Crossover Step (Videos) - Debunking the "Don't Cross Your Feet" Myth - Part 2
Due to the response to the article Debunking the "Don't Cross Your Feet" Myth, some of the questions, comments, and concerns needed to be addressed. I've had numerous discussions and debates with coaching colleagues about this, so I know this will be a fun topic to discuss with all of you.

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 Movements

After you read the rest of this, make sure to look at the videos below for demonstrations of the movements.

Defensive Shuffle

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.
The defensive shuffle, or also called the defensive slide, is typically not effective when longer distances need to be covered. It is more difficult to use only the defensive shuffle when the defense is extended to half-court and further.

Here is a video that demonstrates a band-resisted defensive shuffle:





Crossover Step

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.
On the crossover step, the hips open up in the direction you are moving, and your upper body is facing the offensive player.

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.

Continuous Crossover

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.

Combinations

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 Proof

Coaches 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Reactive component.

    The coach could simply give a verbal or visual cue to get them to start and stop.

  6. 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.

  7. Live drills.

    Put them in different 1 on 1 half court and full court situations.

An Argument Against the Crossover Step Based on Defensive Philosophy

Some 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





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Comments

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Larry says:
9/15/2011 at 3:03:01 PM

Thanks Joe. I appreciated you sharing this article with me. The comparisons with pack defense and shuffle and extended defense and cross over step makes a lot of sense. This will help me in my preperation for the coming season.

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Ben says:
10/4/2011 at 4:27:28 AM

I think the rule can be amended to "don't cross your feet when you're in a slide". I've had a think about it, and I'll be teaching my kids that it's ok to come out of a stance, but you do a crossover step to enable you to get your man back in front of you and hence get back into a stance. Good on you for challenging the established ideas on the topic, as a coach who loves extended defenses this will be a big help, cheers.

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Louis says:
10/4/2011 at 9:15:28 AM

I certainly understand the point of this article. I think what the title should be is never lead with your back foot. It doesnt matter if you are in step-slide mode or recover mode, crossing your feet comes from step with the back foot first. So, this article is correct, yet, it is missing what coaches mean when they say "dont cross your feet." Maybe its on us coaches to clarify "lead foot first."

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Greg says:
10/4/2011 at 12:19:32 PM

This is all semantics. I would argue that I (try to) never cross my feet. I either step and slide or turn and run. I don't consider running crossing my feet. I can't imagine a coach teaching players to ALWAYS step and slide or shuffle on defense. If your players can get away with that, you're in the wrong league.

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Joe Haefner says:
10/4/2011 at 12:48:56 PM

Thank you for your thoughts everybody! I really enjoy hearing your thoughts and opinions and makes for much better discussions on the topic.

Louis, that's an interesting thought of never lead with your back foot. I haven't heard that before. I wonder if there are times that you would lead with your back foot?

Greg, I agree that if your players can get away with just shuffling up and down the court, they're in the wrong league. If the defensive players faces a player with some speed and quickness, they will have to run at some point.

From my experience, I'll see players that I'm first coaching either for teams or at clinics. When we run 1v1 defense drills, some players will shuffle until they're blue in the face and get beat. I don't know if they're being taught that or just getting confused by the phrase "don't cross your feet."

I do believe there is a difference between turn and run and the crossover step. Turn and run is used when you get beat. Your upper-body is facing the direction that you are running.

Using the crossover step, your upper-body is still squared to the offensive player. From my experience, players need to be trained in this movement. Have you tried running with your upper-body twisted? It's actually a little bit difficult and you need to cue your players to turn their upper-body. If the defenders don't square their upper-body to the offensive player, they're toast. With the body squared, it makes it easier to use a hip turn to change directions to stick with the offensive player.

I teach hip turns instead of defensive drop steps, but that is another conversation.

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Robert says:
10/4/2011 at 10:51:12 PM

I say slide when you are in front of the ballhandler. You turn and run when you lose this position. When you regain this position, you revert to sliding again. The key is to specifically define when you, as a defender, are in front of the ballhandler. The more you specify what is good defensive position, the quicker a defender can turn and run when no longer in front of the ballhandler.

I tell my kids that keeping your nose on the midline of the dribbling ball while squared up on the ballhandler is good defensive position. The moment you, as a defender, can detect that your nose is no longer on the midline of the ball, that is when you should turn and run. The sooner you can detect this, the less running you have to do, even to the point of not really having to run to recover at all, but only to stretch your lead leg to get your nose back on the ball, which means you are in front of the ballhandler once again.

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Robert says:
10/4/2011 at 11:17:44 PM

Just thinking, when a crossover-step occurs, it seems to happen as an abbreviated run, where you don't even have to get into full running steps because you are back in front of the handler. This happens naturally as part of the run-to-recover-lost-position objective of your on-the-ball defensive technique.

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Nathan Holm says:
10/6/2011 at 9:31:21 AM

Great article....it is important to evaluate what is most effective not merely teach what was taught to you. I believe that defense is results oriented and so rather than trying to control the details of players movements we as coaches need to help them to understand the most effective way for them to get stops and help their team.

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Bob says:
10/7/2011 at 6:07:56 PM

Very interesting. I have taught the three step principle for years, if you can't stop them in three then you start sprinting, crossover, closing out and I guess it all depends on you defensive principles. In the past ten years I have taught that if the the player you are marking is any good they are going to beat you anyway, you are second guessing them, so get beat where your help is.
I am a great believer in individual defence but believe defence is a team thing and it is more important off the ball.

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Paul says:
11/18/2011 at 10:21:05 PM

Nice article. The Jordan example really crystallized it for me. There, he used the crossover step once his man was at the point where he was trying to turn the corner. I think there's a lesson to be learned there.

I think that as long as you're in a position of between your man and the basket, you're fine shuffling, but as soon as you feel that "pull" of your man starting to turn that corner, use a crossover step to reestablish position.

I'm weary about this, though, from the standpoint of it possibly leading to a player getting his "ankles broken" when the defender utilizes an effective crossover dribble at the exact moment when the crossover step is being executed.

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Joe Haefner says:
1/5/2012 at 9:09:07 AM

Thank you for your thoughts, Paul.

Without a doubt, a player will get their "ankles broken" at one time or another whether you use a shuffle or a crossover step. It's just part of the game. Are you more prone to it if you use a crossover step? I don't know, but I would think so.

My thought is that I would rather have a player get their "ankles broken" than give up a straight line drive to the basket. It also will give helpside defense more time rotate and stop the ball.

What do you think?

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Robert says:
9/4/2012 at 11:05:08 PM

When recovering lost position when using your crossing/running steps, you can fight having your "ankles broken" by leaving your trail hand where your opponent would normally do his crossover dribble. You cannot always avoid being crossed-over (after all, your opponent has skill too), but by always having your inside/trail hand in the crossover zone, you are letting him know that there will NEVER BE ANY FREE CROSS0VERS. ALL CROSSOVERS WILL BE CONTESTED. I agree with Joe. Stop the direct penetration to the hoop first. If you don''t, your opponent won''t have to "break your ankles" to go by you!

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Paul says:
11/7/2013 at 10:56:16 AM

Thanks Joe,

I was taught this technique at a Basketball camp by a former CSU Bakersfield coach. He called it slide-run-slide and we'd practice it out of our 5 line drill. I've tried however to teach this to other athletes and I have been unsuccessful. Most do not understand the concept of taking that large one step to improve the defensive angle and stop the initial drive. I find that only players with great awareness can achieve this step effectively, probably higher level college athletes.I'll continue to teach it however because I know how effective it is and all great defenders utilize it.

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Scott says:
2/18/2014 at 11:14:23 AM

Semantics. When you're defending in the open court you may need to run (turn your hips) in order to keep up. Obviously sliding all the way down the court will not be fast enough to keep up with a sprinting dribbler.

"Don't cross your feet" is mostly a practice habit to develop quick feet in slide drills. That's all.

The videos here show good technique in the transition from on-ball slide defense into an open sprint. That's what we're talking about here.

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Darrel says:
5/12/2014 at 1:01:28 PM

In on the ball defense I was taught be within arm reach with head on the ball, as ball moved from one side to other we were taught to shift across ready to move. Thought was if you were active and not standing in stance you would be quicker! I still teach the same way, what are your thoughts? Also, this gets player quicker to closeup when ball goes over head.

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Ken Sartini says:
5/13/2014 at 5:50:01 PM

Darrel -

I think it has a lot to do with your philosophy and the quickeness of your players.

We played ON/UP the line m2m defense ( and some match up zone )

When we were playing our man D. there were times that we were getting beat / split so to speak.

So, I put this rule in.... if the ball is on the point, we were going to direct the ball to the sideline / FT line extended -- that way we wouldn't get beat down the middle .

From the wing, we wanted to direct the ball to the baseline/short corner.... the last thing we want to do was to allow anyone to was to penetrate the middle...

Anyway, this was our philosophy and JMO

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Martynas says:
10/2/2014 at 2:27:46 AM

basically MJ and and defender from another video is using "turn and run" not the cross over step.

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