Over the years there have been two base stealing techniques coached: Jab step and Crossover step. Not often do I say something is completely incorrect. So, I’ll say that one of these techniques is more efficient than the other. Luckily there have been countless videos captured of the fastest base stealers in baseball such as, Ricky Henderson, Tim Raines and Dee Gordon just to name a few. Each one of them performed the same technique; the jab step.
Understanding that some of the best base stealers all use the same technique should shed some light on the debate between the jab step vs. crossover step. Below we are going to break down the two movements and the efficiency of each technique.
Let’s take a look at the picture of the crossover step. You can see the trail leg, or the outside foot, is driving up and across while the lead leg is on the ground. Hence the name “crossover” step.
The crossover step has its purpose in a few scenarios. For one, hockey - but that’s skating, not running. In speed and agility, the 180 degree cut is one of the only instances that comes to mind. In the Pro-Agility (5-10-5) which takes place at the NFL combine is specifically where the crossover step is highly encouraged in order to score well. Here’s a video of this drill and you’ll be able to clearly see the crossover step being used.
People may choose to use the crossover step technique because they think it eliminates the dreaded “false step,” which it does. However, it does not put you in the most advantageous acceleration position, especially when you are trying to sprint 90 feet as fast as possible. The three faults of the crossover step are: direction, shin angle, and arm position. When you crossover, it is damn near impossible to step towards your target without clearing the lead leg. You will almost always end up stepping towards the center of the infield opposed to second base. Next, when accelerating, you want the shin close to the ground in order to push in a horizontal fashion. During the crossover the shin angle is not as positive as the jab step. Lastly, the arms are not coordinated with the body. When you crossover and turn your body, your left leg and left arm are both coming over at the same time. This adversely affects timing and coordination of the sprint.
Now that you understand the negatives of the crossover, let’s talk about the jab step.
In this picture you can see a major difference in the positioning of the trail and lead leg compared to the crossover step. Here, the trail leg is engaging the ground and the lead leg repositions under the center of mass. Yes, this is a “false step” but it is necessary in order to put the body in a more advantageous position to accelerate. Note the shin angle difference and the clearance for the trail leg to drive through.
Watch this video of Mike Trout executing the jab step while stealing a base. You’ll be able to identify all of the characteristics mentioned above.
Most of the time, athletes will naturally perform the jab step. It is when coaches intervene and change motor habits that they begin to crossover instead. Sometimes the best coaching is no coaching. Know when to step in and when to allow the athlete to figure out the movement themselves.
After reading this, I hope you have a better understanding of the why behind why the jab step is more superior. If you have any questions on how to work on this, feel free to comment below!