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The Science of Rondo “Progressions, Variations & Transitions”
By Marcus Dibernardo
I was introduced to rondo some twenty years ago as a player, however no one told me it was called “rondo” nor did they explain the objectives of the game.
At the time there were actually coaches preaching what an unrealistic training exercise rondo was. They believed it taught the direct opposite of what you want your players to do because after passing the player stood still—it did not teach movement off the ball.
In college we played rondo once a in a great while and only as a fun activity before training actually started. There was no intensity level or understanding of its real purpose. To us it was just a keep away game with no real purpose.
Now, twenty-three years later, as a seasoned head coach I have a totally new appreciation and understanding of rondo, which I’d like to share with you! Let’s start off with a few quotes from famous players who used rondo to develop into some of the world’s best players.
“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 (Legendary player for FC Barcelona and Holland)
“It’s all about rondos. Rondo, rondo, rondo. Every single day. It’s the best exercise there is. You learn responsibility and not to lose the ball. If you lose the ball, you go in the middle. Pum-pumpum-pum, always one touch. If you go in the middle, it’s humiliating, the rest applaud and laugh at you.”
Rondos develop players in the following ways:
Decision Making & Number of Touches: Players need to think very quickly in rondo as the ball can move very fast. Being a step ahead and having good vision is required to maintain possession. The number of touches a player gets in rondo is high. In a typical 11 v 11 game players touch the ball between 20 and 40 times. In rondo they can have the same number of touches in 5 minutes. The more meaningful touches, the more a player will improve.
Technique, Mobility & Agility: In order to keep possession the players must have a good level of technical ability. Pep Guardiola the former FC Barcelona Coach would talk about playing on the edge your technical ability, while still maintaining possession with solid technique. The faster the ball moves in rondo the faster the players need to execute. This includes being balanced, mobile, quick, agile, technical and making quick decisions.
Teamwork and Collective Understanding: Rondo is not an individual game. It requires teamwork to possess the ball. It also requires teamwork of the defending players to win the ball back therefore; the understanding between the players is enhanced as they begin to work as one unit.
Problem Solving & Creativity: Problem solving in soccer is the name of the game! Can players find solutions to break down the opposition’s defense? Rondo tests the player’s ability to problem solve the entire time. Being creative can often help break down a defense.
Competition: Rondo is an enjoyable fun environment that creates an atmosphere of healthy competition. Competition pushes players to train at higher intensities and elevate their game.