It’s me versus the wall

With the urging of several comments from my past entries and videos, I tried practicing versus a wall. Just like you can in Ping Pong, I simply hit a ball against a wall, and then tried to continue the volley as I ran back and forth to keep up.

Though I’ve never tried tennis, it reminded me a lot of playing that sport, especially since I was using a tennis ball instead of a sliotar, the ball used in hurling.

It was a good exercise because it tested my reactions and my foot coordination as I scrambled from one spot to the next, which you can see in this video:

Edit: I have since learned I did the wall exercise incorrectly. See comments!
To be honest, I was actually surprised when I managed to get the hang of it after a few tries. I even was able to keep a volley going for five or six returns.

That was the easy part.

What was the hard part? Well, that was just finding a wall to use in the first place.

The problem is that there are have several criteria for the perfect wall ball practice session:

  • First, it had to be brick, concrete or similar hard building material.
  • Second, it had to have a decent open area next to it — whether it was a parking lot or field.
  • Third, the wall has to be pretty high. A lot of hurling involves launching the ball way high. This I learned the hard way because I actually shot one ball too hard and high and lost it on a roof.
  • Fourth, no windows. I didn’t want to break one in an effort to learn this strange sport.
  • Finally, it had to be a public (or unoccupied) building because I didn’t want to get in any trouble for abusing someone else’s property. These requirements were pretty difficult to fill, but I eventually found such a building at a local municipal park.

Granted, I won’t be able to use it on weekday evenings when the parking lot will be full, but it was a dream to use on Sunday.

This just further proves the point that these practice walls are hard to come by.

In Ireland, they’ve actually solved the problem by constructing hurling walls (a video of which you can see below). These practice facilities are easy to build and quite popular to use in the development of basic fielding skills, as you can see in this video.

Unfortunately, I can’t imagine that such a facility will appear in the U.S. any time soon. Until then, I’ll keep hunting for the perfect place to practice my wall ball.


(Camogie, by the way, is essentially hurling for females.)

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I don’t have the balls

Hurling ball vs. BaseballMy efforts to learn hurling, a traditional Irish field game, seem to constantly run into snags. Most of the problem is because I live at least an hour-and-a-half away from any hub of hurling activity*. And even those hubs have only a marginal presence of the game. This lack of resources means I have to improvise.

Case in point: I don’t have enough balls.

Shortly after my initial purchase of a hurley and sliotar, I realized that having just one ball to practice with was a true exercise in frustration. It was always hit the ball, go fetch the ball, hit the ball, go fetch the ball.

Not exactly the best way to learn proper hitting technique. Sure, it was good for some exercise, but that wasn’t my primary focus.

With my one-ball resentment building, I mapped out three options:

  • I could just continue as is: Hit the ball and run after it, and adjust my form each time.
  • I could buy a bunch of additional sliotars, which cost $10 apiece — money that I didn’t particularly have.
  • I could try to find some substitute balls, at the risk of breaking my hurley if the two didn’t play well together.

I settled on option three, and started hunting around for a good substitute.

Here’s what I found in my lengthy ball research:

  • Baseballs: Too hard compared to a sliotar. I ultimately decided just not to even try these. I really believe I would break my hurley with baseballs.
  • Tennis balls: A smidge smaller than a sliotar and quite a bit lighter. Still their rubbery makeup lets me really launch them across the field.
  • “Play” balls: I found a bag of these balls at Five Below. They look just like tennis balls (though some are blue), but don’t have the bounce of a tennis ball. At first, I thought I had my solution, but after a few hits from my hurley, I started to break them apart. I’ll admit it was kind of fun watching them blast into pieces after a few swats.
  • Lacrosse balls: Quite a bit heavier than a sliotar and bigger. Given their weight, which I’d say is about double a sliotar, I have yet to really try to clobber the lacrosse ball. Jury’s still out on this one.
  • Tee balls: Extremely spongy versions of baseballs, tee balls were a big mistake for me. Though they weigh the same as a sliotar, I always hit them wrong, which sent weird, numbing vibrations up through the hurley and into my arm. The vibrations actually left my right arm numb for hours. That was not a pleasant experience.
  • Racquet balls: Too small. Too springy.
  • Racquet ball-like balls: Many years ago in a trip to IKEA, I bought a small package of these hollow rubber balls. Slightly smaller than a tennis ball, these things really zing off the hurley. While they are fun to hit, I don’t think they offer me much in the way of training.
  • Wiffle balls: Well, I had to try. Strangely, they would only travel a few feet. I guess you need a hollow plastic bat to make a hollow plastic ball fly. (By the way, there is group out there that plays Wiffle Hurling, where they follow hurling rules, but use Wiffle Ball bats and balls.)

After about two weeks of research, I decided tennis balls were the way to go, at least for backup hitting practice. I may have to eventually cave in and buy more real sliotars because I don’t want to be acquainted with tennis balls than I am with a sliotar.

* There are hurling clubs in Allentown and Baltimore. There’s also a “Mason-Dixon” gaellic football club in the Westminster, Md., area which may or may not host hurling events as well. See my links section at right for more details.

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