Improving Defensive Quickness &
Debunking The "Don't Cross Your Feet" Myth

Below is a video provided by Charles Stephenson who is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for North Carolina State.

The drill is a resisted-band defensive shuffle (slide) which improves lateral quickness and explosiveness.

Key Points & Coaching Cues:
  • Stay Low - Knees Bent & Hips Back.

  • 2 Quick Steps - If you need to cover more ground, the better choice is more likely the crossover step which is explained below.

  • Push Off - Teach the players to push off the back foot. Don't step and slide. This will lead to a slower movement.

  • Feet straight ahead - This provides a better angle to push with power and change direction. If your feet are out, it's hard to push with force and change directions.

  • Straight Line - Ankle to Knee To Hips. You do not want the knees to cave in. This increases potential for injury.

  • Head on a level plane - No wasted movement. If the player bounces up and down, it will slow them down and use more energy.

  • Chest Up & Head Up
For beginners, you can use the same drill WITHOUT the resisted band.

You can visit the Perform Better website for Resistance Bands in the video above.

Crossover Step - Debunking the "Don't Cross Your Feet" Myth

You'll notice in the video that Charles says he does not teach his players to shuffle more than "2 Quick Steps". If the defensive player needs to cover more ground than two quick shuffle steps, the first step should be a crossover step. Some people also call it the "Turn & Run".

A crossover step is used when you want to quickly cover longer distances, approximately 4 yards or more. If you are doing a crossover to the left, you lift your right leg and cross it in front of your body. Your right foot will land in front of your left foot. (To see this, view the videos below.)

This is the way that the body naturally wants to move and you'll notice that players will do this movement without instructing them.

So many coaches still teach their players "Do NOT cross your feet" on defense. I'm not going to lie. I used to do this as well. A few years ago, I changed my mind. It began when I noticed that Kirk Hinrich of the Chicago Bulls always crossed his feet on defense and this was back when Kirk made the NBA All-Defense Team. As soon as I noticed that, I noticed that all good defensive players were doing it. I guess if you're not looking for it, you don't notice it. From that day forward, I began heavily researching movement and athletic development.

If you watch any major college or NBA game that provides pressure above the 3-point line, you'll notice that the defensive players are constantly crossing their feet to stay in front of their man. Watch Texas, North Carolina, Duke, and Kansas. They all do it.

If that doesn't convince you, set up two cones about 10 yards apart and time the crossover and the defensive shuffle.

I'm not saying that the defensive shuffle is useless. If you need to cover a shorter distance like movements under 4 yards, the defensive shuffle works great because you can change directions quicker. It also tends to be easier to square your body and take a charge. You will often use the defensive shuffle playing defense within the 3-point line.

Watch Kobe Bryant use the crossover step when guarding Jason Terry. You only need to watch the first 40 seconds.

Here is another great example of the crossover step being used to harass the defender (#10 - Sandra Sinclair) up and down the court. I got this video from Brian McCormick's blog.

What do you think about the crossover step and the defensive shuffle? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...

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Alex says:
5/8/2013 at 4:22:32 PM

Im 5'5 200 lbs (yes im fat) this is how i constantly guard quicker guys but instead of shuffling above the 3pt line or on it i just crossover step then i just turn my hips back sorta like a kar e oka (i think thats how you spell it) drill in footbal just keep turning your hips just thought i add some 2 cents an insight it helps me alot stay in front of quicker guys especially when i wanna trap them baseline and they turn crossover back to the paint


Joe Haefner says:
9/20/2011 at 12:17:23 PM

Hey everybody, I meant to get this article last summer, but I forgot all about it.

Thanks to Larry's reminder, here it is:


Larry says:
9/15/2011 at 1:38:15 PM

I am anxiously waiting for your new article. When will we get to see it?


Joe Haefner says:
4/9/2010 at 12:46:35 PM

Thank you for all of your thoughts everybody. You have inspired me to write another article addressing some of your comments. I respectfully disagree with some of your comments and I hope to provide you with more explanation and videos to support this.

I didn't arbitrarily come to this conclusion. I've studied this. I've consulted with athletic development coaches (guys who study athletic movement as their profession). I was hesitant to post this, because I knew the backlash I would get because it goes against the traditional basketball coach's way of thinking.

And Brian, yes. I recognize those words. When applying that to the defensive shuffle, I don't necessarily disagree with that statement. I just believe that a crossover step shoudl be implemented into a defensive player's arsenal. My beliefs have changed and that will continue to happen. I bet some of the statements you made 5 years ago, you'll disagree with as well.


Brian says:
4/9/2010 at 11:41:53 AM

I can't believe you of all people would suggest this. Let me leave two comments you should know well:

-"feet should be 12 inches apart at all times. If your feet come together too much, it means that you're going to lose balance because you didn't maintain that wide base".

-"if you cannot do a swing step, the offensive player will blow right by you".


Ricardo says:
4/9/2010 at 11:19:55 AM

was not able to load the video provided by Charles Stephenson


Wilman D. says:
4/8/2010 at 12:35:52 PM

i agree with coaches Artur, Andrew and the other coaches who says that this is not defensive slide and that we stick to the rule of "don''t cross your feet" on a defensive slide. Any player who do this on a defensive slide will surely loose his baklance and his man.


Sydney says:
4/8/2010 at 11:33:44 AM

Coaches always tell you not to cross your feet, but i think all those coaches should watch and read this.


Mark says:
4/8/2010 at 10:49:30 AM

I agree with Artur that the "don't cross your feet" rule generally refers to kids crossing their feet during defensive slides. I think most coaches know this. However, I personally know a couple of coaches who are constantly telling their kids to do defensive slides even at the point that they should be crossing their feet and switching into a run to stop the defender. If a good ball handler is already starting to blow by you while you're doing slides, that ball handler is going to leave you in the dust if you continue to do slides. I think the key is to push hard off your back foot, and slide as quickly as you can to cut off the ball handler. Continue to do this in either direction as long as necessary, but if the ball handler ever starts to get by you, cross over and run to get back in front of them.


The Swede says:
4/8/2010 at 10:34:02 AM

Nice to se that you are refering to a Swedish basketball game, with Sandra playing aggresive defense.
I think I agree with most comments, don't cross your feet when you are playing D 1 on 1 , but if you loose the man you have to "run" the stop him, but as soos as you do that you go back to your D stance and slide with him/her.


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