The modern sidestep

Know how the modern sidestep is used to beat opponents. Some angles are better. Understand the best way to avoid tackles and beat opponents.

You want to beat players with a sidestep

So convince them you'll do one thing but do something different.

This is not easy with this version of the sidestep, but it can be done.

I call this the modern sidestep because this is what the sidestep has become. Modern but not necessarily best.

Much has been lost over the years, as though the technique has been handed down by "chinese whispers".

It is worth knowing about but if you want to be good use the better options. Read on and understand why.

Instructions on how to do it are few and far between.

If you find any instructions about how to do it they will often include some of the following.

  1. Do things to put the other player in two minds about what you are going to do.
  2. Step out wide with your leg to make them think you are going that way
  3. Put your weight over that foot.
  4. When you have convinced them and they are committed, push off your outstretched leg and go the other way.
  5. Go past them and accelerate away.

Immediately there are problems.

If you put your opponent in two minds about what you're going to do, they might get in the way by accident!

If you do things to put your opponent in two minds you often do the same to yourself!

That`s why you often see players go to the left, go to the right, maybe even do that twice - then get hammered in the middle!

To put your foot out wide you have to lean in the opposite direction. A big give-away about the direction you are actually going!

Difficult angles for the modern sidestep

It's about to happen...

Diagram shows modern sidestep setup Modern sidestep setup

The ball carrier is running, tackler is running to intercept and tackle.

The tackler is reading the situation and running to a point where a tackle can be made. Everything the ball carrier does is watched closely - speed, direction, glances, waves, focus, distribution of weight.

At some point you, the ball carrier, have to make a move. You want to cut inside the tackler, so you have to convince them you are going the other way. In this case to the right.

Like this..

Diagram shows modern sidestep action Modern sidestep action

So you bang your right leg down out wide to the right (very hard to do if running at more than low pace). You are trying to convince the tackler you are going to follow the black arrow path, then cut inside.

There are some problems!

  1. You're not putting much into convincing the tackler - only one part of your body (the outstretched leg), for one stride is saying "I'm changing direction"
  2. Your head can be put out to the right as well - but by then most of the rest of your body is showing it's going left! Try it.
  3. The tackler has to react or the trick won't work. By putting your leg out wide to the right you are committed to going left - into their arms.
  4. The tackler has to act quickly. If they don't there's a good chance you will run into them.
  5. You can see from the angles I've chosen for the two players that a sidestep will not be very effective in this situation. Even if you convince the tackler, it will still be hard to cut inside.

Better Angles for the modern sidestep

There are some angles where the modern sidestep is more effective. If the players are converging in a near straight line like this...

Diagram shows modern sidestep better angle Modern sidestep better angle

The front on view means the tackler has far less information to go on and will be easier to convince that a change in direction is being made.

So when you put your foot out wide to the right and push off it...

Diagram shows modern sidestep better setup

and the tackler reacts (as they are more likely to do)...

Diagram shows modern sidestep better action Modern sidestep better action

...you push off to your left and beat the tackler. In theory!

There is still a problem. You put your foot out wide to the right and now the first part of your push off to the left is used up in simply moving your body back to where it was at the start!

The next part of your effort will be moving your body further to the left to improve the chances of actually missing the tackler.

Best Angle for the Modern Sidestep

The best angles for modern sidesteps to work are where the tackler is already at a disadvantage and the sidestepper can take advantage by slowing down better than the tackler.

A typical example is where a player is already in the clear, racing for the line and a defender is racing across the field to tackle.

It looks like this...

Diagram shows modern sidestep best action Modern sidestep best action

When you (the ball carrier) bang your foot down out wide, do it with a straightish leg and towards the front of you (so you don't fall over).

This causes you to move to the right. More importantly, it causes you to slow down rapidly. The would-be tackler has no time to react and goes shooting across in front of you.

You continue to the line and get a try!

The modern sidestep can be useful but has many limitations. I never used it. When I played I was not aware it existed, but that was a long time ago!

Update! Update! on the sidestep

I've been finding out more about where sidesteps originate and what I call "the modern sidestep" seems very similar to early sidesteps. To see more look in the section on the History of Rugby.

It doesn't make them any better! - just thought I ought to include this information.

Perhaps the Welsh improved early sidesteps out of sight - or had a parallel development which is not immediately obvious.

The result was a very special and valuable skill...

....the now-you-see me, now-you-don't classic sidestep

Consider this

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