Rondo: A simple practice game with multiple benefits

“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

Definition of “rondo”: A game where one group of players has the ball while in numerical superiority (3v1, 5v2, 5v5+2 etc …) over another group of players. The basic objective of the group in numerical superiority is to keep possession of the ball while the objective of the group in numerical inferiority is to win the ball back.

Rondos differ from other possession games in that the rondo is a game where the players occupy a preset space as opposed to a more random space. Positional games are games where players occupy spaces similar to those in the regular game e.g., outside back, center back, center midfield etc. …

Rondos help develop the following areas1:

COGNITIVE. In rondos, the player is constantly perceiving and making decisions with respect to his teammates, opponents, position of the ball, etc. … For this reason the capacity to make the correct decisions and the speed of play are improved.

TECHNICAL COORDINATION. Due to the way that the rondo is set up, it is necessary to have control of the physical movements and technical skills with respect to time and space, the game, the ball and opponents.

Clockwise from top left: 5v2, 4v4+3 neutrals, 5v5+2 neutrals, 6v2 mini-square (point for passing through the grid).

TEAM BUILDING. (mini-societies) With the type of work done in rondos, the understanding between teammates is improved, and the sense of “team” is also built.

CREATIVITY AND EXPRESSION. The nature of the rondo, with its limited time and space, forces the players to use various technical and tactical abilities in order to solve constantly changing problems within the game. This helps develop creativity.

COMPETITIVENESS. In the development of the rondo, the player’s competitive nature is improved. Players have to fight to make space, learn how to counteract marking and how to win the ball back. Nobody wants to be the one making the mistake which leads to time in the middle.

PHYSICAL CONDITIONING. With rondos a team may work anaerobic resistance by varying the space, time and number of players involved.

(Stan Baker is a licensed coach with ATFA -- Asociacion de Tecnicos del Futbol Argentino, educator and author. This was excerpted from “Our Competition is the World: Ideas for implementing the United States Soccer Curriculum.” By Stan Baker 378 pages, 2012. Lulu Publishing. $22.99. It previously appeared in the Youth Soccer Insider in 2017. Baker is also an ambassador for and represents

1 “El juego del rondo y su aplicación práctica al entrenamiento de equipos de fútbol de alto rendimiento” By Alberto Martín Barrero and Francisco Ignacio Martínez Cabrera. Faculty of Sport: Pablo de Olavide University, Spain).

14 comments about "Rondo: A simple practice game with multiple benefits".
  1. R2 Dad, October 22, 2019 at 7:37 p.m.

    "Rondo...right! We use it to warm up before practice"....said every American soccer coach, ever.

  2. Bob Ashpole, October 22, 2019 at 8:08 p.m.

    Decades ago, people referred to rondos as a static circle of players with a "monkey or two" playing keepaway. Not something I was impressed with even as a warmup.

    My youth trainings sessions featured unbalanced small-sided keep-away games to teach fundamentals, especially the principles of play.

    Fast forward 20 years and I discover that rondo is simply a Spanish word for small sided games, although it has come to specifically refer to unbalanced keep-away games specifically. I believe it is a colloquialism as it is also musical term referring to a "round." ("Row, Row, Row Your Boat" is an example.)  

  3. frank schoon, October 23, 2019 at 9:03 a.m.

    The quote made by Johan Cruyff refers 4v2 which is played  in a square using a diamond formation. Cruyff stated that if you can play this 4v2 game then you can play soccer. This Rondo as shown in this article as seen in this video is not what Cruyff was talking about. The 4v2 rondo game is played and introduced to the Ajax youth beginning at the age of 10 years old. In Amsterdam, the old guard,former ,retired Ajax players meet twice a week playing this 4v2 for the past 50 years, it's become an institution.; currently  you can find  them playing at the Zeeburgia soccer club. I had fully described this game 2years ago in one of my comments, if anyone is interested, I would more than willing to discuss it again and how the 4v2 relates to the overal tactical system of 4-3-3 to anyone who is interested.

    There is great anecdote about 4v2 and Cruyff when in his last year, he left Ajax to play for its nemises Feyenoord of Rotterdam. As he came to the first Feyenoord practice session he noticed them playing 4v2. Cruyff told them ,"you're doing it all wrong!". The players didn't take this criticism kindly from "Mr. Know it all from Ajax",as he is known, especially when he does know it all, just about. There were 4 cones making the rectangle and by each cone was a player and in the middle were the 2 defenders. He stated, the 4 players are positioned wrong, instead of standing next to the cone ,they should position between the cones, which allows for movement off the ball. In other words you have a moving diamond, length and breathway. The diamond formation is much more efficient than a square formation. The diamond formation allows for 3rd man movement off the ball.
    Another anecdote about Cruyff at Feyenoord was when he and another Feyenoord player were jogging around the track. In the interview, the Feyenoord player, stated to Cruyff " You really think you know it all, don't you". Cruyff turned to him in a cocky,self-assured manner, and stated 'Yeah'.
    Cruyff, pointed to a ball laying on the field about 30 meters from the goal, he stated to the Feyenoord player, "You see that ball over there ,well I'm going to kick it and let it land on top of the crossbar not against front end but on top of the bar. Cruyff proceeds to run to the ball ,kicks it and lets it land on top of the cross bar. The Feyenoord player described Cruyff with this grin looking at me as he came back. The Feyenoord player in the interview stated, "You have to respect that" 

  4. frank schoon, October 23, 2019 at 10:20 a.m.

    When Cruyff became coach of Ajax, it was asked of the players like Frank Rykaard, Marco van Basten, Vanenburg and others what is really the difference between Cruyff's training sessions as compared to the previous coach Aad de Mos. They stated the training sessions were really no different but the difference lies in that Cruyff can see and notices all the mistakes, before you have the ball, or when you have the ball or when you release the ball. In that sense "we learn so much more".
    That is the problem with Rondo,  the COACHES DON'T SEE THE MISTAKES, you have to have a good eye and feel for that and have played it for a long time. The inner details is something that is not taught at the FA coaching school  of any country for the instructors are simply not competent or good enough to teach this, and YOU WON'T LEARN THIS OUT OF A BOOK. Cruyff would sometimes join in one of those rondos, and would pass the ball to you but in a manner you can't do anything when the ball comes because you have place the weight on the wrong foot. He sees what you're thinking, or not thinking,rather, by how your body is balanced or stands.

    I had wished so much before Cruyff had passed away for him to do a Youtube instructional video whereby he teaches the 'insight' details of positioning off the ball, including all the various details aspects that go with it. I remember, when I was with him and his brother, Hennie going to their, mom's, saying to me, "these coaches know nothing", he had little respect for them... 
    I wish Tonnie Bruins Slot, Cruyff's assistant coach for so many years, who knows all the inner details that Cruyff knew about the game , to write a book about his experiences with him. Bruins Slot once stated before playing an opponent they go through various factors preparing for the opponents. Bruins Slot stated he himself could come up with a little over 100 details which is pretty good but stated Johan could enumerate well over 200, for he has such an eye for detail.

  5. frank schoon, October 23, 2019 at 10:49 a.m.

    This video you see here is useless, PERIOD. It looks exciting to the fans, and the coaches who unfortunately take it home , copy it and making their players do it. Have you seen any games where you play, pass and positioned like that. It is fun to do but as you notice there is no off the ball movement, or any semblance of reality to the game. Soccer is positioning off the ball and ball movement. Yes, there is ball movement in this video , if you want to call it that, but that's about it; little thinking but only reactions
    The only element is quick ball movement just getting rid of it before you lose it but that does not imply solving the solution to a problem. For example , how often do you see square passes in the backfield, which solves no problem because one the player are not technically capable to make a pass bypassing the nearest station in order to create a 3rd man off the ball; or the position off the ball of the other players are incorrect....THIS IS WHY YOU SEE SO MANY SQUARE  AND RETURN PASSES THAT DO NOT CREATE A SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM as due to a lack of good positioning or  technique...

    I would recommend a coach to see how good his/her team in playing keep away. Make a big square, 20x20 steps, place the whole team in there 10-15players and use only 4 players in trying to get the ball, no restrictions on passing or dribbling. See how long they can keep the ball, and you'll be surprised how fast these 4 will get the ball. As the team improves, begin to place restrictions 1-3 touches or whatever or you can't pass back to the same player or make the field bigger or smaller. 
    Barcelona would place the whole team in the center circle and play keep away....
    Or when making a circle with a couple in the middle, place restriction not allowing to pass to the player next to you.

  6. Goal Goal, October 23, 2019 at 2:24 p.m.

    Wait until it rains and use the old leather ball and see how well they do.

  7. frank schoon replied, October 23, 2019 at 2:29 p.m.

    RW, they were great balls for dry weather,though

  8. Goal Goal, October 23, 2019 at 4:08 p.m.

    Then they turned into a rolling brick with mercy for no one.

  9. Bob Ashpole, October 23, 2019 at 6:15 p.m.

    People under 40 have no idea what we are talking about.

  10. Goal Goal replied, October 23, 2019 at 7:53 p.m.

    Lol BA and don’t care.  Leaving now have to go take a couple excedren 

  11. Toby Rappolt, October 24, 2019 at 2:33 a.m.

    Isn't there currently a controversy regarding the use of direction Rondos as advocated by US Soccer and non-directional Rondos as advocated by such people as Todd Beane?

    See Tovo Blog- Rondos are the Tip of the Iceberg

  12. frank schoon replied, October 24, 2019 at 9:21 a.m.

    Toby, I had no idea about this controversy...looked up the twitter, i can't believe the stupid and uninformed people who run the USSF. 
    US Soccer finds no value in rondo tells you what I believe all along that the US coaching school is  a joke , not the school itself, but those who instruct and teach there who promulgate what is best for you to learn, have no idea.

  13. Bob Ashpole replied, October 24, 2019 at 10:57 a.m.

    I don't know about the A and B course, but the lower courses are not taught by the USSF people who determine what doctrine to sell to coaches. The instructors I have met in two states were excellent. They are loyal to the USSF doctrine (as you may imagine the dumbest parts get a lot of pushback from the candidates), but somehow manage to pass on what they know about coaching despite the USSF "doctrine".

    As for the A and B courses, my belief is that the people who determine what doctrine to sell to coaches, don't instruct there either.

    Bottom line, don't blame the messenger for the message.

    As for "directional" vs. "non-directional" what idiot says that you can't do both? Rondo is just a Spanish term for a small sided keepaway game. I used "non-directional" games extensively, but never without a similar game to goals following.

    I suppose somewhere there is a coach who only uses "non-direction" games for all his players at his sessions. He is probably in the same club with the coach who has all his players spend 100% of every practice session on juggling. I, however, have never met either of them.

  14. frank schoon replied, October 24, 2019 at 1:12 p.m.

    This is what happens when people who have never played at a high or highest level of the game deciding what is supposedly is good and what is not good ,as if they know . And these types are all basically found in the organizational part of soccer rather than in the deep technical qualification of the game....And this why Cruyff is so staunch against licensed coaches training kids, he prefers good players or ex-players to work with kids. In the beginning stages kids don't need to hear, this is not good, don't do this for  we know better from these types of coaches when ,in fact they don't know better of Rondo just bears this out brilliantly. 

    What willl be next, proclaiming tennis soccer , foot volley soccer is not good for it doesn't reflect real soccer....In my days when kids greatest technical skills by doing ,doing, in free non-judgemental environment and were definitely not accosted by some klutz with a license who thinks he knows the game.

    Alfredo Di Stefano credited his quickness, reaction  by playing with a rugby ball or not a perfectly round ball. I played at times chasing a rubber soccer ball that was sliced in half, and you never knew which direction it would turn all of sudden ...I suppose that would be seen in a negative light by US Soccer for it has nothing to do with the game. I'm glad I didn't develop playing soccer with these types of Idiots telling what you should or shouldn't do or what is better for you...

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