We're different. We're the weirdos, the unconventional ones. We give blockers nightmares and, for whatever reason, are almost always the wristiest ones on the beach. You think you have a read on us, but you don't, because that angle we were showing just became a line chisel. We're in short supply but in high demand.
We're the lefties.
Being left-handed on the beach is, in my opinion, a tremendous advantage. First and foremost, we're on the right side of the rule of supply and demand: There are so few of us, yet we always present an additional threat. Being left-handed gives you a built-in edge, the threat of not one option, but two. It gives defenses a different look and a completely new arsenal of threats on offense.
But to unlock all of the tools and advantages of being left-handed, you first must understand how to properly make use of everything before you.
Currently, I'm in Sofia, Bulgaria, training for one-star FIVBs in Italy and the Netherlands. On my first night here, rather than go through a light practice, we mixed it up, playing no-jump with a couple older locals. We had a blast. Thing was, I had never played with my partner before. He had watched me play in a few FIVBs in Bulgaria earlier that summer, so he was aware that I was lefty -- he just kept forgetting. Probably half of the sets ended up too far outside, dropping on my right shoulder instead of my left.
Why did this happen?
After my pass, I forgot to remind him that I was lefty.
We have an extra burden as lefties in that our communication, especially with new partners, has to be impeccable and borderline annoying. When we're playing on the right, which is almost always -- more on that later -- we're going to take our set far more inside than a right-hander will. Thus, we must constantly remind our setter that "I'm coming to you" or "straight up" or "to the middle." We must be clearly communicating, at all times, or we're almost never going to get the set we need.
At the AVP in Chicago, my wife, Delaney Mewhirter, had to pick up a partner at the last minute because her usual teammate, Brooke Sweat, was sick. She called up former Florida State standout Sara Putt, who immediately agreed and bought a flight to Chicago that night. They had no practice together prior to the qualifier, yet they thrived. For the most part. Putt was excellent communicating, but Delaney had never played with a left before, other than the few times we've gotten out together. Even then, she was shocked at how far inside a lefty takes his or her set.
When Putt ran her sets in the middle, they were successful. But there were a few times, on back sets, that Delaney didn't push the ball out enough, getting it to Putt's left hand, leaving her inside and cutting down her options.
The first key to being lefty, then, is a simple one: Talk, talk, talk.
You'll thank yourself for it.
When I initially moved to California, I played on the left side, because the only guy who would play with me, Chris McDonald, loved the right. I didn't know any better. Righties play on the right, why can't lefties play on the left?
Gary Schreiber, a coach in Huntington Beach who worked with Ty Tramblie at the time, was incensed. He hated -- absolutely hated -- that I played on the left. Why?
It removes to inherent advantage you have of being lefty.
Being left-handed and playing on the right side now gives both players the threat of an option on serve receive. Watch teams such as Latvia's Aleksandrs Samoilovs and Janis Smedins, or Italy's Adrian Carambula and Enrico Rossi, or our own Miles Partain and Paul Lotman, and you'll see why this is so valuable. Lotman and Partain just took a third in Chicago almost exclusively because of Partain's option ability, something he makes even more threatening with a deadly jump set that often leaves Lotman with an open net.
Having two options presents a mighty burden for a blocker. Does he stay with the setter, who could option, or shuffle to the approaching offensive player? Even optioning just once or twice a set makes the threat real enough to delay the blocker, giving your partner an added offensive advantage.
Being all but forced to play right isn't a bad thing. It's a blessing.
It's good to be weird.
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