A good question to ask your right handed friends the next time you meet them is which sport can you not play left handed. The answer to this is – field hockey, polo, and jai alai. Yes, there are 3 sports that don’t allow left-handed play. While it is not practical to play jai alai left-handed, you are banned from playing field hockey and polo left-handed due to safety concerns. We explain in detail why.
Table of Contents
- 1 Which Sport Are You Forbidden to Play Left Handed?
- 2 Can a Left Handed Person Play Polo?
- 3 Can You Play Field Hockey Left Handed?
- 4 Does Jai Alai Allow Left Handed Players?
- 5 Conclusion
Which Sport Are You Forbidden to Play Left Handed?
The game of Polo is a right-handed playing sport. When both a left-handed and a right-handed player approach the ball, they cannot move past each other in the same way as two right-handed players would have, as this increases the rate of head-on collisions.
In Field Hockey, it is mandatory to use right-handed sticks due to the difference in perspective between the players, which increases the chances of injury. A field hockey stick has both a rounded and a flat side but, only the flat side can be used during the game.
In Jai Alai, a variation of Basque Pelota, one person throws a ball against a wall, and the other person catches and returns it. The aim is to ensure that your opponent is not able to capture and return the ball. This game requires you to put on a Cesta, the basket by which you catch and throw the ball. Therefore, you won’t be able to play if you wear the Cesta on your left hand due to the wall being on the left side.
Can a Left Handed Person Play Polo?
You may have heard that left-handed players cannot play polo. That is not absolutely true. It is not that left-handed players are banned from playing, they are just not permitted to use their left hand.
In polo, a team of four is formed of both attackers and defenders where they are expected to interchange their positions and roles as and when required. Each team tries to take the ball into the opposition’s side of the pitch to score a goal eventually. In order to do so, players go head-on towards each other with a mallet in their hand while riding horses at incredible speeds in pursuit of the ball.
As I have mentioned earlier, when players approach each other with mallets in different hands (one has it in the left hand and the other holds it in the right), the chances of collision increases and risks injury to both the players and the horses. That’s because one or the other player may wildly swing their mallet to the other side to reach for the ball.
The logic behind banning left-handed mallet play is that the chances of collision are reduced significantly with everyone staying on the same side, similar to the principle of driving.
For these safety reasons, the rule of banning left-handed polo-playing came into force in the 1930s. This rule was then abrogated or relaxed following World War II due to the scarcity of players. With the gradual increase in players, this rule was again reinstated by the United States Polo Association (USPA) in 1974. Rule 28-e of the USPA rule book states – “All players shall play with the mallet in their right hand, with the exception of left-handers registered with the USPA prior to January 1, 1974.” Even in other countries such as the UK and Ireland, the Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA) included this regulation of right-handed play.
As of today, all polo players can only use their right hand to hold the mallet. The only exception to this rule is that players registered before 1st January 1974 can use their left hand but are not allowed to switch hands during the game.
Don’t get discouraged if you are a lefty. It will take you some time and practice to get accustomed to using your right hand, and it will soon become second nature quickly. It’s similar to cats and dogs who may show a preference for their left paws when they’re young and playing with their toys but slowly become right-pawed as they get older.
Are There No Left Handed Polo Players?
Many left-handed polo players have adjusted to using their right hands with due training and practice. Left-handed players just hold the mallet in the right hand while playing, following the rules.
Prince Williams is one of the most famous and influential left-handed polo players and it turns out that it runs in the British Royal family. Even Brazilian Rafael Villela Rosa, who was part of the team that won the Guards International Sao Paulo Polo Trophy in 2014, is a lefty.
This shows that even though it is challenging to learn to play left-handed, it is certainly not an impossible task.
Can You Play Field Hockey Left Handed?
You can play field hockey if you’re a natural left hander but only with a right handed stick. You cannot use your feet or any other part of your body in field hockey if you are not the goalkeeper. Pushing, tackling, or physically handling your opponent is a foul which results in a free hit or a penalty corner, depending on the part of the field the foul took place.
It is important to understand that field hockey is a physically taxing and slightly dangerous sport. Field hockey is played outdoors on grass fields and has a rougher gameplay style, which is why some rules are in place to ensure that riskier moves are eliminated.
You must have heard that hockey is the realm of the right-handed. This is not true, as left-handed players can play but only using a right-handed stick. When you see a field hockey stick, you will notice that it has both a flat and a rounded side, but you can only use the flat side to hit the ball as it is against the rules to use the rounded side. This is not the case of ice hockey where you can use both sides of the stick.
When players tackle each other, the follow-through of an opponent’s swing makes it more likely that opposite-handed players will get accidentally hit. Therefore, a right-handed majority on the field led to the outright ban on left-handed sticks, which are now difficult to obtain, although it is possible to get one custom made even if you can’t use it in tournament play.
Left-handed players need to learn to play shots that go against their dominant side. Until you make it a habit to swing like a naturally right-handed player, you can use the reverse-stick technique in which the flat surface of the stick faces to the right. You should always focus and aim to eventually play right-handed. In the beginning you may notice being short on power because your dominant left hand is higher up on the stick, while your weaker right hand is lower. It is the lower hand that has to generate power so you will need to focus on strengthening your right hand.
However, being left-handed has its own benefits in field hockey. While dribbling, you use your left hand to control the ball while the right hand only guides and supports the stick. The reverse stick is also an advantage for left handed players, which brings the ball to their strongest side. Therefore, left handed people have the upper hand when it comes to managing the ball.
Are There Left Handed Field Hockey Sticks?
For those of you who are new to this sport, remember there is no such thing as a left handed field hockey stick. You must use a right-handed hockey stick irrespective of your dominant hand. You may be able to get your hand on a customized left-handed stick, but you cannot use them in competitions, as the International Hockey Federation bans them.
Regular hockey sticks are about 36 – 38 inches long. Hockey sticks used to be only wooden and were made of hardwoods such as birch or ash, while lighter wooden hockey sticks have a low-density core made of light hardwoods such as aspen. Today, however, composite sticks are generally made of materials such as fiberglass, aramid fibers, and carbon fiber and metal components are not allowed.
How to Hold a Field Hockey Stick Left Handed
Field hockey beginners should learn how to hold their stick properly before playing. Over the course of a game, a player’s grip will change multiple times. It’s all about the task at hand: Dribbling, pushing, slapping, and hitting. By knowing how to grip the stick correctly, you can increase your power and control.
There are no left-handed sticks, so both right- and left-handed players grip the stick the same way (although the lefties may need some time to adjust). It’s important to find the right grip and adjust it according to your playing style. We examine the simplest grip for field hockey sticks here.
Your left hand should be at the top of the grip and your right hand at the base. A “V” is formed where your thumb and index finger meet. On both hands, the edge leading into the stick’s curved part should be where the Vs face.
This grip is primarily used to dribble, but can also be used to stop or hit the ball. You use your left hand to manoeuvrer the stick while your right hand stays in place for control. In order to reverse the stick, rotate your left hand to the right while keeping your right hand loose. You want the flat side of the stick to face the right side, the toe to face you, and the flat side of the stick to make contact with the left side of the ball.
Famous Left Handed Field Hockey Players
Carly Bennett, an NCAA Division-I athlete, is a left-handed field hockey player. She just flipped the blade to control the ball, which is an unconventional but completely legal method. She had everyone shocked and surprised with her amazing game in her debut.
Even you can incorporate this strategy of flipping the blade to enhance your game. But remember, dedication and training are the key
Does Jai Alai Allow Left Handed Players?
Jai Alai does not allow you to play left handed and the Cesta basket must be worn on the right hand.
Jai Alai is called the world’s fastest sport. The Jai Alai court has walls on three sides. There is one wall at each end and a side wall on the left side for rebounding the ball. There’s a chain-link fence that spectators sit behind on the fourth side. This wall on the left side and spectators on the right makes it almost impossible and even threatening for players to use their left hand to catch and throw the ball. For this reason, the rules of this game ban players from playing left-handed.
But it is important to note that two left-handed players can play against each other casually by just reversing the court. However, in competitions, such a reversal of court and left-handed play is not permitted.
Watch the Rules of Jai Alai
Unlike in sports like golf where you can buy left-handed clubs, or fishing where you can have the reel handle on either side, or sports like bowling where you can use your left hand to throw the ball, polo, field cricket, and jai alai ban left-handed play outright even though left handers can still play as long as they play right handed.
Baseball and boxing even used the term southpaw since the 1880s for left-handed batters and pitchers and boxers who used a southpaw stance.
Photo credits: “Jai Alai – Saque” by JesusAbizanda is licensed under CC BY 2.0, “Jai Alai’ (say hi-li) world’s fastest sport, Biscayne Fronton, Miami, Florida” by Boston Public Library is licensed under CC BY 2.0