Do lefties have an advantage in sports?

By Lauren Zedlar

Elm Staff Writer

In daily life, left-handed persons, known as “lefties,” are at a disadvantage for most things like with a computer mouse, credit cards, scissors, and can openers. But one aspect they might have an advantage in is sports. 

Dr. Florian Loffing, a sports scientist at the University of Oldenburg in Germany, analyzed lefties in different sports including baseball, cricket, table tennis, badminton, tennis and squash.

Dr. Loffing chose these sports because they each have a standardized measure of time pressure. This means the sports are quicker paced and have less time for players to react while in gameplay. 

According to his studies, Dr. Loffing found that in games that gave players less time to react, like baseball and tennis, there was an increasing amount of left-handed players. Only nine percent of the top players in squash were left-handed. This sport was one of the slowest in time pressure. 

In one of the fastest reaction sports, baseball, 30% of the best pitchers were lefties. This study showed that the amount of left-handed athletes increased in sports that required quicker reaction time. 

“In baseball, when being a lefty batter you have the advantage of being closer to first base, so you are able to get there quicker,” junior Washington College men’s baseball player Chris Baker said. 

According to the New York Times, the conclusion of left-handed athletes having an advantage in sports can also be explained by the centuries-old psychological debate of nature versus nurture. 

According to Simply Psychology, the nature versus nurture debate involves “which particular aspects of behavior are a product of inherited (genetic) or acquired (learned) influences.”

For left-handed athletes, according to the New York Times, the nature argument claims that lefties are innately better athletes because of neurological advantages that come with being left-handed. 

Since the right-brain hemisphere is in charge of both visual and spatial awareness as well as the left hand of the athlete, it makes the athlete quicker to react to visual stimuli.

According to the New York Times, the nurture argument revolves around the idea that opposing teams are worse at reading or anticipating a left-handed player’s movement due to their rarity. 

For example, the majority of basketball players are right-handed, so playing against an athlete who dribbles and shoots with their left hand will be harder to defend since it’s not what the athletes are used to. 

“It’s definitely a challenge to guard against someone who can easily dribble with either hand, which is a common thing for lefties in our sport,” junior WC men’s basketball player Dilyn Becker said. 

Another example comes from volleyball, where lefties are typically better at hitting on the right side of the court. This is because they open up and face the inside of the court, so the ball does not have to cross their body.

“I’d say an advantage is that people are not used to a left-handed hitter, so it’s harder for them to block,” senior WC women’s volleyball player Laura Cochrane said. “I can also hit different positions they aren’t used to.”  

“It is definitely harder to predict where a left-handed hitter is going to hit while in the game,” junior WC women’s volleyball player Jennifer Kabrick said. “They just aren’t as common and if you don’t have one on your team to practice with, it’s even harder.”

Featured Photo caption: Senior WC men’s baseball player Mike Smith. Photo by Mark Cooley. 

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