I’ve used the 7 gates drill in a variety of different environments. In the diagram above, the team is divided into groups of 3. I’ve also used this with younger players as individuals. The basic idea is that the players have to perform an activity at each gate.
With my youngers, I will use the gates as a series of technical progressions – dribble through each gate, do a toe-stop and go at each gate, do a pullback at each gate, and so on. I’ve incorporated 7-gates dribbling into my pre-game warmups.
With older teams, I will use this as a timed activity – pass through as many gates as possible within a time limit, count the number of gates. A typical time is 60 or 90 seconds.
I’ll also scale the distance between gates based on the age/ability of the team. With youngers, I’ll space the gates sized to their field. With the olders, the gates may be 20-25 yds apart.
The positioning of the gates reflects target spaces on the field in games – entry passes into the attacking half, crossing positions wide and central, spaces in front of goal.
When the gates are used as a passing activity – generally I use groups of at least 3 – I encourage the players to make their pass and immediately move to the next gate in their sequence – to encourage 3rd man runs. Players receiving the ball should take their first touch toward the next gate where a teammate is prepared to receive.
When teams are first exposed to this drill, the tendency is for the player receiving the ball from a gate to make a lot of dribbles before passing. My correction is that this slows down the game – take a touch or two to prepare a pass, then send it.
A key to the passing version is that the passes need to be played with pace to the correct (lead) foot. Passes that are wildly off target (getting past the receiver) kill the drill – the team has to track down the ball and restart.
Another consideration of the drill – whether used as a passing or dribbling activity – is that players/teams must be aware of the presence of other players. If not, they will either physically run into each other or their passes will bounce off other players, requiring time to recover.
The 7 gates is a great activity which can be scaled to age and ability levels and which also can be used as a metric to measure team improvements.