Response from Sarah:
I think as soon as someone understands the correct throwing motion (pull across your chest, snap your wrist, etc) then they are ready for the X-step. So sounds like you are ready! I was told to hold off on the X-step when I was first learning the backhand too. I was told to stand still and work on my accuracy first. But I started working on the X-step anyway because it works! It helped me throw farther (which is just more fun), and I want to throw far for most drives, so why wouldn't I practice it? You may actually find you have a lot more consistency when you add the X-step because you will be able to give your drivers the faster speed they need to fly as they were designed to. Even a Sidewinder or Roadrunner will seem stable if thrown at a slow speed.
Now, some tips on the X-step itself (fyi this is for righties, switch if you are a lefty). I do a bit of an angled run up, others are a little straighter on. But of course start at the back of the pad (I start at the back right) (1), chest facing forward. I take a small step forward with my left foot first (2), and then step forward with your right foot (3 & 4), crossing over your left (5). Then pivot a little on your right foot and step behind it with your left. At this point your chest should be pointing to the left - 90 degrees from where you started. Plant your left foot and push off hard (7). The harder you push the harder you will throw. This transitions your momentum on your right leg where you have built up your power and now can plant and throw. Personally, the harder I push off often ends up equaling a hard throw into the ground, so I try to focus on a smooth run up more than a fast run up.
The X-step does not need to be done as fast or as hard as you possibly can. Think about some of the top women you have seen throw. Rarely are they running full speed into an X-step. Play around with how fast you feel comfortable doing the steps and also how big you feel making the steps, and eventually you will find something that works for you. Hope this helps!
Val’s Run-Up/ Photos by Leah Taylor