Did you know in 1995 that a player from the Ukraine juggled a ball for over 24 hours straight to set a world record? It’s a pretty amazing feat, but it shows what you can do when you have complete mastery of controlling a soccer ball (and a lot of free time).
Odds are that you will never have to dribble (or do anything else) for 24 hours straight, especially since soccer matches only last 90 minutes. What about dribbling for 24 seconds? Odds are that would not happen either in a game before being fouled, but if you can do that, it means when the ball comes to you from any direction and at any speed that you will be able to get the ball under control quickly. It also means you know what you are going to do with the ball. You will be able to project where you are going to be kick, chest, or head the ball next.
It’s also a great way to learn to use both feet for soccer. Everyone is going to favor their left or right feet for power shots, but those players who can pass and dribble with their left and right foot are going to be that much more valuable to their team. For younger children, juggling teaches coordination and balance which can be applied to any sport they play.
Juggling is the best way to learn about controlling the ball, and as you get better at it, it’s a great physical and mental conditioning exercise. Juggling is so important to improving touch, agility, balance and soccer-specific conditioning so what’s stopping you from getting out in the backyard and practicing it?
Well, you need to remember a couple of basics tricks.
- Drop the ball onto the laces of your shoe.
- Kick the ball no higher than your head.
The other thing to remember as you start these exercises is that this will take some time. Do not get frustrated if you cannot get this skill down the first time you do it. The following exercises are not designed to be mastered in an afternoon. Know this though: if you build from the basics, you will improve dramatically in time.
Build on a foundation
Start simply by dropping the ball onto your laces and kicking it back up to yourself to catch it. Once you have done this 10 times with both your left and right feet, instead of catching the ball, let the ball bounce off the ground once before hitting it again with your foot. Repeat 10-15 times with both your left and right feet.
Catching is not a way to cheat. It’s a way of establishing control over the ball. Half of juggling is making sure where the ball will go next. As long as you intended to do it, then you did it right.
Then, you can try juggling the ball twice on one foot before catching it. Alternate between doing this with your left and right feet. Once you have mastered juggling the ball twice with one foot, then you are ready to move the ball from foot to foot. Start simply though and do it once from left to right and then right to left and catch the ball between attempts.
Now it is time for multiple touches. Try juggling the ball three times on one foot before catching it. They key again with this is to do this with both feet before moving on. Once you have three kicks down, you build on that skill by moving to the next level: juggling the ball back and forth between your feet three times. Do right-left-right 10 times and then try left-right-left 10 times.
You might find yourself moving straight to the next step of juggling it to yourself four times. That’s the basics of juggling. You should be proud of yourself because you started by only knowing how to kick the ball on one foot, and now you are juggling multiple times with both feet in a single series. That’s progress and improvement.