Xavi said "rondo, rondo, rondo every day". What is Rondo? In simple terms, it is a group of players in an overload advantage versus another group trying to keep possession. Usually this is conducted in a circle or grid as a 3v1, 4v2, 5v2. It can be a somewhat lazy, mindless warm-up before training or it can be a fun, purposeful training activity that can improve our players...just ask RFEF (The Royal Spanish Football Federation). So, what can you do with Rondo? It is not just 1 or 2 defenders trying to get out of the middle and players simple knocking the ball without much meaning? Here are a few ideas that bring Rondo to life for your team.
Rondo can be used to improve spatial awareness, vision, creativity. It can reinforce the idea of recognizing an "overload" and play to the strength of this or play away from pressure. Challenge the players to train on their edge and be more competitive to stay out of the middle, if you are working on attacking principles. The exercise can certainly be used to focus on defending in pairs or units of players too. If played with quickness, balance, and agility, it can bring out the most important aspects of decision making and problem solving, while developing fitness, which are vital to players. The more defenders you add, the more thinking and more tactical decisions have to be made by the player in possession.
There are so many ways to layer in challenges and complexities and cognitive training aspects into Rondo, only limited by your imagination and willingness to experiment. You can ask players to follow their pass, which creates a dynamic game. Ask players for constant movement or just 1 touch, 2 touch or 3 touch. With 3 touch you are creating a situation for the player to make constant decisions on first touch, direction, and field awareness.
You can introduce colored pinnies and challenge the players to concentrate on sequence passing. Ask players to do a push up after a pass, which temporarily eliminates that option and forces players to scan the field for another open player.
Players need to see layers of options and learn how to possess against defenders. The three variations are first line break/pass, second line break/pass (bypassing the closest attacker or going around the defender to the next player), and third line/ split pass. This is key to the movement of the ball amongst the unit of players and the tactical cues needed to successfully dominate defenders.
Rondo is an exercise that can begin to simulate game situations if played with speed and purpose. Set up two to four grids and ask players to move the rondo possession from grid to grid based on number of passes. Introduce defenders into the grids from different directions. This forces the players with the ball to be aware of where the pressure is coming from and play away with a good first touch. This element of transition begins to expose players to quick thinking in small spaces. You could group units of players together so backs or midfielders have to work together. Set up correctly, you can introduce systems of play such as a 4-3-3 and train how the ball works thru the players with midfield pressure.
If you watch Bayern Munich or similar teams play rondo, pay attention to the rhythm and tempo, not just the visual picture but the sound of the ball. You will begin to hear a deliberate cadence. Soccer is so much about rhythm in a game. Ask your players to work with a metronome or music. Can they pass on cue? Short, short, long. How about left, right, left. It is a fun way to get attackers in sync.
One can layer in various types of touches. First player one touch, second player two touch, third player three touch, next player one touch and so on. This really begins to challenge players to concentrate and keep track of things, all the while paying attention to the defenders. The more we can get our players to take in multiple bits of information and filter out the right decision, the smoother and easier the game becomes.
You could introduce two balls or different color balls or ball sizes. Assign specific touches to the additional balls, again to make players concentrate during the rondo. Have player toss a tennis ball to open players while still using a soccer ball and defenders. This is building the brain connections that increase the speed of thought and ability to take in information, decipher the important stuff and make a proper decision. The Club has a short book by a great coach with rondo training sessions, if you’re interested. I encourage you to use Rondo with purpose and meaning. The technical, tactical, physical, and psychosocial benefits are endless. Just ask a world class player from Spain like Xavi!
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 207.462.0246.
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