I've always been interested to see whether an athlete is right- or left-handed, and I'm fascinated by someone who learns to do something two different ways, like a baseball player who throws right-handed but feels more comfortable batting left handed.
My family used to a have a pool table in our garage, and while I do just about everything else right-handed, I apparently play pool like a lefty with my right hand holding the tapered end of the stuck and my left doing the pushing. It just felt natural, and I've always compared it to how I hold a hockey stick when people ask me about it.
One of the first things I looked for at the GHSA state riflery meet last week was how the shooters were holding their rifles. In the two full relays I saw, I took a wholly unscientific count and found about 1-in-10 to 1-in-8 were shooting left handed. That seems about average as about 10 percent of people are left handed.
But I also know that a person has a dominant eye as well as a dominant hand. A higher percentage, about 30 percent, of people are dominant in their left eye. I read up on some shooting this weekend, and apparently there are entirely different stances and techniques for right-handed shooters with left-dominant eyes. There's a lot of info out there on the topic - and maybe anyone more familiar with the sport is rolling their eyes at how obvious this should have been - but I find it interesting. Here's one link to a short, general overview of the being "cross dominant" ( link here ).
What got me interested in this whole righty-lefty debate was why there were so many left-handed hockey players. I grew up playing ice and roller hockey, and I was always frustrated that pro shops would have such a better selection of left-handed sticks and replacement blades. My coaches and the pro shop guys never really had a good answer for why it was, nor why about 60-70 percent of NHL players were left handed? Was shooting lefty preferred against a right-handed goalie, like a pitcher-batter set up? Was this a statistical phenomenon? Or did so many right-handed players just play left-handed because their local pro shop only seemed to stock lefty equipment?
Turns out it's all about dominant hands and eyes, too. If you're naturally right handed and play like it, that is with your right hand on the lower portion of the stick, you can have more natural power and leverage in your shot with less effort. It also helps if you're right-eye dominant because that eye is going to be closer to the side of your body you're doing most of the puck handling. But if you're right handed and play lefty, with your left hand lower on the stick, your right hand offers more finesse and control during stick handling, which is controlled by the higher hand. A righty playing lefty also makes it easier to get things done when you have one hand on the stick. This is particularly evident in NHL defensemen, who do a lot of one-handed stick work and as a result are about 75 percent lefty players.
I've read that the majority of European league pros play right-handed, but I also wonder if that's because their lefty compatriots had an edge by playing the way they do and thereby reached the NHL. That wouldn't explain why Russia's KHL is slowly becoming an overseas rival to the NHL, though. Just something to think about.
There's a school of thought among youth hockey coaches that gives little kids neutral sticks, ones with flat, uncurved blades. That way, the kid can skate around and switch it up to find out what feels most natural to them.
And finally, on a completely non-sports related note: Many people know guitarist Jimmie Hendrix took a right-handed Fender Stratocaster, turned it lefty and put the strings on it backwards. It only looked cool, though. Really, with the strings on in the same order they would be on a left-handed guitar, all Hendrix had to worry about was not hitting the volume and tone knobs with his forearm. I'm sure there are more people who do this, but in all my years playing in bands, meeting other musicians and going to concerts, I've only seen one: Kris Roe, of The Ataris, plays a right-handed guitar with all the strings still in the right-handed order. Learning from the start to play that way isn't necessarily any more difficult, it's just unorthodox. Check it out: link here.
- Chris White