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First Touch out the Air/The Art of Juggling

Having the ability to pull the ball out of the air is a crucial tool that all players must develop. Like with all skills it needs to be continuously worked on to be mastered. This is a task that players must start working on from the moment that they are old enough to have the power to lift the ball off the ground, all the way through to the professional game.

Parents of the club will be familiar with the flinch reaction that a lot of young players have when they see a ball in the air moving towards them during a game. This is a typical reaction to an object flying at you and is a habit that with time practice and repetition can be broken.  We have many exercises that can be used to build up confidence and over the next few months I am sure we will add to this topic. However today I want to go back to basics and discuss the world of juggling the ball.

Why do we juggle when you very rarely see it performed in the game? 

This is a good question as in the modern era we see our training sessions lean more and more towards real game scenarios (especially in the older age groups and higher levels). You can compare the answer to that of a boxer that hits the bag. The bag is not punching back but it is a way to teach technique and confidence through repetition. My experience has been that “realism = lack of Repetition and Repetition lacks Realism” so it is important to add a balance of both to your practice. This is another reason why juggling can be the early stages of mastering taking the ball out of the air.

How can I improve my Juggling Skills?

When juggling or pulling the ball out of the air, imagine it is like catching an egg. You hit the egg too hard and it breaks. You must use soft controlled touches and be light on your feet to adjust your body into the path of the ball. Gently, knock the ball back into the air without it going too high. I like to create a little backspin on the ball to have it come back to me. It is ok to start with the ball in your hands but it is important to start to gain the ability to begin by flicking the ball off the ground. 

Here are some tricks I used when learning to juggle the soccer ball:

  • Start by dropping the ball onto your thighs (get out of the habit of saying knee, we do not control the ball with our knees). And catch the ball between every hit.
  • Progress to adding in your feet and allowing a bounce between each touch rather than a catch.
  • Continue to have a bounce in between each touch but now alternate right and left foot (if this is difficult players can use 3 touches with dominant foot to one with less dominant to begin with)
  • Once ready, turn it into a game with feet and thighs in use. Touch bounce, two touch bounce, three touch, bounce four touch bounce, and build it up. If the sequence is broken the player will start back at the beginning. The player should try each time to beat their best score.
  • Take out the bounce and see how many you can reach.
  • When growing in confidence you can add in not only your thighs but also chest, shoulders, and head (when old enough to head) and a variety of tricks (that we will look into another time)
  • Advanced: Maradona 7 = right foot, right thigh, right shoulder, head, left shoulder, left thigh, left foot (alternative way is, right foot, left foot, right thigh, left thigh, right shoulder, left shoulder, double head and back down again).

Have fun with it and KEEP PRACTICING!

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