Most of us are born with what we refer to as a "dominant hand" it's the hand that we feel more natural using to carry out every-day tasks such as swinging a hammer, writing, eating, etc. It's a little strange when you think about it why we don't refer to it as our "dominant side" because really it's not just our hand that we favor.
It's the entire side of our body, including the leg and foot. For some reason we just feel more comfortable using one particular side of our body.
It's important to point out that there are always exceptions to the rule. Some people might naturally favor a certain side when it comes to one activity and then favor the other side during a different activity.
For example I have a good friend that excelled in High School at various athletics and the unique thing about him was that he preferred to throw the football (he was a quarterback) with his left hand but felt more comfortable throwing a baseball with his right hand.
This is definitely not the norm though. Most people favor one side and do just about everything with that dominant side. Some people prefer using the left hand side of their body and are considered "left-handed" but the vast majority of our population favors the right side of their body and is considered to be "right-handed".
For the sake of this article I'm going to consider you are right-handed. I know there will be some readers out there that are left-handed but for simplicity sake I'll consider the right hand to be the dominant hand. Just reverse it in your mind if you are left handed.
What does all this have to do with basketball? I think you know where I'm going with this. One of the most common things that stand in the way of a basketball player reaching their maximum potential is they become too content using their dominant hand.
If you want to eventually consider yourself an elite basketball player, if you want to play beyond High School you have got to feel just as comfortable using your left hand as you do your right hand. As a kid you can get away with having a weak hand and that's what hurts a lot of players.
They go out and score 25 points during youth and Jr. High games and start thinking they can get by just fine without developing their weak hand. That's not the case at all! As they get older players are smarter, the level of competition rises and they soon find out that if someone decides to force them to use their weak hand in a game (which is not hard to do) they are powerless.
Think of it this way, if you only feel comfortable using your right hand, you are operating at 50% capacity. What other sport or profession can someone succeed in if they are only operating at half capacity? Imagine a golfer that can only bring their club halfway up through a back-swing, they would hit the ball half as far as everyone else. Imagine a swimmer that can only kick one leg in the water while everyone else is using two. Imagine a tennis player that can only hit the balls hit to the right side of their body and nothing else. Picture a running back in football that could only run in one direction. It's kind of easy to see isn't it?
The thing I don't get is it's not this obvious to a lot of basketball players. You players need to realize that if you have a weak left hand you are operating at half capacity and that you're cheating yourself if you really want to become the best you can be. You have to force the issue and be proactive about it.
If you are a beginning player you might be wondering just exactly what type of activities you need to master with your weak hand. You may be asking yourself if you need to be able to shoot jump shots with your left hand - and make them! Let me clarify... you definitely don't need to worry about becoming a great shooter with both hands. You'll always likely shoot with the same hand. These are the things you need to be able to do just as effectively with your left hand as you do with your right:
1.Dribbling. Not just stationary with your head down. You need to be able to dribble with your head up on the run with both hands.
2. Layups. You need to feel comfortable driving to the basket on the left side and shooting a layup with your left hand. You'll jump off of the opposite foot as you do when you do a right handed layup, some players have a hard time getting use to this. Practice driving hard to the basket, jump off the right foot and lay the ball in with your left hand.
3. Penetrating. You need to practice moving to the left side of the basket when you have the ball. You may not have realized it but naturally you have always felt more comfortable moving to the right, you have to get use to moving to your left. When you are moving left the ball should always be dribbled with your left hand.
Developing your weak hand takes time. It's not hard if you take it slow and be persistent with it. It will feel very strange at first using your weak hand if you're not use to it but if you stick with it and practice, practice, practice it will start to feel natural over time.
Here are some effective drills and ideas that you can use to master your weak hand, try and do these for at least 30 minutes a day...
Tennis Ball Juggle
Put a tennis ball in your right hand and basketball in your left hand. Start walking and dribble the basketball while you toss the tennis ball up and down to yourself. Most players make the mistake of always looking down at the ball when dribbling with their weak hand. Tossing the tennis ball up and down will force you to keep your head up while you dribble so you can't see the ball. It's a little challenging at first, start slow and then speed up as you get use to it.
2 Ball Roll
Get two basketballs and put one in each hand. Get on one of the baselines under the basket and then bend your knees and crouch down in an athletic stance. The ball in your left hand you'll dribble and then you'll want to put the ball on your right side on the court and gently roll it along as you go with your right hand. This is a great drill because it forces you to stay low as you roll the ball along with your right hand. You always want to stay low when handling the basketball, dribbling the ball with your left hand above your waist does you no good.
It's one thing to be able to dribble with the left hand it's entirely another thing to be able to dribble left handed while on a quick and aggressive sprint. Start at one baseline and take off as fast as you can to the other baseline dribbling with your left hand. Do it until it feels just as natural as the right hand and STAY LOW in an athletic stance.