What Is A Rondo?

A Rondo is a popular training practice, predominantly used at the start of sessions, that refers to playing 'keep ball' with a numerical superiority (e.g. 8v2).

The main focus of the game is to circulate the ball to maintain possession while the outnumbered opposition attempt to win the ball back.

It was the former Spanish player and coach Laureano Ruiz who has been credited with the invention of the Rondo, back in 1957, as he analysed patterns of play in football and designed practices to reproduce with his players. 

However, it was Johan Cryuff and the 'Barcelona Way' that popularised the Rondo as they sought to evolve the way they believed that football should be played.

Rondos differ from regular possession games, as the Rondo is a game where the players occupy a preset space, as opposed to various spaces within a possession game. Generally, you are static in a possessional sense, but moving around on the balls of your feet and reacting to the space and pass.

Why Use A Rondo?

There are many different ways in which a Rondo can be played. 

Some coaches use it for social reasons, and others may use it to help establish some patterns of play, but for individual players, a Rondo will allow them to develop:

  • One or two touch passes
  • Receiving 
  • Short passing
  • Passing lines
  • Improvisation
  • Good Habits
  • Communication
  • Pass appreciation (weight, accuracy, feet or space)
  • Disguise passes
  • Nearest player presses
  • Pressing together

Benefits Of Using A Rondo

Advantages

Brain Training: In Rondos, a player is constantly perceiving and making decisions based on the ball, the opposition and their teammates. For this reason, the capacity to make a split-second correct decision whilst on limited touches helps develop game intelligence and cognitive skills.

Technical Development: Being able to pass and receive in tight areas is fundamental to the practice and due to the fast nature in which the game is played, players should get lots of touches on the ball.

Social/Team cohesion: The laughing, joking and banter in this activity can help build relationships and team cohesion. Just make sure if it's you in the middle you keep your legs closed - nobody likes getting nutmegged!

Creativity: With limited space and time, players are sometimes forced to come up with alternative solutions to getting the ball to their required destination. 

Competition: It's a fun game against the opposition to try to accumulate as many passes as possible. Compare this to similar patterned practices and the Rondo is far more enjoyable due to its competitive element.

Disadvantages

Depending on the variation of the Rondo that you play, the outcome that you want to achieve will have benefits and trade-offs.

For example, in the traditional format of 8v2 in a circle, you may argue that this Rondo;

  • Lacks realism - no goals, no direction
  • No transitions - when the defenders win the ball the game stops
  • Lacks movement - the outside players don't have to move to support the player on the ball

However, all the above can be overcome with some tweaks.

Coaches should be aware of what outcomes they want and understand what each variation of the practice might not give them.

With the above in mind, the Rondo in its simplest form may not be appropriate for the youngest of players. At a time where the focus should be developing their ability to ‘stay on the ball’ combined with developing their physical literacy, the 8v2 practices do neither.

Coaching Considerations

Area size

The bigger the area, the more time you allow players to process the options available to them to make their decisions and execute them. If it becomes too easy, make the area smaller. If it’s too hard, make it bigger or adapt the task (see below re: touches). From a physical perspective, defenders may cover bigger distances so be aware of them getting tired quickly.

Small area Rondos really challenge the decision-making process. There is also a different physical outcome with reaction time, agility, acceleration and decelerations benefitting from smaller area work.

Changing the task

Many Rondos involve limited touches. Be conscious of those not quite ready to play one or two touch. Consider playing with the challenge ‘play with as few touches as possible’. This enables all players to work at their own level.

Changing the numbers

React to how easy or difficult the players find the task by increasing or decreasing the number of defenders.

Defensive responsibilities

Many Rondos have a focus on the team in possession. Consider the responsibilities of the team out of possession as they have many benefits:

Nearest player presses

  • Shut down, Slow down, Sit down, Stay Down, Show down
  • Angle and direction of press

Defending in pairs

  • Balance/Cover
  • Try not to get ‘split' (ball played between defenders)

Defending with 2+ players

  • Reacting to movement off the ball (go together, arrive together, stay together)

Rondo Practice Examples

Below is an example of simple Rondo practice you can try with your team.

Ben Garner explains more in the video about how and when to use this.

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Download Eight Example Rondo Practices

Rondo: Also Known As

  • Keep Ball
  • Possession Boxes 
  • Piggy
The Rondo
What is a Rondo?
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