Front (and rear) crosses are one of the more challenging aspects of agility. Many beginners avoid them. But sometimes to save those precious few seconds of time you just have to do some fancy footwork. What are crosses you ask? Here is a video that shows a front cross in slow motion. Notice there is a certain spot where you turn your body. Turn it too late or too early, and your dog will likely read your body language wrong (or you will stumble over your dog). This is a critical point, and why so many don’t take the risk of doing crosses. In his excellent article, “Front Crosses are about Faith”, Steve Swartz says, “I’d guess 9 times out of 10 the hesitation brought on by that doubt is what causes us to not move into position or move too late to properly execute the cross. You have to believe that you can do it”. Amen, he’s so right. Agility is a physical exercise, yes, but it starts in the mind. I once took a class to learn ice skating. I was the only adult in a class of little children. They all could skate backwards immediately, but I couldn’t! In frustration I asked the instructor, “How come they can do it, but I can’t?”. The instructor replied, “Because they don’t analyze how it’s done. They just see me doing it, and they do it. And”, she continued, “They aren’t afraid of falling down like you are!”. I never forgot that lesson.
So about crosses…I suggest watching videos of crosses over and over again to “get the picture” of what is required, but don’t over analyze the movements. I personally think that emphasing technique does well for big name trainers to sell videos and seminar registrations, and for fine-tuning possible weaknesses later on, but doesn’t do as much as one might think for beginners to feel comfortable doing it. Mimic technique, yes, play-practice without your dog, yes. But at some point just go out and try it. You might trip and fall, and you might trip over your dog. But if you don’t care how you look, you’ll learn crosses much faster than if you are hung up on technique and keeping good appearances (and if you are involved in agility for long enough, you know that the latter is nearly impossible!).