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When a soccer team signs a new player, no one knows how that relationship will end, but all of us know how it starts; the player is presented to the press and the fans. All dressed up with its new team clothes; the player juggles a soccer ball. We’ve witnessed players lose control of the ball and fall, and we’ve seen some magical presentations. Some think that the ability to juggle is essential, but why is juggling important in soccer?
Juggling a soccer ball enhances the player’s ball control, first touch, passing, balance, and coordination. It can even affect its confidence. To forwards, an oriented ball control inside the penalty area it’s half a goal. For defenders, poor ball control in their own box might be a disaster.
Juggling a soccer ball is not only very entertaining but also highly beneficial for a footballer. By doing it, our body gets used to the ball, to its weight, to the way it bounces. It’s a simple exercise that helps to increase body balance, coordination, and timing. While playing the game, juggling won’t be a good help, it can even be interpreted as mockery by the rival, but the effects of juggling will be of enormous help during a soccer match.
Why is juggling important in soccer?
In soccer, with some counted-with-the-fingers-of-a-hand exception, those who practice a team game have more chances of winning than those who bet all they got into one player.
A good team game approach demands high-quality passing, good reception of the ball, and a lot of movement without the ball. Still, everything begins with ball control; it needs to be good.
When a player receives a pass, controlling the ball and send it in the direction he’s supposed to run with the first touch makes everything easier. The ball is already ahead of him. Juggling helps a lot to master that first touch.
Strikers’ luck in a team, its chances of scoring and even the fans’ love depend on that player’s ball control. It is said that a striker should control the ball with its less skillful leg so that after that touch, the ball lays dead in front of its stronger foot, ready to be kicked.
The prolonged practice of juggling the ball increases that first touch accuracy with both legs; that’s why it is essential.
When kids start playing the game, the ball spends long periods flying over the field. It is the easier thing to do as a young defender, just kicking the ball far from the own goal. The player that manages to control the ball, put it down with one or two touches has an advantage.
As juggling is about dominating the ball in the air, without letting it touch the floor, it helps big time neutralize the inertia of a ball that comes flying from far, perhaps from the other half of the field.
Does juggling make you a better soccer player?
Soccer is a lot about ball control, but not everything about it. Juggling helps you increase your set of skills, no doubt, and it would make a better soccer player, but of course, it is necessary more than that.
Perhaps to understand this better, we could go through some examples. We could travel to the past, from the 70s to the early 90s. Back then, soccer was slower if compared with today’s sport. Not every player would train as hard as they do today. The game was more technical, more about dribbling and passing. The ball was heavier and stiffer.
In that scenario, players depended more on their technical attributes than on their physical conditioning. For playing that style of game, ball control was as necessary as air to breed. Would juggling make a better player back then? Yes, of course.
In those years, the public enjoyed a soccer player race almost extinguished in today’s soccer, the classical number 10, also known as “enganche,” trequartista, and many more. This player would have an exquisite first touch, passing, long and short, shooting, positioning, and game vision. They weren’t powerful nor fast; they depended entirely on their talent.
Players like Carlos Valderrama from Colombia would jog in the field like they were never in a hurry. And then, with a pass, they would decide the match. Perhaps the last players to play this role in modern soccer might be the Argentinian Riquelme, the Italian Pirlo, the Brazilian Ganso, or the Spanish Iniesta.
Today’s soccer is more physical; it is faster, the intensity and speed of the game increased over the years. Players can’t (or shouldn’t) jog in the field like deluxe guests. Everybody must run and sacrifice for the team. And still, juggling helps to be better at this style of soccer too.
It’s about acting quickly. The faster the ball is controlled, the faster the play keeps its rhythm, and the momentum keeps its flow. As we mentioned before, juggling improves oriented control, vital in today’s super-fast soccer.
Talented players are usually man-marked. A defender sticks to them like a tick and won’t let them be alone. That’s why it’s common to see players isolated in a corner, low profile, on the opposite side of the ball. That’s when the defender would leave some space; as long as the ball is far from the talented player, there’s no risk.
In that exact moment, when the team’s best player has some space to breed, the teammates would try to pass the ball to it. A long ball, perhaps a 60 or 70 meters long pass, would go directly to its chest, and the player would have a few decimal seconds to kill the ball’s effect and dominate it before the defender is there.
Does juggling improve dribbling?
It definitely helps. As we said before, it is not all the only thing a suitable dribbler needs, but it helps. Dribbling is about ball control and timing, both attributes affected by juggling.
Great players with a considerable juggling ability demonstrated to be excellent dribblers. Perhaps the most emblematic case is Ronaldinho Gaúhco. He was a tremendous juggler, very skillful and creative, and a massive dribbler as well. Neymar is another excellent example, great juggler, better dribbler.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is also known for his incredible joggling capacity, and his dribbling credentials are up to date, no doubt. There are a few contradictory cases, of course. Roberto Carlos, the left defender of Real Madrid for many years, and the Brazilian national team showed immense joggling abilities, and he wasn’t known for his dribbling.
A player who is not famous for his joggling skills is Lionel Messi. Obviously, he can juggle a soccer ball, but fair is to say, he’s not known for that, and his dribbling skills don’t need further descriptions.
How long does it take to learn to juggle a soccer ball?
As with many other things, become an excellent juggler depends on time, dedication, and most importantly, repetitions. If trained consistently, every soccer player should see its juggling abilities to develop regularly.
It is essential to understand that even when our joggling numbers don’t increase, every time we are joggling the ball, we grow muscle in our legs and cells in our brain that improve our joggling skills. It’s required patience and dedication to become a reasonable juggler.
So, it’s not possible to determine how long someone must practice before achieving joggling skills. Time will vary depending on each person’s previous gifts, determination, consistency, and so forth. What it is possible to confirm, however, is that anyone can learn to juggle a soccer ball.
How to juggle a soccer ball for beginners step by step
Seeing Ronaldinho Gaúcho juggling the ball makes us ask Anakin’s famous question, is it possible to learn this power? Yes, it is. There are a few steps that beginners can follow to improve their skills.
1. Hands and shoelaces
It’s recommended to start with the ball in your hands, holding it with your arms extended. Then you drop the ball to the instep of your foot (generally where shoelaces are), making sure your ankles are locked. The ball will bounce up; you catch it with your hands and repeat. It’s essential to kick the ball with both feet, not only your skilled one. This exercise is meant to understand the ball’s bouncing and responsiveness to the hit of your foot.
2. Two in a row
Once you feel you can send the ball up towards your hands at will, you can start trying to hit the ball twice before catching it. You can hit the ball twice with the same leg or try to alternate. Doing this will increase your understanding of how hard you need to kick the ball to keep it at a certain height.
3. Kick and bounce
When you feel comfortable hitting the ball twice in a row, you can start letting the ball bounce on the floor once before you hit it again. This exercise stimulates your coordination and timing. It is also good to compare the difference between the ball bouncing on the floor and your feet.
4. Keep it up
After these previous steps are behind you, and you feel you dominate them, you can start trying to keep the ball in the air as long as possible. It would be ideal if you can keep the ball bouncing no further than the line of your waist. The goal is to master the strength you apply on every kick. As your confidence and skills go high, you can start making shorter kicks. First to the line of your thighs, then your knees, then shorter as you can. The shorter the touch, the harder to control the ball.
5. One footer
When you can hit the ball in short touches, keeping it almost glued to your feet, you can start juggling with one foot only, leaving the other one on the floor. The idea is to use only one foot to juggle, and the other one stays down. You might have to take mini-jumps with your set foot to keep balance and pursue the ball.
6. Mix it all but the hands
Finally, when you master these techniques, you should practice mixing every method, except catching the ball with your hands. Mix it up, let the ball bounce, then hit it twice with the same foot, alternate, raise to your waist, and then keep the touch short just a few centimeters from your foot. Creativity and improvisation are good counselors in soccer.
But juggling needs more than only your feet; it is a whole activity; it involves every part of the body. For instance, the chest is used to rectify a high touch or send the ball to the other foot. The thighs are very useful, as well. The process of learning thigh juggling is similar to the one with the foot.
To hit the ball properly with your thighs, you need to raise your knee to your waistline, creating a flat surface with your thigh. If your knee is too low, the ball will bounce forward, away from you. If you raise your knee too much, the ball will go directly to your chest or your face.
- Thighs to hand – Start hitting the ball with your thighs and then catching it.
- Two touches. Just as you did with your feet, start giving two touches with each thigh, and then alternate. You can then begin doing three and four touches in a row.
- Mix it all up, again. Once you feel comfortable juggling the ball with your thighs at will, you can mix everything but the hand-catching. Mix the kicks with your feet at any height with thigh juggling.
And then, the final boss, head juggling. Juggling’s primary goal is to learn how to control the ball with any part of your body, except for the hands, of course. In the adrenaline of the game, a pass can come at any speed and into any part of your body, and you must control the pass and keep the flow going.
For head juggling, it’s vital to remind a few primary principles.
- Use your forehead – You must hit the ball with your forehead, the flattest part of your head.
- Eyes on the ball – It’s essential to keep the eyes open and to look at the ball all the time.
- You hit it; it doesn’t hit you – It might sound silly, but it’s crucial to make sure we hit the bull up, and not that it bounces in our head.
- Forehead looking to the sky – If we incline our head forward, the ball will follow that direction. The same happens if we bend it backward.
- Mix it all, for the last time – Now, you are ready to mix all that you’ve been practicing and try to keep the ball in the air the longest you can. It’s an excellent time to set personal records and try to break them every day.
Advanced jugglers might try shoulder juggling, shin juggling, back heel juggling, and seated juggling. All of it comes with practice and creativity.
What is the soccer juggling world record, and who has it?
There are some exciting juggling world records registered by Guinness. Let’s see.
- Nikolai Kutsenko holds the record for keeping a regular soccer ball in the air using his feet, legs, and head. His time is 24 hours, 30 minutes non-stop. I’ll let that sink in.
- Kennet Yoga from Kenia holds the record for sitting juggling, 4 hours, 43 minutes, 43 seconds.
- Juggling while walking, making stops. The Brazilian Ricardo Silva Neves walked 448 miles (790 kilometers) in twelve days.
- Juggling while walking non-stop. The British Dan Magness walked while juggling a regular soccer ball for 30 miles (48 kilometers).
- Most touches in 1 minute. The American Tasha-Nicole Terani held the record with 292 hits in 1 minute in 2003.
- Most touches in 30 seconds. Tim Crowe managed to hit the ball in the air 147 times. The American set the record in 2005.
- Most touches in 1 minute. Only headings. Erick Hernandes holds the record with 314 head touches in 1 minute.
- The Maradona seven soccer tricks. The challenge, named after the soccer legend, consists of seven touches with the ball in order. One with each foot, then one with each thigh, then each should, and finally the head. The latest record for the quickest 10 Maradona seven soccer tricks was set by the thirteen-year-old boy British Tommy Boyd. His record was 29.78 seconds. The previous record was 35.47 seconds.
Does juggling a soccer ball burn calories?
Yes, it does. It’s been estimated that juggling a soccer ball for at least 30 minutes can burn up to 129 calories. Of course, the more intense the juggling exercise, the more significant the number of calories burnt.
Using several parts of our bodies and not only our feet will increase that number.
Overall, juggling a ball is an excellent exercise to improve our conditioning, balance, reflexes, ball control, technique, confidence, familiarity with the ball, and much more. It is also fun to do, and the best part of it, in the long run, it will turn you into a better soccer player.