When you are playing man-to-man defense how many times a game does your coach yell, "Make him go left!" as the ball-handler is bringing the ball up the court? If he's like most coaches, then I'm guessing you hear that a lot!
How many times does your own team start its offense from the right side of the floor? Depending on your age group I am willing to bet that happens just about every single time. In fact, you might not even have an offense that starts on the left side of the floor.
Why? The obvious answer is that most players, especially younger ones, just aren't comfortable using their left hands. Not only are these players limiting their own personal development but they are hindering their team's potential as well. Let's face it, individuals and teams that can only use their right hands are much easier to defend than those who can use both hands and utilize both sides of the court.
So how can a young player (or any player for that matter) strengthen his left hand? Here are a couple useful ideas and strategies:
1. Become Left-handed
For the next month make a conscious effort to do everything left-handed. Eat left-handed; brush your teeth left-handed; open your locker at school left-handed; high five your teammates left-handed, etc. Anything and everything that your normally do with your right hand should be done as well and as often as possible with your left hand. The more overall confidence you develop in your left hand the quicker you'll improve your ball handling.
I must admit that I tried this very strategy back between my freshman and sophomore years in high school and to this day there are still many things that I do predominantly with my left hand!
2. 500 Dribbles a Day
In an effort to get in better shape some adults set a goal and then count how many steps they take each day. That same idea can be applied to strengthening your left hand. Set a goal of 500 dribbles a day and then get busy knocking them out. Can you get 100 quick stationary dribbles in before you go to school in the morning? What if you dribbled around some cones or chairs every day while waiting for practice to start? It's been said that Pete Maravich used to go the movies and sit in the aisle on the right hand side of the theater so he could dribble with his left hand while watching the show. Even if you don't want to go to that extreme you could certainly dribble with your left hand while walking to school or to a friend's house.
3. Compete Righty vs. Lefty
This gives you a chance to work on your left hand, your ball handling, and your shooting all at the same time. Start with the ball in triple threat position at the top of the key and then take two hard dribbles with your right hand and shoot a pull up jump shot. Repeat ten times and record the number of makes. Then do the exact same thing with your left hand.
Once you are done at the top of the key move to the right wing and then to the left wing. If you are really serious about getting better, start at half court and dribble as fast as possible to the top of the key (to the free throw line if you are a younger player) and shoot a jump shot. Keep track of all your makes so you can readily see how quickly you are improving.
There are many, many more things you can do to drastically improve your left hand but these three will definitely get you started on the right path. Just remember when it comes to developing your left hand (or any skill for that matter) if it's important to you then it should be done every day. If it's not important to you then it shouldn't be done at all.
by Dave Stricklin
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