Juggling involves using all body parts (except your arms!) to keep a soccer ball in continuous motion above the ground. Watching somebody effortlessly bouncing the ball and performing tricks is very entertaining. Indeed, juggling has evolved into its own sport known as freestyle football/soccer.
But how does this fun pastime relate to the competitive team sport of soccer? And how can juggling a ball make you a better player on the field?
It may not shock you to know that some of the world’s best players are excellent jugglers too. While perfecting this skill will not automatically make you a world-class player, combining juggling with your normal soccer training will reap tangible benefits for you during matches.
Now let’s discuss the 9 ways juggling will make you a better soccer player.
1. Improved Hand-Eye Coordination
When playing a sport, your brain must coordinate your body so it can execute necessary movement patterns. In soccer, this takes the form of passing, shooting, dribbling, and tackling.
Juggling promotes the development of your brain as a soccer player. To effectively perform tricks in a juggling routine, your body and mind must be well synchronized. You must learn to track the ball’s position so you can hit it in the right place with the correct power.
The same is true during a real game. To shoot at the goal or pass the ball, you need to judge the distance and correctly decide your power, foot placement, spin, etc.
With good hand-eye coordination, your on-field decisions will result in better pass success and higher shot accuracy.
2. Excellent Feel & Timing
To be good at soccer you have to feel comfortable touching the ball with all (legal) body parts on the ground and in the air. Juggling forces your feet, knees, shoulders, chest, and forehead to strike the ball repeatedly so that you are familiar with doing so in game scenarios.
No matter if you have to head the ball, volley it, or pass it gently to your teammate, feeling comfortable and confident when moving it will help you in all areas of your game.
Often, success in soccer depends on your ability to strike the ball in the right place at the right time. Juggling has little room for error when it comes to timing; a single mis-kick will cause you to drop the ball.
It forces you to kick at precisely the right moment over and over again. Good timing is essential for tackling, plus volleying and heading the ball.
3. Increased Stamina
Stamina is king in soccer. At the professional level, you need to play for 45 minutes consecutively while mostly on the move. The outfield players can cover many kilometers in a single match with midfielders and strikers being particularly fit.
Juggling alone will not give you the elite stamina needed to play professional matches. However, juggling a soccer ball for extended periods can be a good soccer-specific workout when you have nobody to practice with.
Rather than doing mundane laps on the track or the dreaded beep test, you can improve your touch and control of the ball while working on your cardio.
4. You Develop Your Knowledge of Spin
The spin on a soccer ball affects the way it travels. Players who can successfully kick the ball with sidespin are able to curve it around a wall during a free kick to increase their chances of scoring.
Applying backspin to the ball helps when making long passes. It is possible to hit flat shots too.
You can experiment with all three when juggling and see close up how different kicks alter the spin on the ball.
5. Increased Leg Strength
Strong legs are useful for all aspects of playing soccer. From standing and running for extended periods to jumping and shooting, well-trained leg muscles are vital in this sport.
Repeatedly kicking the ball when juggling works lots of the key muscle groups responsible for passing and shooting. Juggling over longer periods can be very tiring for your legs.
Therefore, juggling may improve the lactate threshold in your legs so that you can operate for longer in real matches.
6. Aerial Passing & Receiving
If you ever plan to volley the ball, juggling will give you the balance needed to kick the ball on one leg without stumbling or falling.
Due to the size of a soccer pitch, aerial passes are necessary to reach teammates over vast distances. Hence, receiving aerial passes is another key skill for modern players. Getting the first touch right requires excellent control and agility.
Thankfully, this is the exact motion that juggling trains. Every time you kick or head while juggling, you will improve your ability to control aerial balls. This is invaluable for most positions in soccer.
The best method to practice aerial passes is by juggling with a few other team members. This is a fun group activity that takes a real team effort to keep the ball alive.
7. Improved Concentration
In soccer, you cannot switch off for a moment. When you think nothing is happening, the game can come alive in an instant. If you stay alert, you can be your club or country’s hero by helping your team score a crucial goal or by denying the other team.
A moment’s loss of concentration can be the difference between glory and despair. Nobody wants to be the player who lets their team down. To avoid this, players need to stay focussed on the present moment in every match.
They must pay attention to the ball’s position plus their location on the field so they can react fast. That is not easy to do consistently over 90 minutes.
Juggling a ball is an exercise in concentration. This activity teaches you to shut out external distractions and focus fully on what matters most: the ball. Juggling for long periods will help players in all positions to remain alert during matches.
8. A Better Understanding of Your Body
Our bodies have odd geometry; our feet, shoulders, and heads are non-uniform. Players need to know how a ball behaves when hitting it with different body parts.
Not understanding the interactions between your body parts and a soccer ball will have terrible consequences for your match play. Your first touch will be poor and your accuracy non-existent.
Juggling familiarizes you with your own body and teaches you the most efficient and controlled ways to hit the ball.
The feet are the most important parts to focus on. Because of their uneven surfaces, kicking the ball with different areas of the feet (e.g. the flat section, the toes, the sides) will generate different amounts of power and spin.
9. It’s Good Fun
One sure way to never improve as a soccer player is by hating the game. It is the most popular global sport for a reason, though it certainly has its dull moments. Endless passing, shooting, and fitness drills can take their toll on your enthusiasm, not to mention strength and conditioning.
Juggling a ball is a simple hobby that will make you fall in love with soccer again. It may differ from standard training techniques, but will still help your match-playing abilities. You can test your skills and have great fun alone or as part of a group.
What’s more, freestyle soccer is now respected as a unique sport that centers around juggling. If you have a particular interest in juggling, there is a worldwide community of enthusiasts who you can learn from and play with.