How-To Train Your Team to Start Controlling Games and Play with Confidence
If you want your team to start controlling games, playing beautiful, purposeful soccer then there is one type of training you should be looking to implement in your practices.
It the same method teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich implement within their academies from a very young age and same method that’s allowed coaches such as Pep Guardiola to dominate Europe’s top Leagues.
What am I talking about?
What Are Soccer Rondo’s?
Soccer Rondo’s are drills where one team has possession of the ball with a numerical advantage (AKA: an overload advantage) over the other team.
The basic aim of Rondo drills are: The team who has the player advantage keeps possession of the ball while the team with fewer players tries to win the ball.
A Rondo drill is usually delivered and practiced within a box, grid or circle setup where size of the area can change depending on the skill level of the players.back to menu ↑
The 3 Most Important Techniques to Focus On
Being able to successfully develop your players in Rondo situations is going to require you develop 3 key areas on the technical side of their game; passing, receiving and control.
You’ll need to coach ALL 3 areas in order for your players to successfully transfer their Rondo’s from the training field to real-game scenarios.back to menu ↑
The 3 Types of Passes You Need to Know
There are three types of passes Rondo drill focus on:
- 1st Line Pass: The pass made to the nearest player
- 2nd Line Pass: The pass made to the second nearest player (bypassing the first player)
- 3rd Line Pass: The pass made through the line of defense. AKA: The Killer Pass
Here’s a diagram I made with Soccer Tutors Tactics Manager that explain each pass…
back to menu ↑
8 Reasons To Use Soccer Rondo’s
Rondo’s Can Develop Accurate Passing – at Speed
Rondo Soccer Drills almost always focus on short, 1 and 2 touch passing. This means the players must train and develop their short passing game while taking a minimum amount of touches as possible.
Rondos Develop Teamwork
In order for Rondos to be successful – it requires 3 or more players to work together to keep possession of the ball.
They Develop ABC’s
This one’s big – especially for your younger players. Rondo’s can help develop; Agility, Balance and Co-ordination. Foundational based skills that are vital in playing soccer.
Helps Develop Vision
As Rondo’s focus primarily on 3 passes; the 1st, 2nd and 3rd line pass – players need to be actively looking to exploit the space for each pass. The 3rd line specifically, requires the player to not only have the skill to make the pass but the vision to see the pass in the first place.
Rondo’s Develop Mental Endurance
Rondos are played in small spaces which force players to make the right decisions faster, while staying aware of the positions of their own team and the opposition’s players.
Because multiple decisions are made in such small space of time the chance of decision fatigue kicking in is greatly increased. Developing a resistance to decision fatigue over time can have a huge positive effect on your players not only in Rondo situations but in other areas of their game.
Rondos Give Players Control
By completing a successful Rondo your players can control the rhythm and tempo of play. It can also encourage players to be more self-expressive and creative.
Learning to Keep Possession
Rondo’s are the perfect supplement to any possession based practice.
Finally, Rondos encourage game competitiveness.
back to menu ↑
The #1 Problem With Rondo’s Nobody Ever Mentions…
There is of course 1 issue with Rondo’s that’s important you understand – especially if you coach young players.
It’s also something you won’t see mentioned anywhere else but, it’s important you don’t ride into the sunset, close your mind off to other training methods and believe Rondo’s are the Holy Grail of soccer coaching.
Here’s the biggest issue that come with Rondo’s…
I first came across this when I was on a training course in London a few years ago.
After one of the guys in our group delivered a pretty decent possession drill, the Head Coach and tutor on the day asked us one simple question…
‘What was wrong with that session?’
We all sat there in slight bemusement.
I mean it was delivered with all the relevant coaching points, all delivered in a logical fashion while while staying on-time, on topic. The equipment setup was just right and for what it’s worth….
A few of us put our hands up and gave some half-baked reasons to the ‘problems’ we saw only to be all met with the same answer. But we kept getting the same response…
We were out of ideas. What was wrong with the session?
The Head Coach went onto explain…
‘You see, while possession drills and games are an important part of coaching young players, drills that involve themes such as; piggy in the middle or keep ball that require the player who lost the ball to go into the middle are actually stunting the development of that player’
In other words: We are ‘punishing’ our players for making a mistake.
Now this isn’t about moddy-coddling our players – because I don’t think that’s a good coaching strategy either. But, it is about understanding the psychology of your players and having a basic understanding of how skill development works.
By getting the player who lost possession of the ball to go into the middle and swap with another player, you are missing a vital moment in which you can coach that young player, in that moment where they will be most responsive to your coaching.
While these types of drill conditions can work well for professionals at the top of their game it can have huge negative effects on your young players.
So does this mean you should get rid of these types of drill conditions completely?
Of course not.
But, it is something you should keep in mind when planning your sessions.
The only way a player is going to stop making mistakes is through repetition, learning from those mistakes and by being given the right conditions to improve on those mistakes.
It’s up to you as a coach to create the conditions to improve the chances of this happening.
back to menu ↑
Soccer Rondo Key Coaching Points
As with any soccer drill topic you’re going to need to know the key coaching points to successfully guide your players through their skill development.
Here are a few to keep in mind but remember, while you are coaching your players as group, coaching points may change depending on the progression of each individual in your team:
- Stay on the balls of your feet
- Stay focused
- Speed of play
- Be ready to make quick decisions
- Focus on technique
- Work as a team
- Keep possession but remember possession alone does not win games
- Encourage each other
The Most Important Question to Ask Before You Start
What is the current skill level of your players?
It’s an important question to ask because the level they are at right now will determine the type of Rondo drill you will use.
If this is first time you have introduced Rondo’s to your players, or you players are young then you’ll need to start with a very basic Rondo setup. Once they start getting the hang of it then you’re free to start progressing them onto harder and more challenging setups.
If however, you’re players are well versed in possession soccer and can play at a better standard you’ll be able to introduce them to Rondo drills that require a higher standard of skill.
back to menu ↑
6 Rondo Soccer Drills to Use in Your Next Training Practice
Barcelona Rondo Warm Up
Johan Cruff was coined with first introducing the Rondo drill to Barcelona well before Pep Guardiola became a household name.
In this simple Rondo warm up drill the setup is basic:
- 1-2 players in the middle
- 6-8 players around the outside
- For younger players I’d recommend using cones / markers to help the outside players keep their shape
- Shape of outside players can take either a box or a circle formation
The players on the outside must keep possession of the ball while the player in the middle must try and win back the ball.
Again, you can introduce 2 players in the middle.
There are 2 ways to condition the drill:
- The person who loses the ball goes in the middle
- Each ‘possession play’ lasts 45 / 60 seconds before the middle player gets replaced
This drill requires a bit more physical effort from your players. It’s a great drill that you can use to improve fitness, energy and overall endurance levels as play transitions from attack to defense.
To setup the drill up place two teams in either side of your pitch. Aim for anywhere between 5-7 players in each tea.
The drill starts with one player / Coach playing the ball into one of the teams. 2 players from the other team immediately leave their area and start to apply pressure on the ball.
If the defenders win the ball, they can play back to their team and return to support. 2 players from the team who have just lost the ball then go into the oppositions area to try and win the ball back.
Rondo First to Score
This a great rondo drill that can be used and progressed into other topics of play.
- Setup two boxed off areas at one end
- Place 2 small portable soccer goals at the side of each area
- And at the opposite end place a keeper in goal
- Outside each box, place 3 balls
- This drill works best in a 5v1 overload
The teams start play by the attacking team keeping possession of the ball. Once the reach a certain number of passes, the attacker who ends up with the ball on the last pass then must try and score in one of the smaller goals.
The defender is still active at this point and can stop the attacker from scoring.
If the attacker scores, they are free to leave the area, take one of the 3 balls and take a shot on goal.
If the defender wins the ball, the attacking team must start their possession objective again.
The team who score all three of their balls first are the winners.
Pep Guardiola Rondo
This rondo soccer drill plays on the philosophy of Pep Guardiola. To setup:
- Mark out 2 areas; 1 large area and one smaller box in the center
- In this example I’ve gone with a 8v4 but you could also have 7v2, 5v3 and any other overload you think might benefit your players.
The aim of the drill is for the attacking team in possession to retain possession while passing and moving.
To score a point, one player from the attacking team must play the ball into the center box for another player on their team to control it.
The conditions you can put on this drill include:
- A set number of passes before they can pass the ball into the center
- Place small goals on the outside and if the defending team wins the ball they are allowed to counter attack and score
- Use a 3 sided goal like the one in this drill instead of a boxed off area
Other Possession & Overload Drills You Can Use…
These drills are only scratching the surface where Rondos are concerned. But they should be able to get your started.
I’ve also compiled a whole host of other possession and overload type drills you can find here: