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. How many lefthanders participate in each of these activities, how often they play, and how well they compete, is somewhat of a mystery.
Basketball is a popular team sport that offers no advantage toward players favoring either hand. Players regularly use both hands, although one is usually more dominant than the other, and the best players can dribble, pass, and shoot equally well with either hand. Among the many great basketball players who were lefthanded…past greats like Bill Russell, Bob Lanier, Gail Goodrich, Nate Archibald, and David Robinson, and current stars like James Harden, Ben Simmons, Zion Williamson and Mike Conley.
While these greats and others are proof that it can be done, learning to play the game is still more difficult for lefthanders as they learn from righthanded instructions and examples. Earning playing-time from a coach can be difficult if a lefthander looks awkward in the righthanded practice drills. Those who get the opportunity can become 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 more United States and European hockey players are right-hand shots.
Hockey is also dominated by goalies that catch with their left hand and use their stick with their right hand. In earlier days, there were no "left-handed" goalies because there were no right-hand gloves. Those gloves are 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 of either hand. Players can serve, hit and block 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 as significant as the impact of lefthanders in baseball.
Track & Field Sports appear to be very “hand-neutral”, unless a lefthanded runner has trouble passing the baton in relay-races, or an athlete wants to throw a discus or a javelin lefthanded. Or maybe a runners’ left foot is so dominant that they falter in the right-foot starting blocks, or a pole-vaulter or high-jumper might fail because the approach runway forces them to jump off their weaker right foot.
Shooting Sports can be frustrating for lefthanders, and many lefthanders end up shooting righthanded, even if using their dominant left-eye might give them a better chance to hit the target. Many types of guns are awkward and even dangerous to shoot lefthanded, as safety locks are usually more accessible to the right hand, and some weapons discharge hot lead back toward left hand shooters.
Archery Bows of the past were simple and symmetrical, and worked from either a right-hand or left- hand stance, but modern ones are made more comfortable and more effective for right-hand shooters. Lefthanded Bows are available for those who seek them, but aren’t always available to the lefthanded children first learning to shoot a bow and arrow.
Other individual sports or competitions that are “hand-neutral” are table-tennis, darts, billiards, axe-throwing, horseshoes, and the 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.
There are two sports that have actually banned lefthanded play; not because of a general bias against lefthanders, but for real safety concerns. In Field Hockey, the concern was for players getting injured by the left-hand 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, as left-hand play mixed in with right-hand play is likely to cause some serious collisions and injuries.
Whether they are playing team sports or individual competitions, lefthanded children deserve a better opportunity to participate. Playing sports could motivate them to stay active and healthy, and also teach them about competition, fair play, and teamwork. How well lefthanded 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.