First, we're going to classify the different of types of movements and the situations when they are best used because that alone has caused some miscommunication and confusion.
Second, we'll address why you may want to stop saying "Don't cross your feet" and provide video proof.
Third, we're going to cover a teaching progression for the crossover step.
Fourth, why you may not want to teach the crossover step based on defensive philosophy.
Different Types of Defensive MovementsAfter you read the rest of this, make sure to look at the videos below for demonstrations of the movements.
The defensive player is facing the offensive player and pushes off the back foot while shuffling in different directions. It is also used to deny passes when off the ball.
- Common movement in the quarter-court defense.
- Very effective for short distances. Typically less than 15 feet.
- Stop quickly and accelerate quickly.
- Easier to maintain balance.
Here is a video that demonstrates a band-resisted defensive shuffle:
The crossover step is used to
- Cover larger distances with more speed.
- Easier to recover from bad positions.
- Balance can be lost easier than the defensive shuffle.
- Not always efficient for short distances less than approximately 15 feet, because you can not stop and start as quickly as a defensive shuffle.
Turn & Run
This is used in any situation where the defender needs to recover. For example, the offensive player drove past the defender and the defender needs to turn and take off in a sprint to catch up to the offensive player.
Your hips and your upper body are facing in the direction that you are running.
Sometimes, the crossover step is referred to as the first step taken when guarding a player, but the crossover step can effectively be used beyond the first step.
If the offensive player is in front of you and the player is increasing the pace and the shuffle is not fast enough anymore, the defensive player will start with or transition to a crossover step. He will continue to use this step until a situation causes him to slow down or change directions. This is used when the offensive player is still in front of you.
This is different than a turn and run, because your upper-body is facing the offensive player, but your lower body is running in the direction that you are going. You're basically twisting your upper body as you run. A turn and run is used typically when you need to recover.
The continuous crossover step would be used quite often when guarding the ball beyond the 3-point line.
This is used in situations in which the speed of the defensive player needs to be increased or decreased based on a move or moves by the offensive player. As a result, the defensive player will transition to crossover steps, shuffles, continuous crossovers, & runs. The combinations are endless. Some examples are listed below.
Why Not To Say "Don't Cross Your Feet" and More Video ProofCoaches often think that the crossover step is only used when the defensive player is beaten. Coaches will also argue that you should not cross your feet when shuffling.
From studying film of great defensive players, film of great defensive teams, and players that I've coached, I believe the best defenders use the crossover step when the offensive player is in front of them, not when they are just beaten. So when the defensive players should be transitioning to a crossover step to speed up and stop the offensive player, they think, "Coach doesn't want me to cross my feet, so I'll shuffle as fast as I can" and they end up getting beat off the dribble. There is also a saying, "The more they think, the slower their feet get." That's why I don't want my defensive players to think when guarding the ball. I just want them to MOVE!
In the video of Michael Jordan below, you will also see how MJ is in a defensive stance. To cover a larger distance, his first step is a crossover step and he goes directly into the defensive stance to stop the offensive player from driving baseline. Had MJ not used a crossover step or crossed his feet, in and out of the defensive stance, the offensive player most likely would have driven past.
Watch the video from :04 to :12
Take a look at the video below. This is the video from the 1st article. There are a lot more movements throughout the video.
Defensive stance to crossover to defensive shuffle. Change directions, crossover step to run to defensive stance - at :14 to :22, you will see Sandra doing a combination of different movements with the defense in front of her.
Continuous Crossover - at :35 to :40, you'll see Sandra use a continuous crossover with the defense in front of her, not when she is beaten.
What Happened to the KISS (Keep it simple stupid) Method?After reading all of that technical stuff above, you might be thinking "How the heck am I going to teach this to our players?"
Well, you don't. Personally, I don't think you should try to teach them all of the technicalities. You should simply tell your defenders: Do what you need to do keep yourself between the ball and the hoop. If you need to shuffle, shuffle. If you need to run, run.
Instinctively, they will use the appropriate movement. Trying to teach your players all of the technicalities may confuse them and cause them to think too much.
Now, some coaches don't even teach the crossover step. They just let the players do it. Other coaches like to teach it and drill it, so they become more efficient in the movement. So how do you do that?
Here is a progression to teach the crossover step. You could also use a similar progression with the defensive shuffle.
- Teach proper foot position to stop from a stationary position.
Have the athlete sit in a defensive stance. Have them take the stopping leg and plant it into the ground as if they were stopping after moving laterally.
Foot of the stopping leg should be pointing straight ahead. The foot should be flat on the ground. Foot should be positioned outside the knee, knee positioned outside the shoulders. Hips should be down with the knees bent. This position enables the athlete to stop quickly and produce force and explode in the opposite direction.
Have the athlete do this a number of times, so they can feel the proper stopping position.
- Teach them how to perform the movement.
On the crossover step, teach them how the hips open up, but keep the shoulders square to the defensive player. After a couple of crossover steps, have them transfer into a jog to slow down.
- Deceleration with the movement or in other words, teach them how to stop.
Perform the crossover steps for a couple of steps and come to a stop. Teach them to plant the outside leg far enough of outside of their shoulders to come to a complete stop without stuttering their feet. No shoulder sway. Keep the hips level throughout the movement.
- Change of direction with the movement.
When the player comes to a stop, they should reposition their feet quickly, aggressively push off their back or deceleration leg, and crossover in the opposite direction.
- Reactive component.
The coach could simply give a verbal or visual cue to get them to start and stop.
- Combination movements - 1v0.
Since, I believe that transitioning between shuffles, crossover steps, and runs are vital to being a good defensive player, I will practice these combinations at the beginning of every practice going the length of the floor.
- Shuffle - Run - Change Direction - Shuffle
- Crossover - Shuffle - Change Direction - Shuffle
- Run - Shuffle - Change Direction - Crossover
- Shuffle - Change Direction - Crossover - Change Direction - Crossover
The combinations are endless. And it also keeps things fresh for the defensive players.
- Live drills.
Put them in different 1 on 1 half court and full court situations.
An Argument Against the Crossover Step Based on Defensive PhilosophySome coaches will also argue against the crossover step based on defensive philosophy where they use pack-style defenses. Pack-style defenses emphasize tough quarter-court defense that emphasizes staying between the man and the ball, packing the help defenders to eliminate penetration, and forcing contested, outside shots. Coaches teach players to get in a low, wide stance to prevent straight line drives and emphasize explosive defensive shuffles for 2 to 3 steps. Help defense will prevent any penetration when the offensive player has to go a few feet to either side of the defender. By teaching the defensive shuffle, it's easier to maintain balance. Since, most of the defensive movements will be defensive shuffles and the philosophy of focusing on the critical few, teaching of the crossover step is avoided.
Personally, I've seen many coaches have great success without teaching the crossover step. Actually, I've had very successful defensive teams without teaching the crossover step. They weren't very athletic, but we taught the pack-style defense and it frustrated opponents.
But did the players succeed in spite of us not teaching the crossover step? Were they still doing the crossover step in practice and games without us noticing? Would they have been a better defensive team if the crossover step been taught?
If you plan on playing a packed-in, quarter-court defense and you do not have relatively good athletes, it would make sense for you not to spend as much practice time on the crossover steps compared to a coach who extends their defensive pressure. However, I believe you should still include crossover steps in your arsenal for situations in the quarter-court defense when the defender may need to cover a larger distance.
- If the offense runs an isolation play where the offensive player gets more room to maneuver. Similar to the Michael Jordan video above.
- If the offensive player makes a great fake and the defender is out of position and needs to use the crossover step to recover in a half-court setting.
Final Thoughts:My hope for these articles is to present you another type of movement that could improve your team defense. It was not meant to discredit the use of the defensive shuffle by any means.
Lastly, if you disagree, I respect that. I just hope that you have done your diligent research and thinking. Study great defensive players. Study great defensive teams. Study how they move. Study other sports. You'll find that the crossover step is vital for other sports such as football, lacrosse, baseball, softball, tennis, rugby, soccer, and many other sports.
I don't know too many athletic development or professional strength and conditioning coaches that don't believe the crossover step is an integral part of an athlete's movement skills.
What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments and suggestions