Tag Archives: left

I Can’t Turn Left!

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Many youth players act like Ben Stiller’s character Derek Zoolander when they first start out because they absolutely cannot go left. They are afraid that they will drop the ball, miss a catch, or take a bad shot with their off-hand. This fear eventually turns into a phobia, and they do not even bother rolling left when it is the best option available to them. Once a player starts habitually going to their strong-hand over and over again, they become “the best one-handed player in the league.” However, the best one-handed player is almost always beaten by an average two-handed player.

The prevention of lefti-phobia is simple. When a player first starts lacrosse, every drill is repeated righty and lefty. The new player is concerned with learning how to do something, and if we start these players out learning how to cradle, pass, and shoot right-handed and left-handed, they will not develop the off-hand phobia.

If you always go right, you run in circles

If you always go right, you run in circles

The big problem is most youth lacrosse programs in developing areas struggle with teaching kids to go left and right. The prevailing mindset is, if the kid can go righty then he can go lefty when he gets older. This is true for some kids, but not for all. I still officiate high school games where the majority of the players will not roll to their off-hand. Go up to the northeast and watch a youth lacrosse game. Most of those young players are confident with the lacrosse stick in either hand. Rarely do you hear, “he’s all right!”

So how do we turn a kid from a single-handed player into an ambidextrous one? The answer is forsaking their strong-hand for a prolonged period of time.

When I hit the tenth grade my playing abilities plateaued. I was a strong, capable defenseman when I went righty. Yet, I could never throw a good lefty pass on the run. I was unwilling, but not unable to go lefty so I decided to purge myself of my lefty fear and work on my off-hand.

Because I was so unconfident with my left hand, I needed to use it exclusively until my ability and confidence level rose. For two months I practiced exclusively with my off-hand in wall ball drills. I picked my stick up with my left hand, I ran with my stick in my left hand. I even ate using my left hand. By the time those two months were over, I was better with my left hand than with my right!

This situation is analogous to medicine, where prevention is often much less painful than the treatment. Not being able to go to your off-hand in lacrosse is a disease. The cure is practicing with your weak-hand until it becomes as good or better than your strong-hand.

Lastly, we are entering the Fall Ball Season. While we do not have set practices, it is important for coaches to encourage or require their players to use their off-hands. If your team is winning by a wide margin, tell all your players to go left for the rest of the half. If both coaches agree, they can tell all their players go go left for the last six minutes of each half. That way every player gets experience going righty and lefty while on the field, and the game still remains an equal contest.

Featured Image Credit – www.imdb.com

Cheers,
Gordon

Off Hand Resolution

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Happy New Year Coaches, Players, and Parents! I hope you left 2010 feeling good and are excited about the possibilities of 2011.

This is the time of year for New Year’s Resolutions and I have one for all of our players: Work on developing your off hand.

Every player hears that they must work on their off hand at least a few dozen times each season. They hear it even more during the off-season! Yet the majority of lacrosse players in Georgia just do not work on their weak hand enough to improve their game. I was one of them until before my sophomore year of high school.

Left Hand

Left Hand

I was sick and tired of being a one dimensional player once I got the ball into my stick. Sure I could dodge and juke with the best of them, but every move I made I consistently went to my right over my left. This was a serious flaw in my game so I decided to remedy it one summer. I avoided practicing with my stronger right hand like the plague. I only used my left hand during practice, during scrimmages and during wall ball for one entire month. Then something really strange happened. My left hand became better than my right hand! Ever since that summer I focused on balancing my practice time with either hand until there was no difference in how I cradled, dodged, or passed.

Throughout my playing years as a defenseman there stood one constant above all others. Attackmen who are proficient with each hand are a nightmare to defend. No one I played against personified this constant more than Neal Hicks. In the three years I played against the future NCAA Division 1 player from Notre Dame I stripped the ball from him once.

Neal Hicks #11

Neal Hicks #11

He was never especially large or fast but his skill with the lacrosse stick was just scary good. I do not believe Notre Dame recruited him for his skill alone. I think the Notre Dame coach saw that Neal worked at his game harder and more consistently than anyone I have ever played with or against. If Neal had been incredibly good with only his right hand I doubt he would have gone to N.D., but because he focused on making his off hand as good or better than his right he went on to play in the Division 1 Championship Game in 2010.

If Hick’s work ethic is not enough reason to start practicing with your weak hand maybe some information on the left-handed advantage will. The statistics are not incredibly detailed but roughly 10% of people living in the United States are left handed.¬†According to the US Census Bureau there are 310,565,737 individuals living in the USA, which means there are roughly 31 million left handers in the US. The reason left handers have an advantage in sports is because “left-handers are less common, [which] means they have a surprise effect” (www.abcnews.go.com).

Think about it. There are probably more right handed players on your lacrosse team than lefties. That means every defender plays against right handed attackmen more regularly than left handed attackmen. When that defenseman plays a natural lefty, or a player who is really good with his left hand, he will be at a distinct disadvantage because of his lack of exposure to a lefty player.

Ambidextrous is defined as:

  1. Able to use both hands with equal facility.
  2. Unusually deceptive, adroit.

That second definition is especially interesting. If you ever played against an ambidextrous midfielder it is brutal trying to defend him because they can go wherever they want whenever they want. Listen carefully to the Varsity games this season and you will hear coaches yelling, “he’s all right” or “he’s all left” when a certain player gets the ball. The coach wants his defender to know that his midfielder is one dimensional and will most likely dodge to the hand they are most comfortable with. The defender knows he can easily shut off the midfielder’s strong hand and force him to his weak hand.

Now that you have some knowledge write down the following on a piece of paper and tape it above your bed: I will work my off hand until it is better than my strong hand. Work at it every day, every practice, every scrimmage, and every game. Who knows maybe you’ll be the next player from Georgia in an NCAA Championship game.

Read a solid article about Neal Hicks here: www.ajc.com/sports/hicks-leads-notre-dame.html.

Cheers,
Gordon