How to use “windows” drills

“Windows” drills are a particular type of exercise that I was taught in several different coaching clinics.  Each instructor had his own method of using them but the main idea was the same – a large circle of cones with half the players inside the cones and half outside the circle.  The players on the outside of the circle served the balls to a player on the inside. Those players on the interior of the circle had to perform some specific activity and then return the ball to the server (or to a different player other than the one who just served the ball to him) on the outside of the circle.  If the task was a header the ball would be headed back to the same person who served the ball.  On the other hand if the task was a trap and turn the player would look for a different person to return the ball to.

These are very active exercises and required good fitness. The drills lasted about two minutes each and then the players on the outside would swap with the players on the interior of the circle and perform the same activity. This allowed the players to rest while they are serving the balls so that they could perform at peak fitness when it was their turn to be inside the circle.

Windows drills can easily be adapted to any age group and are suitable to almost all ball skills.  The size of the circle depended upon the number of players involved, ages, and the type of activity performed as well as the players’ proficiency.

The term “windows” applies to the open spacing between the cones which served as the “windows” where the server stands. Most of the exercises specifically referred to by the instructors as “windows” exercises were passing and receiving drills.


The drills usually start with each of the players on the exterior with a ball. For example one would be a large circle (25 to 30 yards in diameter) with players on the outside of the circle with a ball and an equal number of players on the interior.

Players outside would toss a ball to a player inside the circle who would head it back. The interior player would then move and look for another outside (of the circle) player to toss them a ball.

These are continuous movement exercises. Most were similar where the player inside the circle had to perform some task (trap, pass, move, etc.) and then look for another outside person to pass to them.


  • Defensive Headers – clearing headers – up and away
  • Attacking Headers – down at servers’ feet
  • Pass on ground from server – one touch back to server and then look for a different server. Do right foot only for one minute and left foot only for one minute.
  • Pass on ground from server – receiver makes first touch away from pressure and then finds another open player (one without a ball” on the outside of the circle.
  • Chest traps
  •  Inside of foot volley back to server – often used on throw-ins to drop ball back to thrower – You can have the server use throw-in technique to serve the ball.  That will require a larger circle.
  • Volleys on laces back to server – use proper shooting technique

There are many more tasks that can be used.


  • Keep head up – the number of bodies inside the circle requires the players keep their heads up to avoid collision and, in some cases, to be sure that they are returning the ball to a player who does not already have a ball.
  • Change of speed – after performing the task and returning the ball to an outside player have the player move half-speed toward the opposite
  • Constant motion 
  • Good Technique – sloppy technique means that the balls go in wrong directions and the servers spend too much time chasing balls.  Since every player is supposed to bring their own ball there should be twice as many balls as needed.  Have servers put the extra ball behind them so that they can use it rather than chase an errant pass.
  • Proper weight on passes – one problem I often see in these drills is soft “hospital” passes
  • Proper distance – passes should be at least five yards – preferably more like ten yards as you would want in games.
  • Good serves from servers – serves for headers should be underhand at proper height and speed, etc.
  • Movement of players to ball rather than waiting for ball to come to them.


I remember one other drill a coach called a windows drill. He had a large circle lined with cones with spaces (windows) spaced periodically between some of the cones with four players inside and four outside the circle. There was also a cone in the very centre of the circle. In his drill it was both the exterior and interior players who had to move. The exterior players moved one direction (clockwise) until they came to an opening and there they passed to a player coming towards them from the cone. The interior player received the ball and returned the pass. The interior player then ran back touched the cone and moved in the opposite direction (counter-clockwise) and received a pass from the next player at the next opening.

He had lots of variations in the drills, number of players, both inside and outside moving the same and opposite direction, traps, headers, passes etc. The main difference was that both inside and outside players had to move so there was no chance for rest. It got sloppy pretty quick with out of shape coaches.
I preferred the drills that allowed one group to rest and just serve balls while the others worked on tactics. They wee still very intensive but the rest allowed the exercises to stay at full speed without falling apart. Two or three minutes performing a single task (i.e. chest traps and returns) was enough to tire you out quickly. I loved the rest period when I just got to serve the ball.