Should You Teach Youth Players To Shoot A Basketball With Both Hands Equally?

By Joe Haefner

While listening to audio interview from Complete Athlete Development between Erin Perry (Physical Therapist) and Brian Grasso (Athletic Development Trainer), they discuss young athletes using both hands equally to perform athletic tasks and why it’s a good thing.

  • Shooting a basketball equally with the left hand and right hand.
  • Swinging the bat from each side of the plate.
  • Kicking the soccer ball with both legs.
  • Hitting a hockey puck from both sides.
  • Throwing a football with both hands.

They mention that this is good for injury prevention. They go on to explain that if you continually throw or shoot with one hand, it can lead to muscle imbalances. If you constantly throw with one arm, you may get a shoulder that is stronger than the other. This can lead to injuries if the child is still growing and maturing.

Watch Eli Manning warm up before a game. There is a reason he throws the football left-handed and right-handed.

Along with preventing injuries, it should create a better athlete.

Can you imagine a basketball player that can:

  • Shoot with both hands equally within 15 feet.
  • Dribble up and down the court flawlessly with either hand.
  • Pass with either hand.
  • Finish around the hoop with either hand.

I recently read an article on ESPN about a pitcher named Pat Venditte in the Yankees organization that throws with both hands. Last year he had an ERA at 0.83 which is amazing for those of you who do not know very much about baseball. He can pick whatever arm he wants to throw with based on which side the opposing hitter chooses and he can throw twice as many pitches.

Would a player have similar benefits in basketball if he could shoot with both hands?

Most coaches try to teach passing, dribbling, and finishing with both hands. If we try to teach shooting with each hand equally in addition to the other skills at young age, would it make a player that much better?

You might be thinking, “That’s crazy. I can barely get my players to shoot well with one hand.” However, it’s still worth thinking about.

What are your thoughts?

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20 Comments

  1. Jeremy — May 7, 2009 @ 8:37 am

    I think it is a no brainer as far as whether or not it is a good idea – I also don’t think it would be that hard to teach or train. Especially in young kids those muscles respond so fast that it would not take much repetition to get them to be able to shoot functionally from close range with both hands – which not only leads to a more well rounded athelete, but also makes you twice as dangerous as an offensive player.

  2. Dave — May 8, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

    I’ve always heard the rule for ambidextrous pitchers was they couldn’t switch throwing hands during a game or something to the effect that if they did, they could not switch back. I agree with teaching younger kids to shoot with both hands as it can only benefit them.

  3. Steve — May 9, 2009 @ 3:07 am

    Absolutely…learning to use both hands gives you an advantage.Being able to drive to your “off” side or shoot with your “opposite” shooting hand keeps defenses guessing….

  4. SAULAWA ALIU IBRAHIM — May 11, 2009 @ 3:14 am

    What is important in training the Youth is putting in mind Principle of Health Promotion, the fact that it is to adapt a habit but difficult to eradicatre it. Whatever we are teaching we should try and avoid imparting wrong techniques to the learner.

  5. SAULAWA ALIU IBRAHIM — May 11, 2009 @ 3:16 am

    What is important in training the Youth is putting in mind Principle of Health Promotion, the fact that it is easy to adapt a habit but difficult to eradicatre it. Whatever we are teaching we should try and avoid imparting wrong techniques to the learner.

  6. Alton Sutton — May 11, 2009 @ 8:25 am

    In my opinion that is the only way to teach basketball. Kids need to learn to use both hands when they first begin learning basketball or any other sport. When I first taught youth basketball I made all my players use both hands. They definitely had to learn to shoot layups correctly with both right and left hands. I will never forget, one year I had a very good athlete who was not good with his left hand. But all year long I made him use both hands in practice. If looks could kill, I would be dead now. He would give me awfully mean looks. But he went on to be an excellent point guard in high school. He now realizes what I made him do was for his own good.

    Alton Sutton

  7. Damian Hilton — May 12, 2009 @ 9:19 am

    Look at Micheal Beasley the guy is a monster with either hand. The Heat would do a lot better if he saw the basketball a little more. He can hardly ever be stopped with a basketball in his hand. Left Right it is truly amazing!

  8. Suneet — May 13, 2009 @ 1:05 am

    Well….That’s an obvious answer

    Learning to play well with both hands is a huge advantage…

    The player becomes tougher to guard and he can drive in through almost any angle

    One-handed dribblers can be stopped easily through some well applied pressure by the opponent

  9. Jesse Schiel — February 26, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

    I agree with others that learning to shoot with both hands is beneficial. However, I would caution against teaching or encouraging players to learn to shoot equally with either hand. The benefits of using either hand are mainly (a) dribbling/passing, and (b) shots around the basket. Being able to shoot well or equally with your right or left from 15 feet and out has almost no useful purpose other than developing dexterity in your off-hand.

    Trust me. A player on my college team shot equally well with his right and his left. He never played and was an unreliable shooter. He could never decide whether to shoot with his right or left, and thus the constant indecision resulted in inconsistent and often poor shooting.

    Like I said, there are clear benefits, but don’t get carried away.

  10. .... — July 10, 2010 @ 11:15 pm

    i can shoot with both hands it comes in handy wen ppl think they can stop your gudd hand u can switch ova

  11. Unerring — September 23, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

    I to can shoot with both hands. both well beyond the three point line. I am an every day right hander but on the court it doesn’t matter i just can do it. its easy been doin it since 8th grade after an injury. just relax the other side of your body when you shoot. im not super athletic but in the gym im a nightmare. defense can be rendered helpless. plenty of occasions iv gone up for a left hand jump shot defense jumps so i slide ball to right side for an almost uncontested shot .

  12. Scott H — January 26, 2011 @ 10:36 am

    I think its a good idea. I enocuraged my two sons to do it, the younger one has embraced it well (8). He can shoot from 10 feet in equally well with either hand. On the left side of the hoop, he shoots almost exclusively left handed, and vice versa on the right side. I figure he will be prepared when he plays the upper levels.

  13. Desmar Gomes — August 11, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

    Hey this a good article and shooting with both hands is defintely a good skill to have I had surgery a week ago and I just couldn’t fight the itch anymore today I played and I used my left hand it was natural its a bit hard at first but it defintely makes you feel more versitale

  14. Kevin Monahan — November 3, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

    I ran my first ever practice 2 nights ago with 8-9 year olds. I let them shoot around on their own as we were waiting for the full team to arrive and noticed they all liked long shots, trick shots and wild arm throws from about 20 fett out. We did the Form Shooting Drill, alternating 20 shots right-handed and 20 shots left-handed. Almost all had a difficult time from both sides but I will continue running the drill all season long along with the Lay Up drill from both sides for the remainder of the season, progressing to more challenging drills after they nail down the fundamentals.

  15. Justin — November 15, 2011 @ 10:08 am

    I agree it would really help youths develop into a better player for the future. I read some of the comments above and there were truths there too. It really is confusing as a defender if your opponent can be strong at both hands. Especially for youth levels. The cons is the amount of extra time you need to spend on it.

  16. Bruce Aulabaugh — October 21, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

    Start with ‘Wall Drills’ to develop the weak side hand/ arm motor skills or partner shooting – especially with youngsters who aren’t strong enough to get the ball to the hoop with the weak hand. Be sure the stance is ‘mirror’ image of stance with strong hand so for right hander shooting against wall but using his left hand, be sure the left foot, hip, shoulder are slightly forward.
    On layups, its a real good idea to have the non-shooting hand come across the body to ‘lift’ ball up off the dribble because otherwise a lot of young players won’t get the weak shooting hand onto the ball properly – elbow and hand will still be to the side of the ball instead of under it. This is hard to describe in text but is a huge ‘secret’ to teaching youngsters how to shoot layups on weak side. It also trains them to keep ball on outside (away from defender).

  17. Brian Sass — October 14, 2013 @ 9:43 am

    I believe that from the youth coaches perspective, it is necessary to train skills for both right and left hand. However, I believe that shooting is an exception. Lay-ups and moves near the basket should be ambidextrous. But I also believe that there are moving parts to a jump shot and outside shooting that make teaching proper form at the youth level more of a long term process.

    If you are going to teach something at the youth level, you MUST be willing to commit the blocks of time into your practice to teach, develop, and correct those skills. I have looked at the sheer volume of skills that need to be taught, and the limited practice time some of us get in a given practice, week, or season.

    I want my players to be able to dribble with either hand. I want them to be able to take a lay-up with either hand. I believe they should be able to pass with either hand. There is a measurable and immediate benefit to being able to perform these skills proficiently with either hand.

    I also try to make my players into proficient jump shooters. At the youth level, many come with bad habits, pre-established habits from a younger age (often from using too big a ball on too high of a hoop; but that’s a different thread on BTB). It is time consuming to correct those habits, get shot repetitions, and ingrain new habits. It is different from teaching someone to use their left hand to perform a task they’ve always done with their right. In those cases you are building from the ground up, not un-doing bad technique.

    Now, on top of this, there still needs to be time to teach individual defensivetechnique, catching, pivoting, footwork, and team play on both offensive and defensive ends of the court. I cant find the practice time to add ambidextrous outside shooting.

    From a personal standpoint, I’d rather have someone who has become an expert shooting with either their right hand, OR their left. I think back on the most dangerous shooters in NBA history, and I can’t think of one who wasn’ta side dominant shooter. I feel very comfortable that only teaching players outside shooting with their dominant hand will not hinder their development.

    That is, as long as I’m teaching them to use both hands to pass, dribble and take lay-ups, they will be able to be more than effective ball players while only shooting from the outside with their dominant hand.

    This being able to shoot ambidextrously seems like “pie-in-the-sky”. It sounds good in theory. One could certainly see the possibilities. Here’s what I see: a player goes to the gym to workout. He takes 1,000 shots with his left and 1,000 shots with his right. A different player goes to the gym and in the same amount if time takes 2,000 shots with his right. They do this all summer. Now fast forward to your most important game of the year. You’re down two. You drive and kicktothe open kid on the wing for three. Time is winding down 3…2…1. Which player would you want on the wing taking that shot?

  18. Joe — October 14, 2013 @ 9:55 am

    Great points, Brian. If I were to do this, I would not add more blocks of time to do it, at least, at first because I do know the validity of this proposal. When it came to perimeter shooting (maybe 12 feet and out), I would also still advise to use a dominant hand to prevent indecisiveness.

    For example, instead of taking 200 shots during a workout with your dominant hand, should you take 100 shots with your dominant hand and 100 shots with your off hand? Should you take 150 shots with your dominant hand and 50 shots with your off hand?

    So rather than the traditional dominant hand shooting workout, would these workouts with the same amount of time and the same amount of reps, improve your overall shooting percentage more than the traditional workout?

    Would your shooting percentage go up 5% rather than 3%?

    I have no idea.

    I was also talking to my doctor one day randomly about a study done with Multiple Sclerosis patients. They showed that opposite limb movement improved limb movement on the opposite side.

    There have been other studies in the sporting arena outside of basketball that showed unilateral training and the improvement in the opposite limb.

    http://www.hms.uq.edu.au/research/research-centres/centre-for-sensorimotor-neuroscience-%28csn%29/our-research/current-projects/why-does-unilateral-training-improve-task-performance-with-the-opposite-limb/

    Here is a email conversation that I had with Dr. Tim Carroll who has done some research in this field:

    My (Joe) Email:

    I came across this study: http://www.hms.uq.edu.au/research/research-centres/centre-for-sensorimotor-neuroscience-%28csn%29/our-research/current-projects/why-does-unilateral-training-improve-task-performance-with-the-opposite-limb/

    Have you come across any studies regarding shooting a basketball with each arm and correlation to improvement in shooting percentage for the dominant shooting hand?

    Player A
    Shoots 100 shots with dominant hand.

    Player B
    Shoots 50 shots with dominant hand and weak hand for a total of 100 shots.

    The location and distance would be equal among each shooter for the 100 shots. It could be 20 shots from 10 feet, 20 shots from 13 feet, 20 shots from 16 feet, 20 shots from 19 feet, and 20 shots from 22 feet.

    After practicing a certain number of times per week over say 6 to 12 weeks, I’d be curious to what the shooting percentage improvements would be for each player with their dominant hand.

    My curiosity was sparked when a doctor told me about a multiple sclerosis study that showed motor limb improvement in the opposite limb of the limb being used. Left limb movement improved motor skills of the right limb and vice-versa.

    My observation could be skewed, but when I ask good shooters to shoot with their non-dominant hand, they seem to shoot better with their non-dominant hand than the average player. Most good shooters tend to shoot a lot more than average shooters, has this led to the improvement in shooting with the opposite hand even though they don’t practice shooting with it?

    Would shooting practice with the non-dominant improve shooting percentage in the dominant hand?

    Dr. Tim Carroll’s Email Response:

    Thanks for your interest in my work. There is a very large body of evidence that many forms of motor skill/learning transfer to the untrained limb. The extent and characteristics of this transfer are likely variable depending on which parts of the brain are critical to the skill in question. I am not aware of research specifically relating to basketball, but I would think it highly likely that extensive practice with one limb would cause skill transfer to the other limb. I have also heard anecdotal evidence of darts players “warming up” with the non-dominant limb before competition. I hope that is useful to you. All the best

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  20. Ken Sartini — October 15, 2013 @ 8:13 am

    Hey Joe -

    I think that I will agree with Brian on this one….. takes a long time to develop a good shooter….. I don’t think there is enough time in most youth practices to develop shooting with both hands.

    I played a little hockey and I shot lefty….. I could shoot the other way without skates but once I was on the ice…. just lefty…. and the sticks are curved so all it leaves you is a backhand shot, which can be very effective.

    There are a lot of players that can hit from both sides of the plate… I used to play around hitting lefty… but in games… I stuck with the right side…. again…. takes up more practice time.

    Throwing a football with both hands… not an easy task unless your are ambidexttrious….. I had a couple of those on a 8th grade football team… was great for running the halfback option, Eli can do that because he is one of the top players in the game… maybe not this year LOL even the Bears beat him. :-)

    Soccer, a definate need to be able to kick with both feet.

    Ok, so while it would be great to be able to shoot with both hands, not an easy task to teach it. I broke my hand one year and had to teach everything to my 7th & 8th grade team with my left hand …. I got to be a decent shooter but decent doesn’t make it in my book. LOL … oh yeah, and I wasn’t being covered so its a lot easier.

    I guess I just go back to the TIME THING …. not enough time at the youth level .. maybe even HS to make a good shooter with both hands. JMO

    It does make one think though doesn’t it??

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