Players and parents often ask me, “What is the sense of juggling? You don’t juggle in a game so why practice juggling?” It’s a good question and I understand why they ask this question. You don’t see players juggling the ball down the field. You don’t see players juggle then shoot or juggle then pass. Yes I agree, juggling isn’t used in a game, but it is the base of your skill set and is the activity that aligns your mind, body and ball.
Juggling develops many parts of you as a soccer player. What does it develop? It develops a lot of areas of your game, but most importantly it helps you develop a relationship with the ball. What most soccer players don’t understand is that learning to control the ball when it is on the ground is easy. Learning to control the ball when it is in the air is the hard part. “How often does the ball come to you in the air?” you ask. Probably a lot more than you think and that’s when being able to juggle helps. Good jugglers can control the ball with ease when the ball comes to them in the air, thus making their first touch effective no matter how the ball comes to them.
We often ask ourselves, “Why are the South Americans so good at soccer?” If you ever get a chance to visit South America, you will see local parks and streets filled with individuals practicing their juggles. As individuals, pairs, or groups they juggle for hours upon hours. Juggling is a part of their soccer culture. At pro games you will often see young players that are exceptional at juggling be a part of the half time show. If juggling didn’t help your game and if juggling wasn’t a key part of development, the South Americans would not invest in it and would not rate it as the most important part of being a soccer player.
On a recent visit to Universal Soccer Academy Argentina, I spent a lot of time playing soccer volley ball (or soccer tennis) after each session. The Academy’s students played every day after training and I joined in on their favorite game. The Argentines spend so much time playing soccer volley ball that it is impossible not to have a good first touch. Their volley ball games are played with one or two players per team and each player is only allowed two touches. First touch is to control the ball and second touch is to get it over the net. If your first touch is weak then you will not have success in soccer volley ball, just as you would not have success on a soccer field.
Juggling takes time to master and it takes time to succeed at it. The hardest part is getting to 10 juggles. Once you get to 10 juggles you will find that your record increases very quickly. Getting to 10 though will take a lot of hours and a lot of patience and believing you can do it. Many young players give up because it’s so hard to get to around 10 juggles. But once you do get to 10, you have the base that will help you become a good juggler.
If you’re young and starting out, I recommend you juggle on a hard floor and use one bounce in between your juggles. Start off with one bounce and juggle. The one bounce juggle method is the best way to build your base. You can build off that and move on to two juggles and bounce. Advanced jugglers should take up soccer volley ball to further enhance their juggling skills.
1) Juggling develops your foot and eye coordination. When your feet and eyes work in sync and in rhythm, the timing of your entire skill set improves.
2) Juggling works on your first touch. When the ball comes into your playing area, most of the time it comes from an aerial position. A good juggler has the instinct to bring the ball down comfortably.
3) A good juggler is able to gently pass aerial passes to themselves over people’s feet and over their heads.
These are just some examples of the advantages of juggling. In general, juggling is the base for soccer skill. There is no pro or elite soccer player that can’t juggle. It’s juggling that builds your first touch and your first touch is everything when playing at the highest level.
Director of Soccer Operations
Universal Soccer Academy