13 August is International Left-Handers Day. It’s time to raise awareness of the challenges and advantages for left-handed athletes.
Left-handed people can face small challenges every day, from encountering items made for right-handed people such as can openers, scissors and spiral-bound notebooks, to trying to find musical instruments and sporting equipment that’s designed with their needs in mind.
Things have come a long way since left-handers were deliberately persecuted (although many religions still do favour the right hand), and thankfully in most countries left-handed children are no longer forced to use their right hand at school (although sadly, this practice does still occur in some countries). But there’s no avoiding the fact that the world is still designed to be biased towards the 90% of the population that is right-handed. Which is kind of the whole point of International Left-Handers Day, to encourage right-handers to consider the everyday challenges that left-handers have to deal with.
But when it comes to playing sport, being left-handed might actually give you the edge. Studies have found evidence of left-hander advantage in interactive ball sports in which players apply a severe time pressure on their opponent, such as tennis, badminton, squash and table tennis, as well as baseball and cricket (although interestingly, this only applies to pitchers and bowlers, because batters are on the receiving end of the time pressure, not applying it). One explanation is that right-handed players are not as used to playing against left-handed players as they are against right-handers, and therefore less likely to have developed the techniques needed to win.
There have certainly been a lot of successful left-handed tennis players, including Rod Laver, Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Goran Ivanisevic. Rafael Nadal also plays left-handed, but interestingly he is naturally right-handed when it comes to everything else.
Other studies have shown a similar left-handed advantage in combat sports such as mixed martial arts and boxing. Admittedly the majority of research in this area has been confined to elite players, but there’s no reason it can’t be used to inspire the next generation of lefties in these (and many other) sports.
So, this is great news for aspiring sporty left-handers, right? Well, not if your left-handed child’s school doesn’t have the sporting equipment they need to excel. A survey of left-handed people from over fifty different countries found that schools rarely have left-handed sporting equipment such as baseball & softball gloves, golf clubs or archery bows. And don’t even think about trying to play field hockey unless you’re willing to adapt. Left-handed hockey sticks are actually illegal at competitive level (for safety reasons).
But even for sports that use equipment like bats, rackets and balls that can be used by both left and right-handers, very often the sporting teacher is right-handed so they're not able to coach the student in the correct body position and technique in order for them to play well as a left-hander. Sadly, this negative experience is also reflected in other school subjects such as music, computing, home economics and woodwork.
There’s clearly a lot of work still to be done, which is why we’re raising awareness of International Left-Handers Day.
No matter what sport you play and whichever hand you play it with, we can help you with your performance by tailoring a strength and conditioning programme to suit your needs through one of our Biokinetic packages.
Why not call us today on 0203 893 5100 or book your initial assessment session online.