Soccer Coaches - Master and Apprentice

Top Soccer Coach Gifts [Complete Guide 2024]

One of my mentors, a soccer coach, was having an “after-practice chat” with his players, playing at a U16 level. He asked them: “How do you get to have good teammates?”. Nobody answered. “You need to deserve good teammates. By being a good teammate yourself! How do you deserve a good coach?”. They were smart and got the answer: “By deserving a good coach!”. The system of volunteer soccer coaches in the USA, often by parents, and much of the world dictates that the hard work of the coaches often goes unrewarded. With that in mind, you need to ask yourself, how do you show appreciation for a great coach? I’ve seen players and parents excel in selecting thoughtful soccer coach gifts that don’t cost much, but have an enormous emotional impact on the coach and the team.

What are the best soccer coach gifts?

The best soccer coach gifts are those that create an emotional bond between the team and the coach, often long after both have moved on. I have seen gift cards given to the coaches and that just seems unnecessary and not personal. The right way to do it is to put some thought into it. If you are too lazy to make it personal, at least get them a soccer book about coaches. I am happy to help with some of the best gifts I have received or have seen being given to other coaches. It is up to you in the end to decide which one fits your coach, so let’s go through them and you take your pick!

Picture Frame with Photos

One of my favorites is a personalized picture frame and team photos of each game of the season. I occasionally rotate through them. The players are now much older, but I still have the pictures from U10 and cycle through them on that picture frame. I think somewhere between 5 and 15 photos is a good number. Ideally, the players would also sign the photos at the back. Putting that all together with the picture frame creates a perfect, inexpensive gift for the coach – ideally at the end of the season.

Soccer Coach Hoodie

This one is just fun, while also being practical. Ideally, you would pick colors that fit the club colors, too. For example, if the uniforms that the team usually wears are black and white, then don’t pick a red or blue hoodie. Of course, this can work with other clothes, usually a T-shirt or a hat. Socks are usually not great, as they often wouldn’t show – a reminder that you are buying a gift for the coach, not the players. Just don’t get something that is hard to find the right fit, including any kind of shoes.


I personally don’t use whistles when coaching, but I occasionally act as a referee or need to lend my whistle to a referee. This often happens at the youngest age groups where we have a parent act as a referee. For this purpose, having a whistle or two is great. I would likely not buy one myself, so it’s great that I got one as a present. It’s either that the players saw that I can use one or they prefer me using the whistle than my voice. Well, obviously that is not going to change anytime soon.


Unlike other sports, soccer can be played in rough weather. I never use an umbrella, but my players can often see me with a tumbler full of hot tea during evening practice or coffee for early games. I don’t run as the players do and often have multiple games in a row. In fact, I often have a second tumbler in the car after the game. So, having a quality tumbler that keeps the temperature is important. When spending such a long time on the pitch, I just need enough warm tea and some protein bars and I am good to go.

Water Bottle

The other side of the coin – summer weather can be brutal in some places. I always have at least two water bottles. When the players are very young, I often have several spare ones, as they always forget theirs. In fact, more often they just don’t bring enough. This is true for both boys and girls playing soccer. So, I just transfer some of the water from one of my gigantic water bottles into their empty ones. In any case, I always have one with me, so it’s an easy, practical gift that can bring good feelings to every practice and every game.

Soccer Tactics Board

This one is a little tricky and depends on the coach. When the players are very young, this can create more chaos than benefit. They might think it’s a toy and not focus on the actual tactic. However, as they get into their teenage years, the coach needs a tool to quickly show a concept to them.

One idea to personalize it is to sign it on the backside with a Sharpie. And this doesn’t have to be an electronic one. In fact, the idea for this gift is a signed tactics board I have seen gifted to a fellow coach many years ago, even before I met him.

Decision time

I hope this is a good guide on the soccer coach gifts. As a soccer coach for many years, I appreciate all the gifts that I have received from my players and parents. It was never about the cost, as I often spend way more on prizes for the players, but about the amazing memories and the way these gifts make me feel every day. Buying gifts is hard and each person is different in what they like. You will need to think a little bit about the person you have as a coach. However, I hope that this gift guide helps you with several ideas on what to consider buying for them. If you have other ideas, please reach out, happy to include them!

woman playing soccer ball on grass

What is pickup soccer? The foundation of every soccer player

“Kids don’t play soccer on their own and we have to do something about it”. I’ve heard this from every coach I’ve talked to. While kids don’t play as much as they used to, it’s not completely true. I keep hearing from my players that they play pickup soccer at recess. Or that they play after school or in their backyard. Or they play for the school team. The value of unstructured play or mismatched competition is incredibly high. We will explore where to find these games, the benefits of playing and how to make most out of it. Regardless of the format (5v5, 6v6 or 10v10), the location (grass, turf or futsal) or even the game (soccer, skills challenge or soccer tennis), the value of playing soccer outside of the regular practices and games will develop the players in a different way.

“Edgar Davids wanted to play in the local neighborhood. I told him that we had training every day and that we couldn’t go and play with kids in the street. So he told me ‘You’ve changed! You don’t remember your neighborhood and what you did before.’

Once or twice, I went with him. But he did it often. It was impressive because we were having fun, but it was also crazy to go, after training , playing on the tarmac with the kids. He did it a lot and had great technique”

Zinedine Zidane, soccer legend, about Edgar Davids playing pickup soccer during their time in Juventus (1996-2001)

Where to find pickup soccer?

  1. Facebook Groups! I know that it sounds like I have not been online for the past decade, but there really are more pickup events on Facebook than any other place. Especially if you are a parent looking for games for your kid – where do you think other parents are active? Not Discord or SnapChat or TikTok, but Facebook. Alternatively, look for MeetUp events created by folks. Obviously many groups just communicate over WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber or even regular group text message chat. However, they are usually private and can’t just find them online.
  2. Individual practices at the nearby field. Get a ball and do some kicking at the goal. It is unlikely that anybody is going to kick you out, such as school custodian or something like that. However, if they come and ask you to leave, it is a prefect opportunity to start a conversation. “Sorry, I didn’t know it is not public. I’ve seen others play. Do you know when and where people play pickup games nearby?”
  3. Stop by around fields and parks. I often go for a run or a bike ride, and when I see a soccer field, I go close to check out if anybody is playing. Often times there is nobody there, but sometimes people play.
  4. Start your own! If you already have 3-4 friends that might want to play, create your own group. If you really want to get awareness, do the things above, such as creating a Facebook or MeetUp groups. The important thing is to get the contacts and keep them posted. Then, you might want to consider joining a league if the commitment is high and the quality of players is similar. If the group becomes large enough, you might need to think about renting a field and getting insurance. If the group becomes enormous, you can create a league on your own or at least a tournament. It can become a fantastic soccer side hustle.

Benefits of pickup soccer and unstructured soccer games

Sometimes parents ask me if their player has to come to practices in order to play in games. I often compare soccer to piano. If a piano recital is the game, soccer practice is the piano lesson, then piano practice are backyard and pickup games. You don’t go to the recital if you haven’t taken lessons. You often don’t do recitals if you have practiced on your own either. However, for some reason parents think that it’s ok to go only to the games and not to the previous steps. As coaches, we show drills and technique, correct mistakes and build platform for individual and team development. But it is up to the players to get repetitions until they get fluidity, instead of trying those movements for the first time with an opponent sprinting straight at them.

How to make most out of pickup soccer?

Pickup games can be great, but they can be annoying. Sometimes people want to take it too seriously or to goof off. Players often play dangerously or don’t try at all. Finally, the difference in skill levels can make it a bad experience. However, there are some ways to make the most out of it, even in these situations.

  1. Play against worse players than you. You have to practice controlling the ball and play possession with purpose and intensity. If the opponent is faster, stronger and better than you, then you will likely try to get rid of the ball whenever you can.
  2. Play against better players than you. If you play against better player, they will attack your weaker spots. You want that to happen at pickup games and on at championship finals! So, position yourself to be there and lose the ball multiple times, until you get the movements perfect.
  3. Pick an uncommon position for you. If you usually play as a left back, try playing as an attacking midfielder. The position will force you to learn new things, such as do more scanning or pass with one-touch passes.
  4. Try unconventional things. I am talking about trying crosses or through passes, or other things that you usually don’t do. It is at pickup games that I learned many of the moves I do now at regular games, such as the la croqueta.
  5. Play in bad weather and weird terrain. When the weather gets bad, like rainy soccer season or the soccer pitch covered in snow, many people stop playing pickup soccer. But the pros are still playing and they get used to it. If you want to get used to playing through rough weather, including heat waves, you have to at least play low intensity pickup.
  6. Don’t be afraid to lose the ball. Yes, there are some folks that keep on screaming at their teammates during pickup games like their life depends on it. However, just brush it off and be ok with losing the ball. The only way to grow is to play with some risk in terms of the result.
  7. Stay safe! The most annoying thing is to get injured during a pickup game because of some reckless challenge. Silly thing like that can make you miss soccer for weeks and more. There was one time I saw a player doing rough challenges at a pickup game. He kept doing it even though some of his friends told him to stop. I just moved across the pitch to play in an area as far away as I could. Eventually I stopped coming to those pickup games because it was too risky for me.

How much unstructured soccer is played?

“Just 27% of children said they regularly play outside their homes, compared to 71% of the baby boomer generation.” While nobody is particularly surprised to see the difference for soccer kids in the USA, it is really important to think about the consequences. Playing outside will bring some challenges that the kids will need to learn to handle. I am talking about social challenges of not getting a field or a ball, or enough players, or older kids taking over the game… So many issues can arise that the players will learn from. However, I focused on the soccer skills that will be gained by playing pickup games, as well as how to make the most out of it. I keep playing today, well past my prime soccer days. I love it and I hope you will, too. Happy soccer!

3v1 Rondo [Complete Guide with Variations]

One of the natural points between 4v1 and 4v2 rondos is to have a 3v1 rondo. It’s a simple rondo where three players try to retain possession of the ball while one player tries to intercept it. At the highest levels, this is a warmup drill often, while more players are trickling in. Instead of having a 6v2 rondo, it is better to have two 3v1 rondos with players having many more touches on the ball. After all, the aim is to develop the technique and positional awareness of the players, especially at young ages.

Why do the 3v1 rondo?

While designing soccer drills, we want them to be game-like, challenging and used as building blocks. The 3v1 rondos has only 4 players, so they are relatively simple and quick to set it up. With the increased intensity from 4v1, we bridge the gap to the next level at 4v2. At 4v1 the player with the ball has three passing options, but at 4v2 they have only two. However, the number of players pressing doubles from one player to two. If we can remove the second variable, then at 3v1 we have only one presser, but we still have only two passing options. This way of gradually increasing intensity is why the 3v1 rondo is a great stepping stone.

We will explore several variations of the 3v1 rondos. Firstly, it’s just the traditional 3v1 without much complexity. However, we want to keep it fun, so we’ll do a few more. The transition rondo where there are two playing boxes and we have 3v1 plus 1 transition, can make things interesting for your team. Also, one of my favorites is the 3v1 converting to 5v3 rondo. Keep in mind that the 5v3 rondo can be challenging for your team, so we’ll go through tricks on how to ease into it.

3v1 Rondo

3v1 plus 1 Rondo

This is the first block of 3v1 rondo. The players have already done 4v1 rondos, so they understand the basic idea. However, now we tell them that there are four sides of the square and three players, so what happens? Some people prefer making a triangle to limit the movement, but I like to use this interesting situation. One option is to give them the freedom to move wherever they want. If they get good enough, I ask them something different. The new rule is that they cannot play on the same side twice. This is particularly useful for them to get into a pass-and-go mindset. So the rule is very simple – pass, then go to an adjacent side. If that side is already occupied, that’s okay. The teammate can either move or still receive the ball and quickly pass it to you. It will not only improve the movement of the passer but of the other teammates, too.

Short video of 3v1 plus 1 Rondo

3v1 -> 5v3 Transition Rondo

Initial setup for 3v1 to 5v3 Transition Rondo

This is much more complicated rondo and I recommend it after being proficient in 5v2 and 4v2 rondos. The reason is that 5v3 rondo is really about developing the central midfielder at a very high level. They start by being in defense against 3 players, then they recover the ball and they are the glue in the middle of it all. It’s particularly difficult in transition. If the field is small, then the 5v3 will be difficult. If the field is large, then 3v1 is hard for the defender. Ideally, you would start with a small inner and large outer playing field. However, over time they should both be small. The end goal is to have about 7 by 7 steps for the inner and 12 by 12 for the larger area.

The 4 players on the outside will learn off-the-ball movement and anticipation of the interception. As we said, their teammate will learn the central midfielder role both in defense and offense. The positioning and one-touch will drastically improve by practicing that drill. The team of 3 players will develop a quick transition from offense to defense. That is also part of anticipation, but it is a different kind of skill to anticipate how to quickly recover the ball once it’s lost. Also, they will practice team pressing, unlike the defender in the middle. One more note: rotate the player in the middle every several minutes. If they are practicing well, they will be so tired of pressing strong in defense and moving off the ball in offense.

3v1 to 5v3 Transition Rondo


We’ve covered the 3v1 rondo and several variations of it. Don’t forget that the simple versions are just stepping stones of it and your players will likely outgrow them quickly. However, the more complex ones, especially the 3v1 to 5v3 transition can take a very long time to get good at. We use the rondos to create a game-like situation to teach particular skills. In this case, we coach pressing, ball retention, first touch, passing as well as transitions. They are fantastic building blocks that shouldn’t be skipped and we should be deliberate and thoughtful when using them to develop our players. Have fun coaching!


No Opponents Rondo

Introduction to rondos with 3v0 and 4v0. Coaching passing, receiving, and the concept of “backfoot”.

First opponent

Introduce an opponent in the rondo. Create the need to move off the ball and think of passing lanes.

Increase intensity

Limit one passing option, and improve decision-making. Put pass-and-go into practice. Introduce a transition rondo to 5v3.

Increase complexity

Introduce team pressing of two players. Coach the central midfielder for the first time.

Pro Rondo

The rondo that pros play. Teaching to split the opponents with the right weight of the pass.

Positional play

All variations of the complex rondos before transitioning into positional play and game scenarios.

man helping a player with the injury during the game

Blisters in Soccer [Complete Guide – Prevention and Treatment]

Have you ever heard of youth or amateur players getting blisters and can’t play soccer for some time? Of course, I have seen that often. While that used to be the case for professionals, it doesn’t happen anymore. It looks like they found out how to manage them and even play through them. While the root cause explanation can often be a bit hand wavy, the prevention and the treatment are so straight forward, that it’s a shame not to steal their methods. Let’s walk through the common causes and how to handle blisters in soccer.

What are blisters? Why do soccer players get them?

Blisters are areas of skin covered by a raised, fluid-filled bubble. Soccer players get them on their feet usually, caused by friction injury or trauma. Often referred to as chafing, it happens when there is rubbing of the skin, leading to irritation. Other blisters, such as hands or thigh blisters are not uncommon with soccer players, but they are not specific to soccer. Also, they are often related to overuse (weight-lifting or pull-ups, for example) or improper gear (too tight shorts or no gloves).

What are the root causes of blisters in soccer?

Wrong gear

The most common reasons of chafing is improper gear. Almost everybody have experienced some blisters when they buy new shoes and they spend some time adjusting. However, if this keeps happening and the blisters stay, then it’s not about time. The definition of insanity is keep trying the same thing that failed and expecting different outcome. So, instead of attempting to adjust your body to the gear, make the gear fit your body. If it’s the clothing – make sure it is not too tight or too loose, so it forces unnatural movements.

When it comes to cleats, make sure you understand the cleats that are good for you. Firstly, you have to understand what kind of feet you have – narrow, normal or wide. Secondly, you have to get the right size. Too small and too large can cause huge problems. In fact, the quality of the cleats matter less than the right size. So, if you are buying for your kid that grows super fast – get cheap cleats with the right fit, rather than expensive ones that are simply too big for them.

Wet gear or clothes

Even if you have the right gear, if they get wet while playing soccer in the rain, you won’t get far. In addition, to getting heavy and cold, they will likely cause you blisters. To prevent getting your feet wet, we recommend Sleef cleat covers. You can buy them straight from (use RONDOCOACH code at checkout for 25% off) or through Amazon.

We have reviewed various clothes and gear that we recommend and use for playing soccer in the rain and the snow. They are overlapping significantly, as the goal to stay warm and dry is the same, but there is some difference. Check them out if you are in for a gear refresh for the wet season.

Wrong physical movements

This is tricky and requires a bit of analysis. About a decade ago I broke my ankle (fractured fibula with ligament tear, but that’s just technical details) playing soccer, of course. Months later I recovered after physical therapy and everything else required. However, when I went back to playing soccer, it wasn’t the same. I didn’t feel completely free to do all the movements that I used to do. So, I started stopping short and not doing full turns. I felt like walking on eggshells. The result was not just playing worse than before, but also blisters! I started to put pressure on parts of my feet that I shouldn’t have, causing friction on my toes and my heel. It took time to relearn how to run and move again. It was crucial that I was aware of that and could correct it myself.

Most kids run naturally, but not all of them. For various reasons, some kids develop wrong muscle memory and run in harmful ways. They don’t lift their knees, or twist their ankles, or move their arms at all. We shouldn’t blame them for that, but help them instead. Small adjustments will go a long way over time. So point out the issue, show them the movement and ask them to repeat. Sooner or later they will likely correct and see a great improvement. If that doesn’t work, the player might need to go to a podiatrist.

How to prevent blisters in soccer

Well, sometimes the chafing is a bit too much. No worries, there is a simple solution for that, too. You will need to lubricate the area that has the potential for developing blisters. Obviously, you don’t need to do this just because you’ve seen others do it. However, if you have parts of your feet or thighs developing blisters, this is the way to go.

Wear things in!

As we said earlier, one of the reasons blisters show up is when there are new shoes or gear. It takes some time to get used to them. While I want to tell you there is a shortcut, there really isn’t. However, we can create a system that you should follow to minimize issues. It worked for me multiple times as I switched through various cleats over time. I usually try to have 48 hours between the steps, providing there are no issues.

  1. Go for a walk with the new gear! If you cannot walk with the gear, what makes you think you can run and sprint? Simple rule – if you are wearing cleats, walk on grass or at least turf. You don’t want to walk on concrete or asphalt. We say practice as you play, so this is a no-brainer.
  2. Go for a run! Don’t forget that there are movements and areas of impact that are not going to be the same between walking and running. The most common place that causes issues while running, but not walking, is the area just above the heel where the cleat ends. The ankle moves significantly more and often aggressively, compared to a simple walk.
  3. Practice with the new gear! I’ve seen players going straight to a game with new cleats. In addition to not having the right feel and misplacing passes and shots, you won’t feel comfortable. You want to feel everything fitting like a glove and not spend time trying to understand the new gear. The delta between winning and losing can be that small!
  4. Play the game! At this point, you are ready to go. This might mean that it took a week to get to the game. Hopefully, it was worth it!

How to treat blisters in soccer

Once you already have blisters, it’s important to treat them properly. Failure to do so will result in developing much bigger problems. You can get traumas or infections, which might require going to the doctor. Instead, these are the steps to treat blisters, as soon as they start to show up.

  1. Identify the area of the blister. Even if the current state is nothing more than redness and swelling, treat it immediately. There is no reason for the area to develop painful blisters.
  2. Clean the blisters. Of course, you will wash the area anyway, but it is important to pay attention and wash the area and keep it clean. Furthermore, dry it well to avoid any bacteria development.
  3. Apply lotion to help the area recover quickly. Since most of the damage is on the skin, that needs to be treated first.
  4. Apply a bandaid if needed to protect the direct force and cushion the impact. Obviously, limit activity, but you don’t want to be prevented from walking.


We have covered the common causes of blisters in soccer, ways to prevent them and how treat them if they have already occurred. This should give you a step-by-step guide to remedy any issues that you have run into. Soccer should be a safe activity that we enjoy and with the right gear (often with character) and treatment we will achieve that. Good luck and have fun playing soccer!

Principles of Soccer Tactics by Rondo Coach

Soccer Tactics Principles – Superiority Analysis for Coaches [2024]

“Soccer is no longer beautiful” – we would hear this so often. Soccer fans criticize that the systems that the coaches use today are so rigid. Most creative players have very little to give in a place where everything is pre-calculated. We also see teams that have no business doing well, beating teams that have spent eye-watering amounts of money on world-class soccer players. Now, how is that possible? Is it that they have mastered all soccer tactics principles or simply the game played in favor of their advantages? Finally, we see that in some clubs the highest-paid person is the coach and not the players. Is that fair?

“My soccer tactics will get you in the final third of the pitch, then it’s up to you to score” – honest soccer coach

A soccer coach can devise the perfect soccer strategy for getting the team to win, but it’s up to the players to execute. Having said that, the coach can’t just throw their hands in the air and give up. They have to analyze each aspect of the game and find opportunities to take any advantage thstaere. Very often people think that winning is about being better at the game that is played. In fact, it’s about redefining the game to use the superior qualities that your team has. Soccer tactics principles are essentially bucketing these superiorities so that we can systematically analyze our team and opponents. If we set the game so that the competition is about our advantages instead of our disadvantages, then we can win the game without being the better team in the other aspects of the game.

There are 5 principles of soccer superiorities. Numerical is about having more players than the opponents in the area of play. Positional defines which areas of the pitch are occupied by your players. Qualitative superiority is to have a player with an advantage over the opponent in a direct duel able to take advantage of the mismatch. Team cohesion helps us balance the qualities of players playing on the pitch. Dynamic superiority is all about how to synchronize the movement and the timing of our players so that we create chaos in the opponent’s offense and defense.


This is probably the easiest superiority to explain and understand. All things being equal, you don’t need to be a soccer statistician to want to have more players in the opposition. That’s why it’s so hard to win when your team has a red card. In a smaller setting, a team in possession and a 3v2 or a 4v3 overload virtually always keep the ball. They might not score, but they will at least retain the ball. If we can position our players to have the numerical advantage, then we have achieved much. Well, if you play 11v11, how can you do that? If you have numerical superiority in one area, then you will have inferiority in another. It’s up to you to then find where the superiority is and move the ball quickly there. If the advantage reverses, then move the ball to the other area. So, what we are coaching is for our players to identify this situation and act accordingly.

Let’s look at the two situations above. We didn’t move the players at all, but instead just changed possession of the ball. Depending on that, either the red team has 3v1 situation or the black team has 4v1. It’s important to understand that the entire field is still 4v4. However, the location of the ball redefines the playing area to a smaller area. If you have numerical advantage in that area, you will likely win. If you have disadvantage, find a way to move the ball into an area where you will have advantage.


Do you remember how kids who have never been coached play? They chase the ball all around the pitch. Technically that gives them numerical superiority as long as they can run. However, they get tired so much faster and they are often late to cover gaps on the pitch because the ball moves faster than them. To be honest, you already know that chasing the ball is not the way to play as a team. What we need to also acknowledge is that soccer is all about time and space. That means that players need to be in the right place at the right time. Positional superiority is all about the right place.

Let’s look at the same situation, with the only difference that in one case the red team has the ball, and in the other case the black team has the ball. It’s blatantly obvious that the team in possession wants to make the pitch bigger and the defenders want the opposite. This is the first lesson that is taught in soccer tactics at U6, even by beginner soccer coaches. Of course, there is much more complexity when it comes to zones of plays, areas of passing, half-spaces, and so on. But in a nutshell, positional awareness is the main reason why a team with inferior players can hold a team with soccer superstars to a draw and sometimes win.


Probably the most obvious one is the qualitative. If a player is faster, stronger, tactical, and technically dominant over another player, then it’s going to win 1v1. However, most of the time that’s not the case. A player can be faster, but not stronger. In that case, the real duel is about what the test is going to be. The faster striker with the ball will want to have a spring chase against the slower defender. The stronger poacher will want to hold up the ball against the weaker center back. Very similar to a boxer trying to define the type of fight based on their characteristics, or a basketball player doing pick-and-roll to make taller vs. shorter player mismatch, we try to create a blatant mismatch in qualities when we create tactics. The attackers are the ones who have more freedom, while the defenders stick in positions. So, we want to create this in possession and nullify it when defending.

Teamwork and team balance

You often hear “On paper, they should have won”. You look at a team that has great individuals but are not winning games. If you wonder what is happening, look at the balance of the team. It is rare that they don’t like each other or anything like that. It’s just that simply their individual deficiencies combine to a point that can be devastating. A good example of a team that worked well together is AC Milan with Gattuso and Pirlo. Both of them were really good in what they did but had massive gaps in their game. Gattuso was a great defensive midfielder, relentless and aggressive. Pirlo was one of the best deep-lying playmakers but was physically inferior to the average central midfielder at the highest level. However, they balanced each other. If the team had two Gattusos or two Pirlos, then it would have been really bad.

In contrast, England had two of the best central midfielders ever – Lampard and Gerrard. Both of them were winners and natural leaders. Also, both of them were so respected and quality players, as well as tactically savvy that they were coaches in the Premier League less than a decade after retiring as players. However, they never won anything with the national team. The balance was simply not there. They needed a holding midfielder that rarely played with them and they played in the era where Spain played perfect tiki-taka with 5 or even 6 midfield players. Therefore, it is not just the individual quality of the players that matters, but the balance between them. It is much easier to achieve that in a club that can trade players and have years of practice every day to create that bond. In the national team, it is much harder, but not impossible.


Potentially the hardest aspect of the soccer tactics principle to understand is the dynamic superiority. Think about the overlap, when a player runs behind and wider than the player with the ball. Let’s compare it to a static attacking formation where the player is already there. There is no numerical superiority during an overlap – the same number of attackers and defenders. There is no positional, qualitative, or even team cohesion difference. The only advantage comes from that movement that causes defenders to both go after the runner or the ball. The importance of movement with purpose, which we call dynamic superiority, is something that is achieved with any player and any part of the pitch.

Similarly, let’s think about a set piece routine from a side cross. When the ball is coming in, multiple players are all running towards the goal at the same time. The aim is to create confusion for the defenders where they don’t know who to guard. It doesn’t happen every time, but attackers need to get it right only once, while defenders have to be right every single time.

Finally, look at how quality teams press together. It has to be orchestrated with multiple players pressing at the same time. Very often they are patient until they see an opportunity, and then several players press together, attacking the ball and the simple passing options. One with the other doesn’t work.

Soccer Tactics Principles never change, but they evolve

If you reached this point, you are likely asking yourself if we have switched to playing something more complicated than chess. Yes, we have! The complexity comes from the fact that we deal with humans. Which means that not every piece on the tactical board, unlike the chess board, is the same. Furthermore, not every time the player is ready to perform the same way. That is even more true for youth players. So, it is up to you, as the coach, to figure out what

Imagine how much harder physics would be if electrons had feelings!”

Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize-winning physicist

6v4 Rondo [Complete Guide with Variations]

6v4 rondo is the soccer drill where 6 players are in possession and 4 players are defenders, trying to recover the ball. It is a natural progression from the 4v2 rondo and can be combined into a single drill. By creating real game-like scenarios, the 6v4 is a perfect balance to explore dominating possession while having numerical superiority. With increased complexity, players develop scanning and awareness abilities to a greater extent, the 6v4 rondos are great soccer drills to elevate your possession-based soccer players to the next level.

The 6v4 rondo is used by professional coaches at the highest level, such as Guardiola, Klopp, and Mourinho. However, it is simple enough to start as early as U10 level with at least 6 months experience of practicing rondos. I like to make sure the players can do comfortable 4v2 rondos for several months. This means that they should often be able to keep possession with 10 passes. This means that the principles of receiving the ball with their backfoot, moving with their first touch, and opening up to receive the ball. If the success of 4v2 is because of low defensive intensity or extensive playing area, that doesn’t count. The rondos are practiced with specific objectives in mind, both for the 4v2 and 6v4.

Why do the 6v4 rondo?

When designing soccer drills, we want them to be game-like, challenging, and used as building blocks. Clearly, 6v4 rondos include 10 to 12 players, so it is more complex than others. In the complexity, it is somewhere in the middle. Definitely more elaborate with prerequisites than 4v2, but it is not as complicated as some positional play drills we can do. In fact, it doesn’t have isolated practice, so it should be combined with individual drills. We will get into variations of the rondos and as we go through them, we will figure out what they will address.

6v4 Rondo – Positional (10 players)

6v4 Positional Rondo
6v4 Rondo

This is the first block of 6v4 rondo. I split the playing area into two halves and have 3v2 in each of them. Now, that means only one passing option within the area and one when passing to the other area. That way the players are not overwhelmed by too many defenders. Of course, once they become proficient in this, you can allow them to move freely between the two sides. Eventually, you want the team in possession to understand this well enough that they will spread out and use all available space. However, you need to guide them, because just telling them that will not be sufficient. I usually do about 4 sessions before moving on to the next one. However, I keep coming back again to this with some tweaks if I need to target some aspects. For example, it can look like playing from the back and starting from the goalie.

6v4 Positional Rondo

4v2 -> 6v4 Transition Rondo (10 players)

4v2 to 6v4 Transition Rondo
4v2 to 6v4 Transition Rondo

This is probably my favorite rondo, as it really teaches everything! Soccer is all about retaining possession and recovering possession. The fluidity between attack and defense is unlike many other sports. In basketball or handball, you need to get to the other side of the field. Volleyball players can either spike (attack) or block (defend). In baseball and American football, all players leave the fields and others come back when possession changes. In contrast, soccer players constantly switch between playing attack and defense. The standard 4v2 rondo doesn’t do that – once a defender intercepts the ball, the game stops. So, all of a sudden we have a behavior different than the game. How do we fix that?

We start with a 4v2 rondo and we put 4 additional players on the outside. The two defenders should not just blast the ball outside, but get the ball to those 4 additional players and they become a 6-person team. This is a much more game-like scenario. Once you recover the ball, you need to retain it. If the 4 defenders intercept the ball, immediately they switch to 4v2 – the 4 outside players don’t play defense. In addition to immediately switching between defense and attack, we get lots of off-the-ball movement. The outside players will move a lot while not having the ball in their possession. This will increase their anticipation skill. This means that they will not be part of the defensive press, but they will need to be patiently waiting for their opportunity and position themselves to take advantage. That creates a much better game-like scenario.

6v4 two teams (12 players)

6v4 Two Teams Rondo

Assuming the players are proficient in 6v4 positional rondo and you have 12 players, you can really make a game of it. Put 4 players from each team in the middle. Then the team in possession gets two players on either flank. If they lose the ball, the other team gets two players instead of the two other sides. Once players already know the basic 6v4 rondo, they will get this one quickly. If you have 12 players that can practice at a similar level, this is a perfect game. Of course, you would want to rotate the inner and the outer players over time.


Now that we’ve gone through the variations of 6v4 rondo, I hope you will fall in love with it, as I have. It creates so many game-like situations with overloads, that a good coach can always find things to teach. From ball retention, team pressing, scanning, and quick transition – everything is here for you to coach. If you have a team that you have just started coaching, this should be your end goal. If they can play 6v4 rondo, everything else is doable. Have fun coaching!


No Opponents Rondo

Introduction to rondos with 3v0 and 4v0. Coaching passing, receiving, and the concept of “backfoot”.

First opponent

Introduce an opponent in the rondo. Create the need to move off the ball and think of passing lanes.

Increase intensity

Limit one passing option, and improve decision-making. Put pass-and-go into practice. Introduce a transition rondo to 5v3.

Increase complexity

Introduce team pressing of two players. Coach the central midfielder for the first time.

Pro Rondo

The rondo that pros play. Teaching to split the opponents with the right weight of the pass.

Positional play

All variations of the complex rondos before transitioning into positional play and game scenarios.