Ben & the Bad Idea - Forced Ambidexterity

Ben Simmons shooting problem could have a solution validated by clear medical science

Elephant in the room

There's that Elephant in the room again! I thought I was done with the series on Ben Simmons and his shooting problem but Ben's handedness issue is still front and center, more than ever now with the Sixers now having lost a pivotal Game 7 playoff once again, this time against Atlanta and at home. The Game 7 is a game they would not even have faced if their other All Star player, Ben Simmons was just a normal basketball shooter. I didn't say a normal NBA shooter, I said a normal basketball shooter, but he's not.

So the elephant issue remains in the room. It's oddity to me that with all the talk you hear of Ben Simmons shooting issue across the media very, very few observers address the real problem. They talk all around what Ben has 'got to do' without addressing the obvious oddity of player shooting free throws and jumpers all with is left hand.

I've yet to hear it mentioned or asked of his current Coach Doc Rivers. At least it was asked of Brett Brown and he made it clear he was aware of the handedness question and had discussed it with Ben many times. He called it the curse and the blessing. Right now its pretty clearly more of a curse after Ben's teams suffers a huge defeat yet again and Ben's shooting is probably the central problem Simmons teammates are all working around.

So Doc know the handedness is the problem? If he does, he's never mentioning it although I haven't heard even a single press reporter ask about it. It remains the elephant in the room.

I've covered it in depth and the links to prior articles in the series are right below:

Following the Simmons Offhanded Shooting Saga

  1. Simmons wrong handed shooting.
  2. Talk to the Hand Ben.
  3. Conspiracy Theory, Simmons off handed shooting could be hurting his brain?
  4. Ben Simmons Shooting Sports Psychologist. Reasons NOT to trade him, just not YET.
  5. Ben & the Bad Idea, Forced Ambidexterity .
  6. Ben Simmons H.S. Coach Kevin Boyle weighs in on his shooting struggles.

The thing that pushed me over the edge to post yet another article in this series is watching so many in the Media and even the Doc Rivers and the coaching staff around Ben offer great insight and commentary on his shooting issue yet completely miss or fail to even comment on the REAL problem with Ben Simmons shooting, the elephant in the room.

Its all about handedness. I referenced this in my Conspiracy Theory, post but I also understood that it was possible that Ben could work hard enough and make it work with his left hand. The theory is that if taken too far, forced training to use the off hand could actually be harmful to certain brain functions.

I referenced a scientific study in that piece but now that Ben Simmons has shown clear signs of not only failing to progress in his training to be an offhand or ambidextrous outside shooter and free throw shooter. I say ambidextrous but its important to remember that Ben Simmons already CAN shoot with his dominant right hand. He can shoot jumpers, 3 pointers and free throws his right hand, right now, any time he would want to do it. I say this because there is plenty of video evidence of this and you can find it in the series of articles I posted above.

Ben CAN shoot with right hand. The scary thing is, if the studies are true, he could be reducing his ability to shoot with his right hand continuing to force train his left hand to do tasks that it is not as well suited to do as his right hand.

In other words, if Ben is ever going to outside and free throw shooting hands to normal, he should do sooner rather than later. The longer he's waiting, the more enforcing a bad conditioning that appears to be a major reason he is regressing, going backward as a shooter rather progressing for all his hard work.

So let's consider the science around issue again, the potential negative impact on the brain from excessive forced ambidexterity.

Why training yourself to be ambidextrous is a bad idea (read the piece for full text)

Teaching, or even forcing, people to become ambidextrous is a practice

that has been around for centuries. Some even claim that learned "cross

dominance" can improve brain function. But as the science shows, not

only is this not true, it may actually harm our neural development.

So there's the rub. Read up on it. I wasn't sure if this type of training which Ben does with his offhand would fit into the parameters of these sort of studies. People can train their off hand to do things and it can work out well, we know that but the problem is when the off hand is pushed to do things beyond its natural limits, things which are naturally wired to be done better with the dominant hand.

Aside from my grandparents' aversion to left-handedness, though, some thinkers argued that ambidextrousness could benefit society as a whole, and result in "two-brainedness".

But as cognitive neuroscientist Michael Corballis recently noted in SciAm, this is simply not the case:


Given that handedness is apparent early in life and the vast majority of
people are right-handed, we are almost certainly dextral by nature.
Recent evidence even associated being ambidextrous from birth
with developmental problems

So the point here is that this handedness design is proven to exist from birth. In other words its more NATURE than NURTURE.

Corballis says the two hemispheres of the brain are not interchangeable,

and that they're used for different processes and tasks. "These

asymmetries probably evolved to allow the two sides of the brain to

specialize," he says. "To attempt to undo or tamper with this efficient

setup may invite psychological problems."

I sum this up this way, Ben insists on shooting with his non-dominant left hand, but his God given nature is not in agreement with this.

The writer sums it up this way.

It's okay to train your non-dominant hand to be more proficient, he says,

just don't do it at the expense of your dominant one.

So Ben Simmons, born with great talent, trained from childhood to play basketball, chooses with his parents training to be ambidextrous. Not a bad idea to an extent. Driving to the basket and being able to shoot close shots and layups well with both hands is a great NBA talent.

On the other hand, shooting from distance is a completely different task from layups. The precision and dexterity along with the strength required are greater. A 3 pointer is more difficult than a layup right? Doh, of course.
No one shoots with their offhand from the 3 point line, no pro player does that in NBA games, no one ever, except Ben Simmons.

The NBA book is out on how to defend him so the issue that arises in the playoffs for Ben on offense is now more widespread. The playoffs allow teams to study and drill in on Bens shooting issue and as his team advances to better and better opponents by the time they get to the conference semi-finals they are always facing a team with enough talent to make enough an issue out the hole in Ben's game so that it's enough of an difference to cost Philly a series as the other players cannot compensate.

The teams across the NBA study film and get progressively better at defending a player but it's never as focused on as it is in the NBA playoffs. Players have to improve their game, not stay the same and certainly not regress.

According to the studies insistence on pressing the favored use offhand may actually hurt both his left hand shooting AND his right hand shooting as the right hand is being neglected. The bigger issue now is that the more he practices and works to get the left handed shot only to find it not getting better, the more the issue becomes a mental one. At this point his stubborn insistence on become a good shooter from not only 3 from the foul line while using his offhand has led to Ben full on becoming afraid to shoot the ball!

What started with shooting the offhand has become full on crisis of confidence toward scoring the ball because he clearly doesn't want to be sent to the Free Throw line during the clutch time of a playoff game.

Its as though Ben Simmons forgets in the playoffs that he is capable of having big scoring games.

Ben 27 pts 13 ast 15 reb –

Ben Simmons 28 pts 10 rebs 8 asts vs Lakers 19/20 season –

Ben Simmons Drops 31 Points without Embiid! Simmon's Kareem Abdul Jabbar Sky Hook in the NBA Playoffs! –

Ben Simmons 42 points 9 rebounds 12 assists

Its all happening around the right hand even without 3 pointers. Ben looked to be working on perfecting that righty hook shot and for a while it looked like his free throw shooting was getting much better, even with the with left hand.

Ben might not even need a 3 to be major scoring threat, Kareem didn't need one. But he absolutely MUST have a reliable free throw and now it looks like his brain is giving him problems as he's trying to force it to lock in a good smooth, elbows in motion consistently. It must be frustrating him knowing he's been trained how to shoot free throws but he can't lock it and get his arm and hand to do what he wants it to do.

This playoffs Ben's free throw shooting regressed in a major way and it seems quite obvious the struggles at the free low line have also got into the mental aspect of Ben scoring at all. At some point Ben Simmons will need to stop beating his head against the wall tying to fight against nature.

Its a domino effect working against Ben and Sixers that could just as easily be made to for them. Ben shoots poorly from the line, gets hack-a-Ben embarrassed, confidence sinks overall on his shooting even in close because he doesn't want to go to the line.

The flip effect could be Ben Switches right. Solidifies his free throw shooting at a steady pace, no more hack-a-Ben, confidence goes up overall on his scoring and suddenly we see the Ben again capable of monster triple doubles including the big scoring #.

The unfortunate fact though is that right now it seems both Doc Rivers and Ben are actually clueless about the real root of Ben's problem.

After the defeat, Simmons admitted his issues at the line are "definitely" more mental than anything. 76ers head coach Doc Rivers agrees with the assessment.

"It is a mental game," Rivers said. "We all know that. It’s always been that. When all these guys in the league struggle."

The problem is totally Fultzian once again. Yes there is a mental problem but the mental problem is rooted from a real physical problem which can be validated based on a science.

Doc Rivers doesn't appear to know anything about the issue and sadly it sounds like Ben doesn't have a clue about real source problem of his issue either. The fact that he doesn't understand why he's not getting better even though he's putting in the work, must really be adding a huge mental dimension to his problem.

"When asked what he could do to improve in the next outing, which is set for Friday night, and why his shooting at the line dropped off so much, Simmons was nearly speechless.

"I have no idea [why my shooting dropped off]," Simmons admitted following Wednesday's game. "I have to get back. . . That’s on me.

[why my shooting dropped off]," Simmons admitted following Wednesday's game. "I have to get back. . . That’s on me.

UPDATE: Fresh off the press. Let's hope there's a HINT to Philly fans in this announcement about the Sixers plan fix Ben Simmons shooting issue.

The right work, the right type of work and right way to do it.

UPDATE: Ben is FINALLY considering switching hands! - Brian Windhorst reports it is about going righty!

The BIG trade may indeed be LEFTY BEN for RIGHTY BEN! Notice how Doc Rivers says the improvement could take place rather quickly.

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