A rondo is a keep away style drill where one team with numerical superiority tries to keep possession of the ball while the other team tries to take the ball away. It's a very popular style of drill at pretty much all levels from grassroots to professional because the skills players work on during a rondo are very applicable to what happens in game situations. Johan Cruyff the dutch football legend may have said it best:
‘Everything that goes on in a match, except shooting, you can do in a rondo. The competitive aspect, fighting to make space, what to do when in possession and what to do when you haven’t got the ball, how to play ‘one touch’ soccer, how to counteract the tight marking and how to win the ball back’ -Johan Cruyff
A rondo in perhaps it's most basic form looks something like a 4v2 keep away where four players in a circle have the ball against two defenders in the middle. If a defender wins the ball, they swap places with the player who lost it.
With that being said, there are an endless number of variations coaches can use to reap the benefits of rondos while encorporating other skills, emphasizing different aspects, and creating fun challenges. In this article we will take a look at 7 of the best rondo ideas to inspire your next training session and help your players improve their reactions, touch, and much more!
Escape the rondo is the most basic rondo variation on this list out of the 7 due to the fact that it is the drill that most closely resembles the standard 4v2 rondo. However, there is a little twist. In this variation, if the defense wins the ball they have to dribble outside of the grid in order to get out of the middle.
This drill places an emphasis on the attacking team closing down quickly as soon as they lose the ball to prevent the players in the middle from escaping. Transitions in a match can have a huge impact and lead to goal scoring opportunities so this is a great way to ensure that your players are ready for when the ball changes hands.
The rondo pressure drill is a rondo variation with two teams competing against each other. When the ball is on one side, the team on the opposite side sends players over to defend and apply pressure. When the ball is lost the coach plays a new ball out to the opposite side.
This drill stokes a sense of competition amongst your players as the two teams see who can complete the most passes in a row.
If you'd like to incorporate fininshing with a rondo drill, then rondo to attack is the perfect rondo drill to work on both. In this variation players try to complete a minimum number of passes during the rondo portion, then once they've accomplished this they can go forward and try to score.
Two teams against one is a very easy variation to set up, all you need is a playing area, a ball, and three teams of players. But don't let it's simplicity fool you, two teams against one can get quite competetive!
In this drill the three teams take turns playing defence in the middle. Each team is in the middle for a specific amount of time. The teams that manage to complete the highest number of consecutive passes in a row while they are teamed up on offense win. No team wants to be the team in the middle that gives up the most passes!
Using the spaced out rondo is a great way to help players work on staying spread out on offense while providing good passing angles to their teammates.
In this variation the playing area is divided into zones which can only be occupied by one offensive player at a time. Meanwhile, the defensive players can apply pressure wherever they want.
If the defensive players win the ball, they play keep away against the attacker in the zone where they won it.
The three team possession drill is a fun and competitive rondo variation played with three teams. Essentially the team in the middle sends two players to apply pressure on the ball while the teams on the outside look to complete a minimum number of passes and send the ball over to the other side for a point.
If the team that has the ball on the side loses possession or the ball goes out of play, the team in the middle takes their place and they become the new defending team in the middle. This game can get extremely competitive and is usually a hit amongst players.
Find the killer pass is an excellent drill to teach players to move the ball as a team and execute penetrating passes into dangerous areas. It basically starts out as a large scale rondo where once a team completes a minimum number of passes, they can earn a point by playing a pass through the square in the middle.
To succeed in this game players need to learn to be patient and pick and choose the right opporunity to try to earn a point.
As a coach it's always important to adjust and adapt you exercises so that they are most effective for the age and skill level of your players. The right level of difficulty should pose a challenge but still allow players to succeed. Here are a few ideas to adjust the difficulty of these rondo drills variations:
1. Consider the size of the space
A larger playing area will give players more space to work with and thus more time to think when the ball comes to them. Tight spaces force players to think more quickly as pressure is likely to arrive much sooner when the spaces are small.
2. Adjust the number of attackers and defenders
All of the rondo variations in this article can be used with different numbers of players. As a coach you have the ability to tweak the exercises to provide the right level of challenge. Obviously more defenders makes it hard for the team in possession to keep control of the ball.
3. Usage of neutral or 'all-time-offense' players
In many instances coaches can ease the pressure on the team in possession by adding neutral players to support in the attack. Using neutral players increases a team's numerical advantage when they have the ball making it easier for them to keep possession. For example 3v3 with 2 neutrals becomes 5v3 for whichever team has the ball.
4. Minimum passing and time in possession requirements
Many of the exercises in this article require players to complete a minimum number of passes in a row or hold on to the ball for a specified amount of time before performing some action for a point. A coach can easily vary a drill's level of difficulty by adjusting these requirements. For example, it's much harder for a team to complete 8 passes in a row than 4 passes in a row.
5. Restricting number of touches
In some situations putting a touch restriction on players can require them to think more quickly. When players can only take one or two touches this makes an exercise more difficult and the players have to know where they are going to go with the ball before it comes to them.