The Science of Rondo: Progressions, Variations and Transitions

I finally finished my new book “The Science of Rondo”!  Here is a quick look inside.

Rondos develop a player’s speed of thought, speed of play, individual and collective ball retention capabilities, footwork, agility, soccer problem solving skills, team work and ability to create a rhythm or tempo of play. These are essential and critical skills in the game of soccer. Watch a full 11v11 game and see how many touches each player gets. Research indicates players will touch the ball 20-40 times in the course of a 90 minute game. Rondo can increase a player’s skill level quickly because they are put in realistic game-like situations over and over again in a small time frame. A player can touch the ball twenty to forty times in a 5 minute period playing rondo. The touches in rondo are meaning full touches as well; they require players to find solutions to high pressure defending situations that are game related and virtually non-stop. 

“The Science of Rondo” is the ultimate book for coaches who want their teams to develop by using rondo training. The book includes my personal rondo-training curriculum that I use with my team. It contains rondo variations, progressions and transitions. I show you how to combine rondos with passing patterns, fitness exercises and game related possession drills. If you want to understand rondo and rondo training methods, than this book is for you.

     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-pum-pum-pum, always one touch. If you go in the middle, it’s humiliating, the rest applaud and laugh at you.”   ~Xavi (One of the best midfielders in FC Barcelona and Spain’s history)

Rondo Defined:

     If I had to define “Rondo” it would be as follows:  Rondo is a training game in which the group who is possession has a numerical advantage.   Rondo can be as little as 3 v 1 to 10 v 2 over another group of players. The objective of the group in possession is to keep the ball away from the defenders, while the defenders objective is to win the ball.        

     Rondo is different than other possession drills because the players take up a pre-set space in the circle rather than roaming all over.  Many possession drills will have players move to spaces that relate more to the movements of a regular game.  However, some of the rondo variations do involve movements out of the pre-set typical rondo spaces.   


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.

Is Rondo An Overnight Fast Track to Success?

     It is very important to understand that Rondo does not build skill overnight.  In fact, the midfielder Xavi explains that the secret to rondo is not found out in one week, one month or one year.  You get more and more out of rondo the more you train rondo.  Players have to hit certain levels of skill to fully reap all the benefits of rondo and that can literally take years.  At FC Barcelona, players normally do between 1,500 and 1,800 hours of rondo between ages 6 to 20.  Deliberate practice states that 80% of the training should focus on 20% of the most important skills.  It is obvious that Barcelona places a very high value on rondo.  I understand that not many teams can play like Barcelona but the ability to possess the ball in tight spaces against high intensity opponents can be useful for any team.