The Success and The Failures of Lefthanders in Sports
Quarterback is the most important and visible position on the football field, and the position that most children want to play when they start playing football. It is the only position where hand preference really matters, as players catch a football with both hands, and defenders use both hands to ward off blockers and make tackles, and blockers aren’t supposed to use their hands.
The quarterback is usually the leader of the team, and there is no reason that lefthanders can’t be leaders, and can’t throw a football just as well as right-handers. There have been just enough lefthanded quarterbacks in the National Football League to prove that they can do the job. With approximately 10%-15% of the U.S. male population being lefthanded, we might expect close to 10% of NFL quarterbacks would be left-handed, but less than 3% of NFL quarterbacks have been lefthanded. You can’t blame the NFL directly for this because there have never been many lefthanded quarterbacks playing college football, high school football, or lower levels of the game.
So let’s take a look at those lower levels, and see what might happen to lefthanded children who want to play quarterback. While a football might be hard to grip for any small hand, it is symmetrical and should not be any harder for a lefthander to grip than a righthander. But throwing a football requires more than just a good grip. It requires good arm strength, a smooth throwing motion and release, and proper footwork and follow-through to make the ball go where it is supposed to go. Lefthanders are capable of doing this, but it is harder for them because almost all the examples they see are backwards and most of the coaching they get, if they get any, comes from righthanders.
In spite of these obstacles, some lefthanders learn to throw the football well enough to want to try-out to play quarterback. They often receive resistance and skepticism, with people telling them the odds are against them and that they are better off trying out for another position. When they work on the passing drills in practice, they might be able to throw the ball accurately all over the field, throw the ball hard or throw it softly and with finesse, and hit the moving receivers in stride.
When it comes time to work with the full offense, a lefthanded quarterback might have problems fitting into the flow of play, which is likely to run toward the right side of the field. The center snap may not go smoothly, and the way they drop back, the way they turn, and the way they hand the ball off to a running back, may look awkward. Mistakes will be made, but with more practice they might work through them, if the coach doesn’t have a righthander capable of the job. Most coaches are not going to redesign the offense for a lefthander unless they prove they are going to be the starting quarterback, but lefthanders have a hard time earning the job running an offense that plays to their weaker side.
Some college and pro coaches have said they would not want a lefthanded quarterback, and probably many others think that way but have never said it in public. They can get away with saying that “the other guy looked better”. Is there any way to change the minds of coaches to create more opportunities for lefthanders to play quarterback? They won’t cave in to pressure, and they won’t be swayed by rhetoric, but they can be influenced by talent. Perhaps those lefthanded quarterbacks’ who have played in the NFL, or other high levels of play, can provide some good instruction for lefthanded children, and give them a better chance to compete for a position that favors righthanders.
Why Not More Lefthanded Quarterbacks?