Soccer Rondo Drills



“Rondo,” loosely translating as “round-about,” or as “lively movement” in music, is a term applied to a number of “keep-away” soccer practice training drills using uneven teams in a confined space. Although first introduced years ago, these drills have come into more favor recently in an age of fast, tight, inter-passing and possession-style play.

A 4 v 2 Soccer Rondo

A 4 v 2 Soccer Rondo

As an example, “classic” rondo may place eight offensive players around the circumference of a 10-yard circle, to try to complete as many consecutive passes to each other, while two defensive players in the middle try to take the ball away. Once a defender gets the ball, he goes to the outer ring and the player who lost the ball goes into the middle. Offensive players are required to maintain their relative location within the circle and are not to move more than a few feet while working with the ball. Defensive players may move anywhere within the circle.

This 8 v 2 activity goes well beyond any “4 v 2, find the open man” or other small-sided game where one team intentionally has more players than the other and there are usually small goals involved. There are no goals in rondo and, on its face, there may appear to be little movement on the part of the offensive players. Performed properly, however, the action in rondo can be very intense and the two players in the middle will work like mad to get out.

From the offensive perspective, fundamental skills are the first critical element of rondo. Players must be able to perform one- or two-touch passing quickly, using all parts of the body, with finesse and proper pace on the ball, in a very tight space. It is insufficient to just “get rid of the ball.” Possession is expected to be maintained. Accordingly, offensive players must find an open man and serve the ball to him in a way that he will have sufficient time and space to do the same for the next player. Potential recipients must continuously adjust their position to be available for a pass. This requires good vision, fast decisions, made in proper anticipation of what the defenders are going to do, agility, and mobility.

From the defensive perspective, fitness is the second critical element of rondo. Players in the middle must fight hard to win the ball. Teamwork with the partner is crucial, knowing when to tackle or when to provide support or when to mark an opponent. Circumstances must be adapted to immediately. Whether it involves poking, heading, blocking, sliding or any other form of tackling, quickness and determination are rewarded by intercepting the ball and switching to the circle.

There are many variations to rondo, including an entire progression of rondo-centered small-sided games. The classic version may go from 5 v 2 to 10 v 2. Passes may go to the closest player, to a teammate two or more players away, or to the opposite side by “splitting” the defenders. A “score” may be kept by counting the number of passes or by assigning points to the type of pass completed, usually with the most points being given for splitting defenders. More defenders can be added. Restrictions may be placed, such as one-touch, two-touch, heading, or passing only to players with a different-colored practice bib. The whole circle can be made to move in a certain direction. Two circles may be formed with players being instructed on how the circles are to interact. They may compete separately against each other or actually have to pass balls between them.


“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 (Dutch International)

Soccer Coaching Tips:

  • Start a rondo progression with no defenders; then add one defender, then another.
  • A ten-yard square grid, using four cones and placing two players per side may be used to establish a “circle.” Saucers may be used, but only if they are not being stepped on or otherwise getting in the way.
  • The size of the circle may be increased (with younger age groups) to improve the chances of success for the passers. As success is achieved, the size of the circle may be incrementally reduced.
  • See rondo videos on YouTube.
  • Advanced rondos can even involve a center player performing repeated slide tackles.

© Copyright, John C. Harves