Stay in lane

Objective: To help young football players understand they don’t need to bunch round the ball.

Set-up: Mark out a 30×20 yards playing with a goal at each end.

The pitch is divided into three channels (lanes) running from one end line to the other with flat cones.

Play 3v3 to begin with and put one player from each team in each lane.

Goalkeepers are optional.

How to play:

  • Players can pass, tackle and dribble but they can’t go out of their channel.
  • If they leave their channel (even if it is just by stepping over the line), they concede a free kick where the infringement took place.
  • Swap the players to a new zone every two or three minutes.


1. After playing 3v3, widen the centre lane and play 4v4 (2v2 in the centre lane).

2. When playing 4v4, allow two players of each team to be in any lane at one time. If a third player from that team wants to enter that same lane, one of the two players from that team must leave the lane before he can enter it.

3. Set up three teams of four players. Two teams play “winner stays on”. (I play one goal wins the game).

When playing winner stay on, add these conditions for balls played out of bounds:

  • Balls kicked over the end line result in a corner kick or goal kicks in the usual way but balls kicked across the side line mean an automatic loss for team that last touched the ball.
  • This encourages the waiting team to stay alert and be ready to start playing as soon as the ball goes into touch.

4. Do not assign players to a specific zone. Instead, allow movement between zones provided at least one player from each team is in each zone.

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