in a gym and mounted a long a wall which makes it difficult to echo locate where the pole is. With a repetitive and consistent sounding source I can move around the court and shoot from any where.
When shooting, it is nice to have verbal feedback so you can learn how to adjust your shot i.e. whether it is too hard of a shot, just short, rolled off to the left, etc. Quickly the sounds of the ball and how it contacts the rim can auditorially be distinguished and I can independently listen to the shot and know whether I swooshed it through the net, or if it careened off. Listening to how the ball makes contact with the rim or backboard can also assist in rebounding so you can get a jump in the direction that the ball is likely going. A solid thud usually means the shot was to hard and too short hitting the rim and your reflexes better be quick because there's a good chance the ball is coming right back at you.
This brings us to the times when the ball disappears into the wide open spaces. I have spent many a frustrating time walking in a grid pattern searching the yard behind my basketball goal. I have also used my cane to feather it along the ground with the cane parallel to the grass as to cover the most ground as possible. My cane has also come in handy to poke under suspect bushes or the undersides of cars where basketballs often like to wedge themselves. As a child our driveway sloped to the street, so I knew that if the ball didn't bounce in the grass then it was going to roll down the drive to the street and ultimately wind up at the sewer grading at the corner where I could run down and retrieve it.
In college where I was training to be an elite athlete in goalball and alpine skiing, I searched for alternative training regiments. . I found myself many evenings in the recreation gym with a basketball running back and forth and dribbling for aerobic exercise and fitness. I continue to try and improve my game as I have expanded my dribbling to learning how to do some fancy dribbling. I also alternate hands in an effort to balance my skills. By alternating, I don't alternate with every dribble, instead I try to spend equal amounts of time dribbling with one hand and then the other as I run up and down the court and pivot to go back the other direction.

Potential adaptations and personal observations:

Taped line with cord under the tape to promote tactually identifying locations on the court. For instance, at the free-throw line. Cord similar to what is used to make goalball courts works well. Various colors of tape may also assist for someone who has usable vision. If playing on a gymnasium court, check that the tape used isn't going to leave residue on the floor. Tactile lines may be useful in various locations. Various cord diameters to make tactile lines can be found at most retail stores.
Sound source: Identify a sound source that omits a sound that is appealing to the ears and conducive to the environment and then attach it to the basketball goal. Experimenting with the placement may maximize accuracy when shooting the ball. I personally like putting hook/loop material on a small electronic metronome.
When passing to another player, call their name to evoke a response. The player may respond verbally, clapping hands, tapping foot, etc. A bounce pass allows the player who is receiving to track the sound of the ball.
Some basket balls can be heard more easily. By this I mean when the ball bounces and is in the air, you can hear the air inside the ball. This can be helpful when passing and dribbling. Bells may increase some sound in the ball, but it does affect the weight of the ball and how it reacts. I prefer to listen for the natural sound of the ball. It seems that some balls can be heard more easily than others. I have experienced difficulty hearing leather basketballs.

Basketball Return Net

Do you love shooting hoops all day long? Shooting the hoops maybe, but I'd be bet not chasing after the ball. What happens when you miss the net (and by a mile, to boot)? It seems like I spend more time running after the ball than actually playing the game.
This is where the Basketball Return Net comes in. It allows you to practice from just about any distance or direction without having to go through the hassle of chasing down balls when you can spend that time shooting. You will need to mount it to rectangular backboards up to 60″ wide, where the net will extend 15′ from the hoop with its corners attached to a couple of moveable, weighted bases. Those bases will need 50 lbs. of sand. This gadget facilitates the quick return of free throws and perimeter shots.

Click this link to purchase the Basketball Return Net from Hammacher Schlemmer.











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