5 Alternatives to the Rondo

By Sam Wilkinson |

I have never seen great value in using Rondo's. To clarify, when I refer to a "Rondo" I am talking about the classic 7v2 type "piggy in the middle" practice. I am fully aware that many pro clubs use them and many top coaches believe they have great value. But in my opinion, greater outcomes can be achieved by adding more realism to the traditional Rondo.

I believe Rondo's have the following limitations:

  • Lack of direction - no backwards and forwards etc.

  • Limited decision making - 1-2 touch.

  • Limited passing and support play options - players stood side by side.

  • Unrealistic passing distances - mainly 1-2 yards passes.

  • Limited transitions - practice stops every time a defender wins the ball.

  • Little impact on awareness - no player movement = no need to scan with eyes.

Practice design often invovles "trading off" elements of the real game in order to achieve a particular theme or outcome. In my opinion, the Rondo doesn't achieve enough realistic outcomes to justify the amount of "trade offs" it has. The best coaches I have worked with have all preached the importance of delivering practices that fit into your playing style and development plan. I believe delivering a practice purely because there is a video of Barcelona doing it on YouTube is not a justifiable reason.

Here are 5 alternatives to the Rondo that I think incorporate greater levels of practical realism while maintaining similar levels of simplicity. These are sessions that I have observed, stolen, tweaked and altered from coaches I've been lucky enough to work with.

1. Linkage | Skill Practice

The closest practice to the Rondo in terms of layout and design. By splitting the grid in half and adding a constraint to the defenders it provides more direction, more decision making and more emphasis on support play.

2. Linkage | Skill Practice #2

I stole this off Aaron Danks. Similar in design to practice 1 but with a greater emphasis on transition through the use of 3 teams.

3. Linkage | Thirds Practice

An extension of the first 2 practices and a simple introduction to the "thirds" concept. With greater opportunities for movement and rotation off the ball, this practice also provides an introduction the concept of "overloading"

4. Slide Passes | Thirds Practice

A further extension of practice 3. By leaving the top third free it creates space "in behind" for the players to exploit without losing the tempo and chaos of a typical tight area possession practice.

5. Staying with the ball | Skill Practice

This is a staple practice of the Premier Skills - Practice Play methodology. While it does lose a bit of direction and transition it is an outstandingly simple practice to develop twisting and turning, ball protection and quick support play.

I know many coaches are huge fans of the Rondo and will have reasons for using it as a practice. But for me, it has never fitted into my ideas and beliefs around practice design. If you see any value in the alternative practices I have suggested - please feel free to steel, tweak or alter them for yourselves.

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