3 Reasons Why I Teach Cross Step Footwork When Attacking Tight Closeouts

Here are three reasons why I teach Cross Step footwork when attacking tight/overly aggressive closeouts (less than one arm's length away) instead of Open Step footwork.


Cross Step footwork significantly lowers the frequency of travel calls, especially at the youth level, in my experience as it is a much simpler body and ball movement. No matter how hard we try to get our players to keep that pivot foot down on an open step before the dribble, the timing is difficult to master at game-speed - even NBA/WNBA players still travel quite a bit on Open Steps, it just doesn't get called. In fact, a professional-client and former teammate of mine that I trained several years ago confirmed that many European pro leagues consider the Open Step to be an illegal movement off of a catch.


When using Cross-Step footwork, the ball handler gets significantly more stride length on the first step (blow by step) because you're able to utilize the Load/Trigger Step (back foot) for a more explosive/athletic movement and then you also get the benefit of another explosive step with the front foot as your weight shifts forward allowing you to "jump/lunge" into the first dribble off of the catch. An Open Step (assuming you're lifting the pivot foot off of the ground legally), limits your first step stride length quite a bit, making separation harder to get. Can you get separation on an Open Step? OF COURSE. However, in a game of inches, I want my players to have every advantage they possibly can get.


Probably one of my biggest concerns with Open Step footwork, aside from the travel frequency, is the fact that the ball is exposed too long for my liking after the rip. Obviously, no matter what footwork you use, the ball still has to be ripped across the body frame after a catch, however, on an Open Step the ball is exposed much longer because our body doesn't get between the ball and the defender quick enough (in my opinion). These are just ideas to think about. In no way am I saying an Open Step is wrong, I personally just think that in a tight closeout situation, a Cross-Step is more efficient.


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