Soccer is one of the easiest sports to play; all you need is your body and the ball. Even though a true soccer game boils down to how good one can skillfully manipulate a ball, practicing juggling a soccer ball is the best way to build the necessary skills.
From juggling a ball, a soccer player learns how to gain better control of the ball which is an essential skill during the game especially when tackled by an opponent.
As for the novice players, juggling helps build their comfort and confidence with the ball, in turn; the player is able to receive the ball well on their first touch, make creative passes and dribbles as well.
Moreover, since juggling involves a lot of muscles, the player is, therefore, able to make quick bodily adjustments while maintaining balance.
While most first time jugglers might not be able to keep the ball in the air after a few touches, practice, perseverance and patience is the ultimate key to juggling like a pro.
So, whether you are teaching your kid or want to learn how to juggle to improve your game, juggling should become your daily routine until you perfect the skill. Here is an in-depth guide to help you kick-start your juggling routine;
The preparation stage is one of the most overlooked steps to successfully juggling a soccer ball. Like any other task, adequate preparation can help you achieve the desired results without much effort and within a short time.
First things first, you need to know that soccer balls come in sizes- size 1 to 5. Size 1, 2 and 3 are for kids and thus have a lighter weight and don’t require a lot of air pressure.
However, first time players, no matter the age, can still practice juggling with these balls which are much easier to manipulate.
Ball sizes 4 and 5 are for adults, but can still be used for practice by intermediate players-but not kids- learning to juggle. Generally; ball sizes 1, 2 and 3 are for eight-year olds and younger, size 4 is for 8 to 12-year-olds while size 5 is for ages 13 or older.
Now that you have chosen the right ball size to practice with, deflate the ball just a little. It sounds crazy but, the main reason behind deflating the ball a bit is to reduce the intensity of its bounce.
This makes the ball easier to control during the practicing period otherwise it would fly away every time you miss a kick.
Makes sense, right? Nevertheless, once you have fully mastered the juggling technique, you should practice with a fully inflated ball. Lastly, once you have changed into soccer gear remember not to tie your shoelaces in a double not.
This is simply because laces tie in double knots often makes the ball bounce off at weird angles due to their large size.
Getting Started to Juggle
Basically, what you will be doing with the ball is kicking it up with your feet to your chest level and back again to your feet without letting it touch the ground.
It can be frustrating when the ball keeps bouncing away from your legs but you have to move past these frustrations.
The secret here is knowing exactly how hard you need to hit the ball. If you hit it too hard the ball bounces off and you lose control of it, and at the same time if you hit it too soft it won’t bounce high enough which may also cause the ball to fall off your foot.
Another important thing to successfully juggling a soccer ball is that you need to keep your eyes on the ball at all times. As long as you keep your focus on the ball, there will be minimal or no chances that it will go out of control.
Additionally, keeping your vision on the ball helps you predict where the ball is going to land and thus keep in control.
There are a couple of ways you can juggle a soccer ball. First, is the common way juggling using your feet, second is using your knees and lastly is juggling using your head and shoulders.
For beginners, it is recommended to start juggling using your feet since it is the easiest to learn. From then on, using the skills acquired you can proceed to juggle using your knees and even your head and shoulders like professional players do.
Juggling with your Feet
When juggling with your feet, start with the balls on your hands and hold it at the height of your chest. Now, drop the ball and let it bounce.
After this bounce, as the ball begins to descend kick it hard enough with your dominant foot so that it reaches your chest level height and catch it with your hands.
Remember to hit the ball with your laces and keep your toes curled up as hit the ball. For a more firm kick, keep your ankles locked so that they stay angled and strong. Your knees should also be slightly bent to enable you to have better control of the ball.
As for your controlling foot – the one you are not kicking with- keep it flat and firm onto the ground for maximum balance when juggling the ball.
Although risky, you can try maintaining balance with the controlling foot using the toes. This allows you to be agile and make quick movements necessary for keeping the ball on your juggling foot.
However, if it is too much of a risk, just keep your balance with the foot flat on the ground. Furthermore, you can always achieve more balance by keeping your eyes on the ball and your knees bent.
Alternatively, without having to hold the ball, dropping it, letting it bounce and then kick; you can start by bringing the ball close to your feet.
With your back slightly bent forward, point your dominant foot down and put tension on it and then bring it slightly up.
Now, bring the ball close to your foot but not too close so as to leave enough room to hit it hard enough- usually at the stomach height level is an appropriate height.
Finally, release the ball and hit with your laces and toes curled up. Repeat the process and hold the ball with your hands each time you kick it up.
If you are doing it correctly you should not have to lean every time you are catching the ball. A nice kick should send the ball vertically to your hands where you can catch it at ease.
As you continue practicing, you will be able to juggle without necessarily having to catch the ball. You can try doing a few touches without catching the ball to see how many touches you can do and then aim at improving on those numbers of touches.
Whether you prefer dropping the ball and kicking it after it bounces or placing it on your foot you can add it a bit of complexity to your practicing routine by alternating your feet as you kick the ball.
To do this, first, kick the ball with your dominant foot but not too high as when juggling with one foot – preferably at a height not higher than your waist.
Let the ball drop and kick it with your other foot and then catch the ball. It is important to note that, when alternating your feet, you might be forced to move around a lot so as to keep the ball in control.
Besides, since you are also juggling with your non-dominant foot it might be a bit harder hence causing you to move a lot.
Anyway, trying kicking the ball one time with each foot then catch the ball and later kick it three times, four times, five times, progressively until you master this skill when then you juggle indefinitely using both of your feet without having to move a lot.
Juggling Using your Knees
Well, this one isn’t particularly using your knees to kick the ball. On the contrary, it involves knocking up the ball using the meaty mid-part of your thighs.
Otherwise, if you use your knees the ball will bounce off violently and you may miss your next kick.
This kind of juggling is preferably for those that have already mastered juggling with their feet and hence will find it easy to use their thighs.
On top of it, all juggling with your thighs is a good way to add versatility to your juggling skills and improve your ball control as well.
First, start by lifting the knee of your dominant foot to create a flat surface at the thigh area where the ball will be juggling on.
Similar to juggling with your feet by bringing the ball close to the foot, hold the ball above the thigh area and drop the ball on it and proceed to juggle as the way you would juggle with your feet.
Just as juggling with your feet and catching the ball, do the same when juggling using your thighs.
As you progress, try and switch to the other thigh or even juggle with both your thigh and feet. This will greatly improve coordination, balance, eye control, peripheral awareness as well as spark imagination as player with what you can do with the ball.
Juggling Using your Head, Shoulders, and Chest
At this stage, you probably have mastered the technique of juggling a soccer ball. You can now juggle without much strain and make more touches than when you were beginning.
To add a touch of proficiency to your juggling skills, you might consider learning how to juggle with your head, chest and shoulders just as how professional soccer players do it.
For starters, this might take a longer time as compared to the other two ways of juggling. But, everyone is wired differently; one person may learn as quickly as in two weeks while for others it may require months of regular practicing.
No matter the case, what matters is that at the end of it all you will still learn irrespective of the time it takes you.
Let’s start with juggling with your head. Bend your knees with your feet shoulder width apart to build power to kick the ball as well as maintain balance. Throw the ball directly above your head and then try to bounce it off of your forehead for as many times as you can.
At this point, you can apply your skills in ball control to help keep the ball within your juggling range. Although some players do juggle using the top of their heads instead of foreheads, such juggling is highly discouraged as it can cause headaches besides limiting how one controls the ball.
Juggling with your shoulders is a much complex technique since the shoulders are not flat, however, you can still use them to direct the ball to the direction you want it to go.
Therefore, juggling with the shoulders is only used to give the ball a direction and not to make successive touches.
For instance, when juggling with your feet, you can kick the ball up with one of your foot, and when the ball is above one of your shoulders, you can direct it to the other foot by kicking with your shoulder.
Just make sure you only use your shoulders and not your upper arm to kick the ball, otherwise, hitting the ball with your forearm is a foul commonly known as handball.
When learning to juggle using your chest, there are to options of practicing- you can practice alone or with the help of a friend.
When practicing alone, stand by a wall with your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent.
Toss the ball to the wall at a height a bit lower than you’re the height of your shoulders so that it comes back to your chest.
With your chest tilted backward such that it acts like ramp as the ball hits your chest, pop up with your knees as if doing squats to get enough power in your touch with the ball. Alternatively, if you have a friend, he can be the one throwing the ball to your chest instead of tossing it to the wall.
Learning how to juggle a soccer ball sure does take a lot of time and effort. But similar to learning new concepts or techniques all you have to do is routinely practice until you get it right. Use the above steps to help practice juggling.