Intermediate Soccer Juggling



After mastery of the basic skill set contained in the Coaching American Soccer Introduction to Juggling, including the instep, thigh, and head juggles, players may be introduced to intermediate soccer ball juggling activities.  These activities include new touches and “tricks” performed as individual juggling, then group juggling, pairs juggling, and programmed juggling.

Individual Juggling

The following progression is suggested to add new touches and “tricks” to the repertoire of an individual player juggling a soccer ball:

  • Free juggle using the introductory body parts to keep the ball in the air:  insides of both feet, insteps of both feet, both thighs, and the head; increasing the number of touches and the amount of time that the ball is kept in the air before control is lost
  • Alternate use of the thighs, one-touch each, right-left-right-left, etc.
  • Alternate use of the insteps, one-touch each, right-left-right-left, etc.
  • Add the outsides of both feet:  juggle, direct the ball slightly to the right of the body, hit the ball with the outside of the right foot to bring the ball back in front to continue juggling; repeat with the left side and foot (players may find it easier at first to direct the ball outside with the thigh to increase the chances of success)  (this is also called the “flipper kick”)
  • Add a different type of head juggle:  tilt the head slightly to use the left side of the forehead or the right side of the forehead
  • “Trap” the ball just below the neck with a “tabletop chest trap,” then allow the ball to roll down the chest and resume juggling with the thigh or instep
  • Intentionally do not allow any spin on the ball with any touches
  • Intentionally put spin on the ball with the insteps and keep the ball spinning with each touch of the foot (this is done by flexing the foot slightly toward the shin from horizontal as contact is made with the ball; the ball rotates toward the juggler)
  • “Catch” the ball with the instep and hold it in place, pop it up from the hip to resume juggling (the ball may actually be balanced on the instep, but many players find it easier to start by flexing the foot in such a way that the ball is held by pulling it back into the shin)
  • Perform an instep catch and hold with one foot, then pop the ball up and immediately catch and hold it with the instep of the other foot; pop it up again to resume juggling
  • Catch and hold the ball with the inside of foot, pop it up from the knee to resume juggling
  • Catch and hold the ball with the outside of foot, pop it up from the knee to resume juggling
  • Add “Around the World” – after an instep touch, while the ball remains in the air, circle the ball completely with the foot and then resume with an instep touch
  • Perform an “Around the World” and then catch it on the instep and hold
  • Juggle while intentionally walking around, in no particular pattern
  • Juggle while walking from one specific location to another; turn and return

(Juggling while walking around can include free juggle, instep only, thigh only, or head only.)

The following pick-ups, used to get the ball off the ground in order to start juggling, may also be introduced:

  • Sole of the foot to an instep hold of the same foot, pop the ball up to start juggling
  • Sole of foot of one foot to place ball on the instep of the other foot, pop the ball up to start juggling
  • On a hard surface:  slight sole of the foot to the instep of the same foot in order to get the ball up a few inches, then strike the ball forcefully from above, with the sole of the foot, to bounce it off the ground two- to three-feet high to get it started

Group Juggling

The objective of group juggling is the same as individual juggling, to keep the ball in the air as long as possible.   The group is formed by a circle of four or five players, with no fewer than three and no more than six, approximately four yards in diameter.  One ball is used.  One player starts the group juggling using an individual pick-up of the ball or by flicking the ball to a teammate.  (If this proves difficult at younger ages, the player may start by dropping the ball to his own thigh or by lobbing the ball, underhand with a slight arc, across the circle to a teammate.)  Each player proceeds to take two or three juggle touches and then passes the ball, in the air with a soft touch and a sufficient arc, across the circle to a teammate in such a way that the teammate can start juggling immediately as he receives the ball.  (A pass with the inside of the foot or the instep is easiest at first.)  Each player continues the same approach by juggling and then passing the ball across the circle to someone different from whom they received the ball.  All parts of the body and choices of juggle touches may be used to keep the ball in play, including chest traps and one-touch heading.  As proficiency is gained with group juggling, one-touch can be stipulated as a requirement or players can try to send the ball around the circle by passing directly to the player next to them.

Pairs Juggling

Juggling between two teammates is usually harder than group juggling because of the control required.  With group juggling, the nature of the circle of the group increases the chance of keeping the ball in play.  With pairs juggling, the objective of the pair is the same as individual and group juggling, to keep the ball in the air as long as possible.  Two players, approximately three yards apart, use one ball to generally juggle two or three times each and then pass the ball to the other player.  All options for juggling and passing are available, including one-touch heading of the ball back-and-forth.

Programmed Juggling

Programmed juggling is individual juggling according to a prescribed pattern of touches.  The coach calls out the pattern, for example, “Two left instep, two left thigh, two head, two right thigh, two right instep.”  An instep pick-up is used to begin and a sole-of-the-foot trap is used to end.  The number of touches and types of patterns are almost limitless.  Players may also compete among themselves to establish and perform intricate patterns.  Players who perform a particularly difficult pattern without letting the ball hit the ground may be asked by their teammates to perform it a second time as “confirmation,” in order to prove that it wasn’t luck.

Soccer Coaching Tips:

  • Concentration on the ball (player sees his body part contact with the ball; “eyes on the ball”)
  • Trick to keep the ball from getting away – touch it in such a way that it comes slightly back toward you, then use the chest to keep it in play (striking surface just beyond horizontal)
  • Free juggling can also be referred to as “freestyle” juggling.
  • “Speed” juggling may also be introduced where players can be challenged to get in as many touches as possible in a short period of time.
  • As an extension of juggling while moving around, coaches may introduce players to “race” juggling, where players juggle as fast as possible from one line to another.

© Copyright, John C. Harves