a smartphone attached to a gimbal on a rocky surface

Soccer Camera Gimbals [How to film soccer games in 2024?]

You can’t be there for every single game that your kid plays. Even if you can, you want to be able to keep it for when they grow up. Or your neighbor asks about it. Or your third cousin brags about their kids and how they [read with nasal voice] “just use these soccer camera gimbals”, but you just dismiss them. You want that in your pocket, ready for whenever you might need it. But you can’t afford the expensive cameras that clubs use these days.

Instead, you should use your smartphone!

It is raining, you are confused between looking at your kid or looking at the screen, and in the end, your spouse is disappointed because your hands kept shaking the image despite your best efforts. Yes, there is a simple solution for all of this. It is called a gimbal, or if you don’t want to sound funny a stabilizer. They are affordable these days and can be used to film all the time, not just your kid’s soccer games.

What are the best soccer camera gimbals?

There are 3 factors to determine the quality of the soccer camera gimbals:

  • Stability of image – the most important thing of a gimbal is to be stable. When it comes to sport camera gimbals, account for uneven terrain, wind and rain, as well as the occasional ball or person hitting it. Don’t look for perfection, but expect some reasonable stability that will not break the image, or even worse, your phone.
  • Integration with smartphones – while optional at first look, you want these features of tracking the action. The more common level of tracking is to track the ball and the action at all times. Less common is to track a particular player (like your kid or yourself) and usually more sophisticated systems are used for full wide field of view recordings. In any case, you want to be able to enjoy the game while the camera moves and records the game.
  • Durability and sturdiness – you do not want to keep buying the soccer camera gimbals each season. So, do yourself a favor and get the one made with good materials and engineered with attention to detail. And yes, it will feel heavy and you will know how it is once you have it in your hand.

We rate the soccer camera gimbals based on these factors. Also, we make sure there is no monthly fee for them, for streaming, storage, data analysis and statistics, or whatever else the most premium soccer cameras have. They all have options to get them from Amazon, but also some of them have their own stores. Check out both for the best pricing and add-ons.

Insta360 Flow (Our Pick)

Insta360 is the leader in the space of capturing action. Most of their products include a camera, from 360 or action-focused to professional VR or webcams. However, it looks like they managed to integrate a lot of the technology into their Insta360 Flow product, which is a gimbal for smartphones. It brings stabilization, together with the AI-powered technology of action tracking. The price is reasonable for a great build and intuitive interface in case you want to manually capture the moments. The stabilization is great and the integration with the smartphones works as you would expect. Furthermore, the community is large and there are all kinds of tricks and tips on how to get the most out of it on their forums.

Buy it from Amazon or their store.

XBot (with tripod)

It definitely is a level up to the Insta360, but it comes at a price. It supports smartphones, integrated with a remote control or even an Apple Watch. The XBot is actually designed for soccer as primary usage, making it a perfect solution for our needs. The tracking is optimized and tested for soccer!

Another great thing about the XBot is the range of accessories that you can find with it. Considering the size of the field and the number of players, you definitely want to set the camera at some elevation to capture the entire field. The XBot tripod is stable, and high quality and adds on to the already great functionality of the XBot to get the perfect view of the field and action.

You can buy it from Amazon or directly from the XBot store (use code RONDOCOACH for $25 off your purchase).

DJI Ronin-SC (mirrorless camera)

If you have a high-quality mirrorless camera with good lens, this might be a better option for you. While you need to operate it (one-hand handling is great), it will give the best capture from all the options. You can still mount your smartphone on top of it and use it for capturing, but also to adjust the force sensitivity of your movement and stabilization.

If you want to watch the game with your coffee, while the video is being captured automatically, this is not for you. But if you want to be actively tracking the action, capturing the plays and the players throughout the game, this is the option to pick. We also highly recommend it for capturing footage to be sent to soccer scouts and college recruiters. We have even seen some parents sending soccer videos before tryouts (tread carefully there).

Hohem for GoPro (waterproof)

Similar to the DJI stabilizer, you will be manually operating this gimbal and won’t be able to use your smartphone. However, the most important aspect here is that you will be able to record games in the worst possible conditions, such as rain and snow. The gimbal is relatively cheap for what it does, but it does require a GoPro or one of the other compatible devices. The secret weapon is a waterproof design with limited functionality and compatibility. Also, the sturdiness and durability of the device are great, but then you will likely run it through tough conditions and you will end up really testing it.

Zhiyun Smooth Q4 (Budget pick)

There is nothing wrong with this gimbal and we would definitely recommend it if you are looking to spend minimally on a stabilizer for your smartphone. However, it just misses a lot of the magic that the other options have. The integration with smartphones is there, but minimally (suggests angles and adjusts zoom and light). This also means you need to manually move it. It comes with a tripod, but you will likely need a table or a chair to get the height and stability right. It is sturdy, but not as robust as the others, especially when extended as more of a selfie stick. Of course, it doesn’t have waterproof characteristics or cross-compatibility with other devices, such as high-quality cameras. Overall, if you know exactly what you need it for, it is a great option. If you need anything beyond to feel the magic of AI and motion tracking, you will need to spend a bit more.

Pick the right soccer camera gimbal for you

The technology for sports and entertainment is amazing today. We have seen U6 games not only recorded, but streamed in real time. You think that might be crazy, but their grandparents were actually watching live overseas! It is truly incredible that we have all this technology to capture these moments. At an affordable prices we can film them and play them whenever we want. Also, with the power of AI we can often be lazy and let the smartphone track the action while we enjoy the game in real time. We recommend picking the right option for you and give it a try. Over time you will be amazed how much the ML models will improve the capture and tracking. Have fun, make memories and save them forever!

Quality Masterclass Mentality: Vertical Tiki-Taka is the Future

Tiki-taka is the style of play that has defined 21st-century soccer. At its peak, Barcelona under Pep and the Spanish National Team was dominating the world of soccer. That patient passing and keeping the ball until there was an opening was so beautiful, yet annoying to watch. The idea that you cannot concede a goal if you have the ball in your possession made it difficult to watch sometimes. The team would keep the ball for so long and always choose the safe pass. So essentially, we started seeing the backline passing to each other seemingly forever. The birth of the vertical tiki-taka was needed…

Something changed and we started to see the need to modify the mentality. Mourinho saw it first when countering Barcelona (with Inter and Chelsea), but we saw it so much in the recent decade. Teams became very good at defending. At the most recent World Cups, it feels like the worst teams can still hold a 0:0 draw against the best teams. So, playing patient, controlling, possession-based tiki-taka will just not work. Instead, what needed to happen was to move the ball quickly when in possession to unsettle the opponent.

How does vertical tiki-taka compare to tiki-taka?

How is it the same?

First and foremost, the idea of having possession is still the same. Starting from a goal-kick against a low-block opposition, you won’t be able to see the difference. The team will not try random crosses or skipping the midfield. Instead, the goal is to maintain control of the ball with passes in triangles while moving the play toward the opposition box.

Out of possession, the relentless pressing is also similar. The idea of recovering the ball within 5 seconds of losing it, is still valid. In fact, in La Masia, the famous FC Barcelona youth academy, they teach that the team doesn’t steal the ball. Instead, they recover possession. That is because the ball is theirs to have and the reason why they don’t have it is because they lost it. It might sound like a negligible difference, but it is important. The mentality of fighting to keep the ball as a team practiced through thousands of variations of rondos, is vital.

How is it different?

The main difference in the vertical tiki-taka is how build-up play happens. Namely, once the team recovers possession, it needs to quickly move forward to attack. This leaves very little time for the opponents to get back in the right position to defend. If we leave the opposition time to get in shape, we will limit the opportunities to get tactical advantages – numerical, positional, or dynamic.

Let’s say that we recover the ball at the edge of our penalty box, while the opponents try to attack on the wing with both their wing-back overlapping their winger. The standard tiki-taka mentality would make sure we keep possession and pass sideways or back to the keeper until we get into shape. Unfortunately, that allows for the other team to come back to shape. Instead, imagine if we send the ball down the flank with the winger and/or wing-back sprinting into a counterattack. And from there looking for the striker or the winger on the other side.

This will give us at least a dynamic advantage, where everybody will have to sprint back instead of actively defending and pressing the ball because they don’t feel that they have the cover at the back. Their wing-back will be tired after the attacking movement. Also, the confusion with the winger on who is running back to cover. If neither does, then we have the numerical advantage. If both run back, then we have time to pick the pass that we want with no pressure.

Advantages of using vertical tiki-taka

Assuming we are playing against a team that has some desire to attack against us, this is a very effective tactic. We get all the benefits of the tiki-taka, to maintain possession and control. With the right players and their decision-making abilities, we can confuse the oppositions. Since defending is where the team cohesion really matters, changing between direct attacking and patiently maintaining possession can truly frustrate and be tiresome. Also, it can be really devastating when we create 1v1 opportunities for our attackers. Any qualitative mismatch is more amplified when we are given 1v1 chances. The vertical tiki-taka gets us in those situations.

Disadvantages of the vertical tiki-taka

The downsides of tiki-taka are still present. When playing against low-block teams, often it looks like a fruitless exercise. If the other team only defends, then there is no counter-fast buildup that can happen. Therefore, no benefit there. Similarly, the risk of having a bad pass in the back line between the defenders or the keeper is still there. Perhaps a vertical pass to the striker is not as risky, but if that is blocked then the logic is to still maintain possession by passing sideways or backward. That comes with the same risk and often can be devastating. In fact, a bad pass can lead us to concede and in effect results in the opponents transferring to a low-block, catenaccio defense that is even harder to break.

When to use vertical tiki-taka?

Let us look at the teams that have used vertical tiki-taka or any variations and subsets of it. The most obvious ones are Barcelona, Ajax, Bayern, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool… When did it work? When the teams had strikers like Harland, Messi, Salah, Mane, and Van Persie, then it worked very well. The importance of the ability to win the majority of the duels 1v1, 2v2, or even 2v3, and score goals cannot be overstated. Similarly, the ability to defend without numerical advantage gives the opportunity to keep the attackers high, so that a direct pass to them is possible. I am sorry to disappoint you, but if you don’t have the technical, and overall qualitative advantages, this is not for you.

Formations to use for vertical tiki-taka

To maintain possession, you have to get a numerical advantage by keeping the defensive line high. The formations are actually similar to the standard tiki-taka. The classic 4-3-3 and the variations are always appropriate. The 4-4-2 diamond can work great, using mezzalas for the slower buildup. Also, a more defensive 5-2-3 formation that uses the three attackers as outlets can give the counter-attacking opportunities while maintaining the solidity in defense.

numbers projected on face

Most Insightful Soccer Statistics Books [Complete Guide 2024]

“The better team lost today”. We have heard this statement when teams think they’ve been the better team. How did they measure them being better? Did they do that objectively? Sometimes one team had the majority of the possession and the opposition had only one set piece, like a corner or a free kick. Would the statistics tell us that the first team should win the game? Well, if the first team passed between the goalkeeper and the center-backs, while the opposition had David Beckham take a free kick, then it means that the data didn’t tell us the full story. The best soccer statistics books can tell us the progress that soccer analysts have made over the past decades and where they are going.

Which data is important and which one is just noise? How can we evaluate the quality of the data and the true advantage that one team has over the other? Does the tactical approach drive the statistics of the game? Or can the data drive our tactics to victory? Is there something left to the naked eye that cannot be quantified by statistics?

What are the best soccer statistics books?

Soccer has become so big financially and the league structure for most leagues requires good performances. In Europe, teams have to perform well even if they have no chances for the title. They need to qualify for international competitions (lucrative incentives). Also, if they perform particularly badly, they get relegated, which can devastate the team, both financially and in terms of players who wouldn’t agree to play in the lower division. For these reasons, it is imperative for teams to win games, or at least not lose them.

To gain an edge, the top soccer clubs in the world hire soccer analysts, data scientists, and statisticians. Not only that, but soccer agents and their agencies hire them to identify the talent earlier. They synthesize data with methods from the best soccer statistics books, but also from books about data science from other sports and overall in the field of statistics. These are our picks of books that can significantly improve the way you look at the game through data analytics. They are not soccer books for kids or maybe even regular soccer fans – it is for the ones obsessed with numbers.

Net Gains by Ryan O’Hanlon

Net Gains is probably the most comprehensive book on soccer analytics. The author has played Division I soccer in the US and has transferred his passion for soccer into his life as an ESPN staff writer. In addition to his personal story, he guides us through the history of using data to gain an edge in soccer. He starts in the 50s and 60s and the very basics of soccer statistics. In contrast, he shares information about the exponential growth of data inputs that we get today through video analysis, GPS tracking, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and so on. However, he is also honest and questioning the models that we have today that cannot explain some phenomena today and how some players and some teams cannot be explained through data. If you plan to read only one book, then this is the one.

Football Hackers by Christoph Biermann

Perhaps a bit more current and Europe-focused, Football Hackers digs straight into the details of what you need to know about the world of soccer statistics. Analyzing the possession, shots taken, tackles, and so on, Biermann tries to help differentiate what is important and what is just empty data. Indirectly, he proves the rule that “If it’s important then it can be measured, but not all that can be measured is important”. The book can look very math-oriented and requires a genuine interest in soccer analytics and/or math and statistics. However, it’s a requirement for anybody who wants to get an edge or at least avoid being outsmarted based on accessible data.

The Expected Goals Philosophy by James Tippett

The rise of Expected Goals (xG) in soccer analytics is evident, as many pundits share these statistics more than any other info to show how the game went. For example, a team can have dominant possession, but it can be defensive and not have a single chance. Similarly, a shot on goal from far away doesn’t mean it is a good chance. In contrast, a team can have a penalty and miss the goal, which is a great chance without a shot on goal. The book explains what xG is and how to quantify it. It makes the case of why it is a better indicator of the dominance in the game. The book doesn’t have the complexity of the other books on this list, but it gives the right framework so that you would understand the xG on a much better level when you see it in real life.

Signal and Noise by Nate Silver

This does not naturally fall in the category of soccer statistics books. However, Nate Silver is the modern guru of statistics and his classic is something that every person who wants to understand data should read. His work in politics, in addition to his obsession with baseball, explains over and over again why probability is not certainty, and why only certain data is important. As we encounter variables in our analysis we have to assign appropriate weight to them. While this book will not teach us how to do that in soccer, it will help us think about the world of data. I have reread the book multiple times, pausing and thinking along the way with the new information and in the context of the recent games and seasons, of my teams that I coach and the professional ones that I have watched.

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Possibly the most famous book on this list, helped by Brad Pitt starring in the movie. It shows how one of the poorest baseball teams in MLB went on the most impressive winning streak using data analytics to scout the sports talent. This is a true story that changed the way baseball teams use data. Obviously, this cannot be directly used in soccer, but certain aspects of it already are. With players playing key factors, it shows how there are no straight replacements in sports. One great player can be sold and two weaker players can be bought for that money. But the end result can be better or worse depending on the characteristics. The right data models can tell us which one is the better option. European soccer clubs like Leicester, Brighton, Borussia, Leipzig, and others have tried this approach. They cannot compete with the giants financially, so they have to be shrewd. I am certain we will see a soccer book like this in the upcoming years. Until then, enjoy Moneyball in the world of baseball.

Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke

Written by a professional poker player, we learn to think of our decisions as a process. It is not just the result that matters. Say we play against a better team overall, but we have taller players. We will try playing for set pieces and crosses. We might still lose the game, but we increase our chances of success. The book explains how we should think about maximizing our chances. That doesn’t guarantee success, but it makes us think in terms of probability. We naturally do that in our lives. I still travel by car, bike, and airplane. We limit our downside by wearing helmets and seatbelts. There would be unfortunate accidents, but we try to minimize them. Thinking in Bets will teach us exactly that. My only advice is to pause and reflect while reading the book. Think about your teams and matches, and how to maximize your chances of success.

Decision time

With so many books on soccer statistics, you might think we know so much about it. I would disagree with this statement. We know the human stories of soccer players, but we are far from understanding the numbers. I think we are just starting with it. With the rise of AI and the influx of data through various sensors, we will see an explosion of it. We have even seen it in youth sports as young as U8s. Video systems can calculate possession, passes, shots, and even xGs. This is truly impressive and will drive the development of youth players in a different way.

As you saw from the books, many other industries are ahead of soccer. However, as soccer is so lucrative, clubs will invest more and more in technology over time. The best soccer clubs in the world already hire these kinds of job profiles: data scientists, programmers, AI/ML engineers, computer vision experts, computer infrastructure engineers, and so on. The soccer aspect will not stay a side gig or a niche, but it will become a legitimate track for these professionals. They will try to outsmart each other and give an edge to their clubs. Only a few will succeed, so it will be fascinating to see yet another battle between the soccer clubs.

The role of the mezzala in 3-5-2 formation

What is Mezzala in Soccer? [Complete Tactical Guide]

Central midfielders are the most versatile players on the pitch. However, even they have some advantages that they can express, especially in attack. Being able to wear many hats, a mezzala needs to find the right time to drift to the wing and create an overload. Often cooperating with the wing-back and the winger, can truly create confusion for the opponents. If the three players on the wing have the pace to do overlapping and underlapping runs, the defense can have their hands full. Furthermore, if they end up dragging more defenders, then a quick switch to the other side or a cross can create a numerical advantage in a very dangerous area. We have seen some fantastic players, such as Iniesta and Odegaard, really owning this role. Let’s look at what is needed to excel in it and the systems in which it makes sense to use it.

What is the Role of Mezzala in Soccer?

Mezzala is the role of a central midfielder that occupies a wide forward area of the pitch. The main purpose is to provide support to the team by pushing high in the winger area when the team is in possession. Mezzalas are often used to provide support to the wingers and wing-backs. This is especially true if some of them play in inverted roles. While attacking patiently and switching the ball from one flank to the other, a mezzala can create a numerical advantage. Also, they can create quality or dynamic superiority is hard to defend against. The players need to have good technical qualities, but also tactical knowledge to time their runs. That will avoid being caught off possession, and allow the opponents to progress in a counter-attack.

Formations for a Mezzala

There are lots of different ways to use mezzalas. Because it’s not easy to coach it, you will rarely see it in youth soccer teams and their tactics, even when you see players randomly drifting into it. The most typical ones are the 4-3-3 formations, which have been seen a lot by Guardiola and his disciples, Arteta and Xavi. We see that technically gifted and incredibly creative players with vision can make a difference in the wide areas, not just through the middle. In fact, they can contribute more when the opponents cannot predict their passes while positioned in the half-spaces, as it opens too many channels. Furthermore, with the rise of inverted fullback, the wingers do need support, especially if they are outnumbered.

Other common formations that support the mezzala role are 3-4-3 or even 3-5-2. As you can notice, in all cases the importance is to have many of players in the middle, so that the abandoned space is not easily targeted. If the players are dynamic that is easier, as they cover lots of ground. However, the positional awareness of the teammates to occupy the place in the center of the pitch is vital for the mezzala to have the freedom to help in attack.


11v11 soccer formation 4-3-3 by Rondo Coach Formation Tool

In a 4-3-3 formation, the fullbacks can act as traditional fullbacks or as inverted fullbacks when attacking. However, keeping the wingers high and wide can create distance from the fullbacks. Getting the right amount of support for them is often the role of the attacking midfielders who will need to drift. Furthermore, they might need to occupy that area if the winger cuts in or plays as an inverted winger. The 8 and the 10 are fairly balanced in the attacking and defensive duties. Therefore, the moment of attacking the wings is up to them to time it. Similarly, if one of them goes wide, then the other one might need to balance that by coming more central. Either way, it’s not an individual decision that can work without cooperation with the teammates.

3-4-3 Formation

3-4-3 soccer formation. 3 defender formation

With the 3-4-3 formation heavily concentrated in the middle, it can be hard to break low-block teams. However, that also means that the central midfielders need to have the freedom to bring confusion in the opposition’s defense. If they can drift to the sides and create overloads, that can create opportunities for the wingers. Then strikers push through the half spaces and cut in passes to the middle. Easier said than done. Having versatile central midfielders who can keep possession and exploit these spaces will be of great benefit to the team.


The role of the mezzala in 3-5-2 formation
Mezzala 3-5-2

In the 3-5-2 formation the central attacking midfielders can act as carrileros, but also as mezzalas. In fact, in a well-managed system, there can be mismatches. For example, if one of the fullbacks bombs down on the flank, but doesn’t get much support from the striker that stays central, then it is natural for the midfielder to act like a mezzala. On the other flank, maybe the other striker wants to drift and act like a raumdeuter. Well, then we can have a supporting act of a carrilero. It is up to the coach to understand the quality superiority of their team.

Attributes of a Mezzala

As it is a role that can change over the course of the game, it is often flexible in the requirements. However, the key is to have experienced, versatile players to complement the others on the team. First of all, their positioning and timing have to be excellent, otherwise, it creates more issues than it solves. Secondly, their decisions must be correct or it will leave the team exposed. Finally, their physical attributes will require them to quickly cover a fair amount of ground, as they will essentially play in somewhat distant areas in possession vs. in defense.

Attacking traits

The main attacking attributes of a mezzala are proficient first touch, passing, and vision. The first touch is important for any player that receives passes in the opposition third, especially with high pressure and high pace. This goes together with dribbling and flair, mezzalas are in positions to produce something out of nothing if there is an opportunity. When the player is placed in a position to play 1v1 near the box, they have to quickly control the ball and take a chance to score or assist. If that capability is not there, then there is no threat to the opponents and the effectiveness is much smaller.

If the numerical advantage is lost, then it’s up to the player to have the vision and passing ability to move the ball to another area. This patient approach might frustrate the team, but it will be even more annoying to the opponents. However, that assumes that the player can identify the opportunities and take them, but also make a good decision when there is no opportunity and move the ball quickly.

Defending skills

Obviously, a mezzala shines when the team has possession. However, the role is not of a poacher, so it has some defensive duties. The most important feature is to recognize when it needs to transition into them. The anticipation ability is key for the role. If the player can see a move or two ahead and repositions themselves (off-the-ball skill) to account for more aggressive offensive opportunities or more cautious defensive or even counter-pressing situations, then we have a quality mezzala in the squad. The only way a player can do this effectively is if they possess a high work rate and amazing stamina. Putting these together in one player is what makes it really challenging.

Famous mezzalas

As this is a very specific role with many challenges, there are not many players who have played their entire careers as a mezzala, but there are some who have become famous in the soccer world while excelling in it. They often played as central midfielder, a winger, or a creative playmaker in some systems. However, when there was a need, they stepped up to the challenge.

The most obvious one today is Martin Odegaard in Arsenal. He plays with Bukayo Saka on the wing, often inverted, in a 4-3-3 formation. Similarly, Mason Mount (and others) were acting as mezzalas in the 3-5-2 Chelsea team that won the Champions League in 2021. However, if you are looking at a masterclass, look no further than Iniesta. He was not a classic 10 or 8 (as his jersey number suggested). He was flawless in finding the wide areas to exploit at the right time. Clearly, his technical skills resulted in high effectiveness when playing as the mezzala in the legendary Barcelona teams for over a decade.


There it is – a full guide of mezzala in soccer. We covered what the role is, which formations to use it in, and the characteristics of it. The details of the role are so fascinating that they cannot be explained in a brief definition, so we decided to make a guide out of it. Finally, we looked at famous players who have played the role at the highest level. They made us think of the balance that our teams need to have in order to win games and maintain possession.

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 SLEEF.com (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.