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The Cross Step - Defensive Footwork Series 2

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

“Never Cross Your Feet”

We have all heard the phrase when it comes to defense. Many of us have probably even said. I’m guilty too. But how true is this age-old coaching point?

I agree that it does have some use when instructing a specific type of footwork that does not call for crossing the feet. But to say “never” in the whole world of defensive footwork is not true. There are situations when a crossover step is preferred to a classic slide and we can see it used by defenders in every game, especially by the best ones.

Typically we don’t like players to cross their feet because we fear they have dropped their hips into a turn and run recovery. And there are defenders who struggle with exactly that. They are neither utilizing the crossover step or a defensive slide and because of that the defender struggles to stay in front, can’t apply pressure and is at the mercy of any counter move. These poor defenders have lead to the phrase “Never Cross Your Feet.”.

Yet we still see the crossover step used effectively and often by great defenders. So what’s the difference and why use it?

The main benefit of the crossover step as you can see in the clip above, is that the defender is able to cover a large amount of ground. This same distance would require 2 or 3 explore slides as compared to one explosive crossover step. Covering more ground allows defenders to better cut off wide driving angles and recover on downhill attacks from out of position.

The difference that allows great defenders to properly use the crossover step is their shoulders and hips. As you can see in the clip, Michael Jordan is able to use the crossover step while still keeping himself square to the offensive player.

The same goes for Marcus Smart.

By keeping the chest walled up and hips square, the defender can maintain proper position on the attacker while also regaining his defensive stance and angles. Smart not only recovers back in front with the crossover step, he is also perfectly repositioned to defend in either direction. As opposed to a defender who dropped their hips in a cross over step (more of a turn and run) and now the defender is at a very steep angle unable to regain squared position - susceptible to a counter move and more likely to have a foul called from that position.

This movement pattern does not come naturally to most players and athletes. The existence of this technique does not disprove the focus on “Not Crossing the Feet” but it does present a alternative technique - that if properly trained and introduce can be a huge weapon in the arsenal of a great defender.

If you have any questions or suggestions for future topics please feel free to reach out:

See you next time!

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