Wingers need to be good at taking players one-on-one, crossing the ball and scoring. There are many football winger training drills that focus on these individual skills. However, depending on the formation used by your team, wingers can become an extra defender. The later scenario requires high levels of stamina and a good balance of defensive and attacking skills. The Swimming Lanes drill is specifically designed to simulate this scenario and involve the whole team.
Although the exercise is designed for 5 players each side, the pitch should be as big as a 7-a-side field. This size provides more running space for the wingers. You could create a bigger pitch for more players by adding more interior zones. However, a big number of players will distract from the main objective of the drill that is training your wingers.
The main objective of this drill is to practice defense and attack using your wings. The basic rules of the game are:
- 2 teams of 5 players.
- 2 players per zone.
- Players must stay in their zones.
- Only 3 touches are allowed (e.g.: 1 touch to control the ball, 1 touch to change direction and 1 touch to pass the ball).
- Players can only pass the ball to a contiguous zone (defenders can’t hoof the ball to attackers).
- Only wingers and attackers can score.
There are some variations to this game that you may want to consider. Often a conflict between teams is that a player stays in front of the small goal all the time, so a variation is to delimit an area around the goal where nobody can step in. Another interesting variation is to allow unlimited touches of the ball to the team that scores. The opposition must score to reestablish limited touches and score again to gain unlimited touches.
Be creative and add your own rules.
Lessons to be learned
While other football winger training drills are designed to improve individual skills (e.g.: crossing and shooting), this exercise develops the team game when using wingers.
- Passing. Since limited touches are allowed, players need to circulate the ball around and in the process improving their passing technique.
- Finishing. Because the game is played with small goals, it encourages clinical finish.
- Playing as a team. Although individual skills play a part in the game, limiting the time players can hold the ball forces everyone to play as a team.
- Players positioning. Players are forced to stay in their zone but still have to intercept passes or offer options to a teammate with control of the ball.
- Wingers stamina. This exercise is extremely intense for wingers. They are running all the time, either to defend or to attack.
- Playing with wingers. The whole team needs to understand the role of the wingers. Midfielders and defenders need to know when to pass the ball to an empty space for the winger to run after it. Attackers need to be ready to receive crosses from wingers. Defenders can rely on the winger to come back to assist on defense. And many other variants.
Other fun training drills
There are plenty of fun drills that will help your team to work as a unit. We will add more games to the list below as we post them in our blog.