Juggling is the skill of repeatedly striking the ball in order to keep it in the air. This is usually done while standing in place. Juggling, in and of itself, is a practice skill which is often the best way for players to develop a soft, deft “touch” to the ball. A soft touch is the ability to contact the ball with the minimum amount of force needed to maintain the maximum degree of control. The ability to control the ball — in order to make it go where you want it to go, when you want it to go, and the way you want it to go — is the single most important objective for an individual soccer player to try to achieve.
Accordingly, for the Instructional Soccer Program, juggling should be introduced as early as possible and made a part of a good practice routine. A higher success rate is achieved after players have been introduced to the instep drive.
The keys to first learning effective juggling are:
At the youngest level, the following parts of the body are the most commonly used to strike the ball while juggling:
For both youth and adults first being introduced to juggling, it is easiest to learn the thigh juggle. The ball should first be held in the hands, chest-high, with the arms slightly outstretched in front of the right leg. Next the right thigh is raised parallel to the ground and the ball is dropped onto the thigh so that it bounces straight back up and is caught. After this is mastered, the ball should be dropped simultaneously with the raising of the thigh so the ball is actually struck straight back up and caught. After this is mastered, the player should attempt to strike the ball a second, third, and fourth time with the same thigh, without catching the ball. This same progression is then used with the left thigh.
After some success is achieved with the thigh juggle, the instep juggle may be introduced. The ball should first be held in the hands, just below waist high, with the arms slightly outstretched in front of the right leg. Next, the ball should be dropped simultaneously with a slight upward kick from the right instep so that the ball is struck straight up to be caught.
When first learning, this action is similar to the instep drive or a goalkeeper’s punt: the ankle should be locked and the upward kick should come from flexing the leg at the knee. After this is mastered, the player should attempt to strike the ball a second, third, and fourth time with the same instep, without catching the ball. This same progression is then used with the left instep.
Important Note: Young players who experience difficulty learning to juggle may first achieve success by following the steps above using a sturdy, soccer-ball sized balloon. This also has the advantage of being something that can be done indoors.
Players who achieve quick success with juggling should be moved on to the elimination of use of the hands. This calls for the introduction of the “sole of the foot/instep pick-up.” To do this, the sole of the foot is first placed on top of the ball. Then, in one fluid motion, the foot is used to pull the ball backward such that the toes are sent under the ball and the ball is allowed to run up on top of the instep. As the ball centers on top of the instep, the ankle may be flicked, the non-pickup leg may be flexed, or the pickup leg may be bent at the hip in order to propel the ball upward sufficiently to begin an instep or thigh juggle. At this point, juggling may continue using any combination of the right or left thighs and insteps.
Players should be allowed to “free juggle” any way they want and count the number of hits they can achieve before they catch the ball with their hands or lose control.
FOR DETAILED INFORMATION ON HOW TO TEACH THIS SKILL, SEE: Introduction to Juggling
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