The Best Coaching Advice You’ll Ever Get, and Probably Ignore

Go master how to properly train 10 different rondos.

Stop making forays into exotic topics like ‘guided discovery’ or some academic neurological studies on learning.

Stop it with the hundreds of sport session planner diagrams, and your buffet of drills.

Stop it with buying a new soccer book every week, thinking somehow your art will fall into place after reading Pep Confidential.

Stop it with all your banter of 4-4-2, 3-5-2, 4-3-3, 3-4-3, diamond this, box-to-box that, blah, blah, blah.

Stop it with broadcasting your lame ass licenses, diplomas, and certificates. They mean shit.

Stop it with the “tactical periodization” and “gegenpress” jargon …

you don’t even know how to coach, let alone master, a single fucking rondo!


Just stop it!

Go learn how to make rice, before you make sushi.

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  1. George says

    Brilliant. Always telling it like it is. And how it damn well should be! How I wished I could’ve made the conference – instead I drowned at Albion Cup. Keep sharing ask enforcing the message, I’m listening (And witnessing the shit you so proudly proclaimed in this message).

    • says

      Thank you George.

      Yes, straight up truth is how I roll. Part of the function of writing articles like this, is to filter out the culture that holds the country back.

      I’m desperate to find and connect with the *right people. The people who “get it”.

      • George says

        I got it from the moment 3four3 woke the futbol community up with the plain truth. It just ain’t good enough. Loyal supporter here of what you’re achieving. Keep that voice loud. The community is listening and growing by the day. Even if the trophy hunting coaches and parents don’t want to hear it. And of course, USSF.

      • says

        Gary when you say get it, do you mean agree with your philosophy. For example I understand and fully agree with the statement of 100s of drills, books etc, all that does is confuse you. However I dont fully agree with your game style, possession YES, but I also want players that can run with the ball, watching your teams there seems to be a lack of individual brilliance that sets anyone apart. Maybe I am wrong I have only seen the videos you have posted, sure you will tell me differently.

        Im not American, its far worse in England to try and change things. FA are run by politcians, media and lawyers and the Premier League have there own agenda. USA is still in its infancy in terms of football, I think the States will be more able to adapt and change for the better than we can here in England. Once you are able to get all those south Americans playing under great coaches, you will see USA rise up the world rankings.

        • Stephen Paylor says

          Whilst i agree that players running with the ball adds a great dimension to the game and for sure is great to watch. However, the philosophy is built around the concept of the team and inner belief that a strong team will always be better (for a variety of reasons) than a few talented indiciduals. It isnt that players aren’t coached to dribble and beat their man and particularly in the forward positions as penetration is penetration regardless of how it is achieved. At the end of the day its good attempts on goal that is the determining factor. Players that are capable should be encouraged to beat their man if no other option is available. losing a ball one v one often means the defending player now in possession can create a numerical avdantage elsewhere and can be hard to defend. If it is regular then over time it can impact a game. Take a look at the stats on dribbles per game and compare with successful dribbles per game. Its not great. The glory headlines are achieved sometimes of course but 20% success rate isnt a philosophy to preach and in particular when it often leads to players being out of position when it goes wrong.

      • says

        Dude I love you guys! Man I was waiting for the rest of it, and the end. Dang hey threw away a lot of stuff I was doing. US Soccer doesn’t even know what direction to go in. These instructors are confused on what to critique the coaches. One of my coaches recently went threw the “C” course over the summer. He said there was constant confusion on the do’s and don’t's. Waiting for the next course to open up.

    • Chad says

      Jon, Just to interject here, I think what is even more elusive than learning “how to coach” is “why you are coaching what you are coaching”. Any coach can go to Youtube and find thousands of videos on “how to coach”, they can pick and choose which ‘drills’ they think will take their teams to the next level, they can watch videos of Chelsea’s and FC Schalke’s youth coaches and copy and paste them into their supposed coaching plans, etc…and they can see “how” a drill is coached. But what is missing is the “why” in this process. Why are coaches coaching a specific exercise? Does it fit into the overall coaching philosophy? Do your exercises relate to your players? Do the drills make sense to teach how you want your team to play? If not then “why” is a coach coaching that/those exercise(s)? Just because it was readily available on the internet? Because that is what he/she thinks that’s how to coach? The reason the Dutch and the Spanish are so brilliant is because they philosophize about the game, they avoid simply going through the motions, they go deeper than the action of playing and delve into the “why” they do what they do. When I used watch the training sessions of the top teams of the club where I used to coach, I was always struck by the lack of passion, thought, and sensibility of their practice sessions. Nothing flowed, no reasoning, no creativity, and no purpose to their actions. My two cents.

      • Jon Best says

        I totally agree. By ‘how to coach,’ I mean how to shove some players into the coaching mystery box and have them come out (years) later as a cohesive, thinking team. How, why, what, when, all balled up in it.

        I watched a session held by our state DOC last year on passing, with a high level u15 or 16 boys team. Four or five passing drills, from a common Y drill to some complicated ‘push off the guy in front of you, receive with X foot, pass that way, run across the square’ type stuff.

        30 youth coaches standing around nodding their heads.

        I was a little flabbergasted, and I wish I had thought to step in and ask the players when they would use these movements, why, and how it fit into their system of play. I’m 100% sure there would be no answer. To me, nothing was learned that day- they’d all have been better off with an hour kicking a ball against a wall- more touches and probably more independent thought.

        STATE DOC. We’re screwed for the foreseeable future. :)

  2. Jason says

    But I loved “Pep Confidential”! Including the part about doing Rondos every session and how if they lost, people would criticize doing Rondos so often ;-)

    • says


      Nothing wrong with reading books.
      The point is that won’t make one a legit coach.

      And worse, so many people out there using books to mostly enhance their bullshitting capacity. Deliberately, or not.

  3. Kit Elliott says

    I need help understanding something about this.

    Is it best to use basic rondos like a 4v1 or 3v1 as a precursor to positional rondos or choreography?

    To work on the #6′s movements while building out of the back I’ve used a 6v3 rondo with the #6 as the only offensive player in the middle. I stress the importance of checking over her shoulder and making space for a split pass by dragging defenders away from the middle when appropriate (and I give her cues for how to determine what appropriate means).

    The next step is choreography and then adding pressure in a scrimmag-like setting working on a couple of objectives while building out.

    So is that whole sequence proper in using rondos? Rondo (for technique) –positional rondos (for basic tactiCal movements) — choreography (specific tactics)– scrimmage (test it all out in game setting).

    • Chad says

      Kit, I can answer your question a bit. In my experience coaching with the Barça youth coaches at the camps here in the US, they use rondos for improving technique (proper receiving if ball (ie across the body away from defender), they use it to teach support (players on the sides move TO the ball to support player with the ball), they use it for tactical (in a 4v1 rondo, the player with ball acts like a Busquets, Pique central-type player with supporting players acting like the wingers/lb or rb, the player opposite the ball acts like the striker providing depth to the field). It also teaches quick decision making in tight spaces and of course one touch. It also teaches players to avoid pressure, to recognise when to switch the focus of play, to recognise when to split the defense. For the players in the middle, it teaches how to press the ball in packs, how to transition from attack to defense, how to cut off passing lanes, how to trap the ball into corners.

      Now you see, from a simple rondo, a coach can teach all of this in ten minutes as a warmup exercise. And now you see why you can’t find these nuggets on YouTube, it’s so simple but so complex at the same time, and one can see why American coaches have no clue what they are doing when it comes to teaching a holistic approach to the game.

  4. Shawn Landis says

    You’re right.

    I was at the Summit in LV. It was FANTASTIC! I’ve been a victim of these distractions in the past. My experience in Vegas on Friday and Saturday made me realize where I want to go and how I am going to get there.

    You’re timing with this postcould not have been better Gary.

    Keep up the good work.

  5. says

    Gary … I have spent the better part of the last year with my squad doing a lot of rondos and positional rondos. There are a lot of good moments and as many bad ones too … but the cool thing that I’ve noticed is how the rondos and speed of play show up in the actual game. My players have so much more time / space that they almost don’t know what to do with it! And when the space does diminish they are able to handle the pressure and play out … with confidence. I still have a ways to go and so do my boys, but I will continue to keep my focus on the Rondos.

    • says

      Good to hear Kieron.
      As Cruyff said … pretty much everything that happens in a game, except finishing, can be trained in a rondo.

      The key is, you have to know how to properly train it.

  6. Chad says

    Love it! I just finished my 2nd summer coaching with FCBEscola, not name dropping, just the truth, and of course they put a lot of emphasis on various rondos. I have two summer’s worth of FCB rondos in my coaching notebook, if anyone is interested, let me know and I will share. Be aware though, they are not complicated and “sexy”, they are very simple and pragmatic. Also be aware that they don’t need a million cones to set up, so you might be disappointed too if you are a coach who likes to use tons of cones to make people think you know what you are doing lol! All in good fun.

        • Markooo says

          Hello Chad,
          I also will contact you and would love info on the same topic. My son was just at an Escola in Cincinnati. I realize that there are two groups doing Escola camps … our guys were based in Charlotte. Are you with that group?

          The Barca trainers had a “friendly” against the KingsHammer trainers/coaches and it was quite an education. Two different languages in that game …. men vs. boys. Showed the typical tragic play of US soccer. I wish I had a DVD!

          Anyway, I use rondos quite often and would like your advice.


          • Chad says

            I work for the other company that runs the camps. I’ve played in both sides of the matches. Last year I played in the local coaches team and we got destroyed! This year I got to pay with the Barça coaches and it was a lot more fun. It’s amazing to play with guys who know how to play the game. I simply played the way they taught the kids at the camp and I fit right in the system. Awesome stuff. Looking forward to your email.

  7. Chad says

    Holy crap! I guess I shouldn’t have posted my email here! lol. Sorry for stealing some of your thunder here Gary but I want to share how FCB approach this topic because I believe it is so important and crucial to a young player to learn. I am just a “D” licensed coach so take what I say with a grain of salt lol, sarcasm.

  8. says

    Love this as well as many of your other posts. Someone needs to come out with a complete guide on how to cultivate youth players (ie what topics should be addressed and when to move on to other topics). Everyone here in Maryland has their own idea of how its done and rarely is the product attractive or successful in grooming sound players.

  9. Dennis says

    First time poster here & lovin the articles!!! Last year I told my U16 boys that before each training session they were stop clowning around and brainlessly shooting at goals (this was a bad habit at the club). Instead, they were to do a simple circular rondo with one or two guys in the middle. I gave them a basic explanation of the workings & benefits of rondos and left the rest to them. What happened next was amazing. It became a fun thing they looked forward to as I was setting up my sessions. In fact it contributed to a real improvement in team culture and skills for all the players – especially those who considered themselves “not so good”. They even developed little variations of their own which was interesting. I then used more structured rondos in the sessions. It really is an awesome tool when trying to teach kids who, in my case, had never been taught how to play a possession based game.

    • Robert Kleemaier says

      Agreed, Dennis, for the same thing happened this season with my kids. A big smile broadened across my face when a couple of eager beavers arrived early & got straight into a rondo. :)

  10. Robert Kleemaier says

    Gary, Greg Ramos has one or two 50-min. clips on the net, demonstrating rondo variations. To what extent do you see value you in his example(s)?

  11. says

    I feel like I’ve just been called out! But in a good way (I’ve Seen The Light). I’m still reading the books to better my knowledge. I took all the USSF and NSCAA classes because I needed something. I needed help with coaching and didn’t know where to start. I’ve asked to shadow DOC’s who were crap (20 plus years), I’ve done the Coerver for the technical part and I’ve paid all this money and feel like a fool in a sense. The USSF and NSCAA classes give you a topic that you have to regurgitate and all you do is focus on your topic. Cram Class! Your so stressed about passing you forget everything else. Then I’d go back to my players and coach that one topic!.

    To me clubs measure you by certifications and that’s what I was sold on! If you want to coach a higher level team go get certified.

    One DOC I shadowed told me not to play out of the back because I will get killed and it doesn’t look good if the boys loose all the time. Where I come from you don’t get to coach the top two teams if you don’t have license or played professionally. Such a Fucking joke! The guys that they do hire come and go season after season, moving from club to club. They just exchange places with each other!

    I was lucky to coach my sons rec team and started to implement 3four3 and showed what this system can do. I would not have been noticed as a coach if it was not for this program! I’ve gone off course a few times only to spread the kids thin! So now I’m strictly possession soccer now and that’s it! I told my parents your in or your out. Mastering 10 Rondos. Looking back there was no or little quality help for coaching, no wonder why these kids don’t master anything! If I didn’t stumble across your YouTube video that went wild I’d be a lame coach doing something different every week.


  12. Chad says

    Adding to this post after speaking with so many of you via email, correct me if I am wrong here Gary, but I think the most important thing to understand here is not learning how to coach a rondo per se, but instead having a dedicated system of play for your team operate within. Example, if you as a coach cannot explain the goal of a particular rondo, and as a coach cannot relate a particular rondo to the system you are using, then you are just coaching a rondo for the sake of coaching a rondo. In the military, they call this the ‘self-licking ice cream cone’. Furthermore, if you can’t relate positional concepts within a rondo to your system, then your players aren’t really grasping what the rondo is for either. They will be great at executing a particular rondo, but will fail to realize the benefits during the games. Also, if you cannot explain the role of each position to your players, then they will not understand what they need accomplish during the game. If you as a coach like playing a 4-2-3-1, for example, are your rondos set up to benefit this formation? Each of the rondos I learned at the FCBEscola are set up to teach the players how to operate within the 4-3-3, or at the youth level, a 3-2-1. If you dont have that system tied to your rondo sessions, then I am afraid you won’t get the most out of your team.

    The most frustrating part as a coach, in my opinion, is coaching at a club that doesn’t believe in a particular system of play, which I imagine is about 99.9999% of clubs in this country. One of the reasons I dont coach club anymore is because I found it counter productive to spend so much energy coaching my kids to play within a system, only to see them move on to different coach within the same club, who believes in coaching agility to 10 yr olds…agility training to 10 yr olds, I said it twice. I spent basically 2 years of my time coaching rondos and this system only for it to be destroyed by some asshole who wants a 10 yr old to be agile, but he had the licenses so he got the best players. Sorry, I dont believe in low-hanging fruit. I want/wanted to be a soccer coach, not an athletic trainer, which unfortunately is what most “coaches” in this country are, they are trainers who train individual players, they are not coaches who coach how the game is played as a collective whole. This is why I will only coach for the FCBEscola camps and not for a club ever again. The system is the key. If you dont have the key, then your door as a coach will always remain locked. Holy shit, where did that poetry come from?

    • Robert Kleemaier says

      It’s like banging your head against a brick wall, ain’t it? Or as the Dutch say, ‘carrying water to the sea’. (*sigh*)

  13. Kit Elliott says

    Well put, Chad. I can relate to those who coach in clubs with no identity. There is little to no interest of forming a club identity here, but even if there were I doubt they would know how to get started.

    Lately my team has been working with the 7v3 rondo from Gary and Brian’s course to teach pressure, cover, and balance. I told the girls that the nearest defender to the ball is responsible for dictating where the other two will apply pressure and their angle of approach to eliminate passes out of the pressure zone.

    This rondo has manifested in our last 3 games as our front 3 will pin down the opponents back four. As a result they either cough up the ball or boot it out blindly.

    In our last game I noticed they preferred to boot it out so I had the 2 center backs drop deeper to anticipate this so they could settle the ball before their lone, speedy forward could get to it. As a result, we played the majority of yhe game in their half.

    Rondos are the key. Rondos, then choreography, then adding pressure to recreate game like scenarios, then scrimmages. That’s order I do it in and it takes course over several weeks.

  14. Matthew says

    I have been reading your website for a while, I am not a coach, only a dad.
    I want to know, this is related somewhat but mostly off topic, as a coach do
    you look for the big fast strong players(guessing you do not) or the ones that think. I do talk to coaches most have no clue, but one who has been a skills coach for a long time and someone who sees the game differently then the kick and run coaches. He told me he looks for kids who think first, he said you can teach skills but you cannot teach someone how to think. What is your thoughts on this?

    • MG says

      Matthew, you are right that a lot of coaches in this country focus on selecting big, fast and strong players for their team to win. Based on prior posts on this blog and the game footage, I don’t believe that Brian and Gary place their top priority on athleticism. Ideally, you want to find a coach who understands the game and values good decision-making and other intangibles above pure athleticism. The best athletes are not always the best players, but the best athletes are generally coveted by kick and run style coaches. A word of caution though, lots of coaches have the right jargon (possession, playing out of the back, soccer IQ, etc) but don’t walk the walk. You want to stay away from the impostors. If you are considering joining a new team, try to see at least one of their games – it will be more revealing than simply talking to a coach.

      • Matthew says

        MG, Thanks for the response, I know about the snake oil salesman, I mean coaches. I was asking if they looked for athletes who they thought they could teach to play the game or for players who used their brain to play the game. After reading these posts it was clear in order to play using rondos(or any style) the players must first and foremost have a good first touch and then know what to do with the once they get it. I wanted to know if they looked for a player who used their brains first because you can teach a player to move the ball from A to B and then to C, but then you are creating robots just moving the ball within a system. However if you have players using his brain they will know when to pull the ball back and bypass B and go directly to C. At the end of a game a player should be as tired mentally as they are pyshically. Thank you everyone for your insight, this is by far the best sight out there.

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