The Success and The Failures of Lefthanders in Sports
There are many other sports and recreational activities besides the five we've already covered (Baseball, Bowling, Football, Golf and Tennis) in which left-handers participate. They include a variety of other team sports as well as individual competitions. How many lefthanders participate in each activity, how often they might play, and how well they might compete, varies from one activity to another.
Basketball is a popular team sport where the best players can dribble, pass, and shoot equally well with either hand. The court is symmetrical and offers no advantage toward players favoring either hand. There have been plenty of great lefthanded basketball players, including past greats like Bill Russell, Bob Lanier, Gail Goodrich, Nate Archibald, and David Robinson, and current stars like James Harden, Ben Simmons, and Mike Conley.
These greats and many others prove that it can be done, but learning to play the game, and earning playing time from a coach, can be difficult for a lefthanded player who looks awkward in the righthanded practice drills. Those who do get to play can become very good players if they are allowed to develop their strengths.
Hockey is dominated by left-hand shooting players, but many of them are righthanded people who are taught to use their stronger hand at the top of the stick. Ironically, Canada produces more left-hand shooting hockey players while the United States and European hockey players are more likely to be right-hand shooting players.
Hockey is also dominated by goalies that catch with their left hand and use their stick with their right hand. In the early days of hockey, there were no "left-handed" goalies because it was virtually impossible to find a right hand glove. Those gloves are more readily available today, but there are still very few of them used in the NHL.
Volleyball is another team sports that offers no advantage to players lefthanded or righthanded, and the best players can use both hands equally well.
Cricket appears to have a lot of good lefthanded bowlers and lefthanded batsmen in cricket, although their impact on the game is not the same as the impact of lefthanders in baseball.
Other individual sports or competitions that are “hand-neutral” would be table-tennis, darts, billiards, axe-throwing, horseshoes, and bean bag toss. Billiards players use both hands but generally choose a left-hand stance or a right-hand stance, while the others are "played" with one dominant hand. Lefthanders can be just as good at these games as righthanders if they put in the practice time.
Track & Field Sports also appear to be very “hand-neutral”. However, a lefthander might have trouble passing the baton in relay-races. They might want to throw a discus or a javelin lefthanded, but give in to coaching or peer pressure and try throwing it righthanded. Maybe a runners left foot is so dominant that they are not comfortable in the right-foot starting block, or a pole-vaulter or high-jumper fails because the approach runway forces them to jump off their weaker right foot.
Shooting Sports can be frustrating for lefthanders, as many types of guns are awkward and even dangerous for someone shooting lefthanded. Safety locks are usually more accessible to the right hand than the left, and some weapons discharge hot lead back toward left hand shooters. Many lefthanders give in to peer pressure or parent/teacher pressure and learn to shoot rigththanded, but if they are left-eye dominant, as many lefthanded people are, they may be giving up their best chance to hit a target.
Archery Bows used to be simple and symmetrical, and worked from either a right hand stance or a left hand stance, but progress has made them more comfortable and effective for right hand shooters. Lefthanded Bows are made and sold, but aren’t always available to the lefthanded children first learning to shoot a bow and arrow.
There are two sports that have actually banned lefthanded play; not because of any bias against lefthanders but for safety concerns. In Field Hockey, the concern is players getting injured by the lefthanders back-swing, so they make everyone shoot from the right hand side. In Polo, the concern is for the players as well as the horses. Left hand play mixed in with right hand play is likely to cause some serious collisions and injuries.
Whether playing team sports or individual competitions, lefthanded children deserve a better opportunity to participate. Playing sports can motivate them to stay active and healthy, and sports teaches them about competition, fair play, and teamwork. How well children perform in gym classes and on playgrounds can affect them in the classroom. With the world stacked against lefthanders, athletic fields should be a safe haven for them against the bias they face in everyday life.