The Back List

Right back – left back, the words that one hears on a daily basis in handball. Left can play on all positions, whilst right will remain unswerving. Thus they aren’t equally skillful. Here is an assessment of essential characteristics of back players.

What makes a back the most powerful weapon in a team is his jump, that provides him a clear  view on the goal. A classical “3 steps and jump” brings the back in central position with loads of possibilities to finalize.  This supposes cooperation between pivot, center back and backs in order to create the necessary space.

1.  From where she stands, girl can shoot, can’t she?

Now, it is very important for the back to posses positional shooting.

First in this case, I will look at jumps. Movements will be vertical, with 3 steps forward and a sharp jump. This time, the purpose of the jump is not the travel of the body towards the center, but climbing the wall in front. Players that have recourse to it are not as numerous as I would have thought.

On left back, Marija Jovanovic can do it, but she uses the wall in front to hide the direction of the ball and thus her jump is quite low. She simulates once and then shoots over the arm of the opponent. Cristina Neagu who is not afraid of body contact, takes some steps on the side, simulating the passing of the ball to the pivot, and jumps. Before Neagu, we saw Liudmila Postnova taking the time to decide on a shot and adjust her position by taking those steps. Bojana Popovic and Andrea Penezic do it without simulation. Unlike the others, Alexandrina Barbosa and Mariama Signate may start their steps from behind the 9 m line and take the jump around that limit.  Another characteristic of Neagu and Penezic is the “sudden jump of two feet”, always effective and surprising (see, 1:52).

Players that do not jump from left back court position: Olga Levina, Trine Troelsen, Linnea Torstenson, Rikke Skov, Tonje Larsen, Eduarda Amorim. Instead, they often shoot from the center.

Very few RB opt for that kind of execution, preferring instead to gain a clear lane by avoiding  the opponent. Breakthroughs and shots in place are much more common than jumps on right back.

One could name  Grit Jurack, Barbara Varlec, Camilla Dalby, Camille Ayglon and to a lesser extent Lidija Horvat and Melinda Geiger as takers, whereas Sulland, Bulatovic, Kochetova, Soit, Jorgensen will hardly consider it. See, queen Radulovics at 2.34.

2. Shot in place, there are ways 

Whereas a strong jump is not compulsory for backs, the majority, regardless the side, posses at least one “of the ground” shot.

One special mention is Patricia Vizitiu, a player with a wide repertoire of shots.

Added steps help to project speed into the ball (see, Neagu at 5:14), whereas a static execution demands contribution of wrist, arm and shoulder (see, 5:08). Tall players like Penezic, Popovic, Bulatovic, Jovanovic, Torsterson,  will need those extra steps. In contrast, it is mostly short players like Mork, Vizitiu and Troelsen  that don’t need a run up. Note that Scandinavians, Romanians, Germans are more skilled from this point of view than players from ex-Yugoslavian countries, the Spanish or the French.

Players that do not use it genuinely: Geiger, Varlec, Gros, Sulland. Right backs can have issues with it and the most relevant example is Katarina Bulatovic. Her ugly shot looks very rudimentary, as she needs to bend a lot in order to put all her power in the shot. It looks as if she is throwing a stone at someone.

3. Breakthrough  

This is an equally distributed characteristic among left and right backs.

4. SO…

Concluding, the starting hypothesis seems correct: left backs are usually more skilled than right backs in shooting. Of course this is what dictates putting them on right back position when needed. A left handed player has a specific role, without being the foundation piece of a team.

I would be curious to know if this is more of a preconception that trainers have projected on the game play of their teams more than something related to the motric characteristic of lefties . Norway has thought us an important lesson by using players like Mork, Kurtovic or Riegelhuth as polivalent RW-RB-CB players with outstanding results. What next? Maybe a left handed LB. Do I hear Anja Andersen saying yes, yes, yes?

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