Juggling – Developmentally Important or Just a Nice Trick

Our club recently established a set of benchmarks for how many times the players should be able to juggle at a given age. Here are those targets:

U8 – 10 with feet only – 10 with thighs only – 4 with head only
U9 – 20 with feet only – 20 with thighs only – 6 with head only
U10 – 10 with feet only – 10 with thighs only – 12 with head only
U11 – 80 with feet only – 80 with thighs only – 24 with head only
U12 – 100+ with feet only – 100+ with thighs only – 50+ with head only

Unfortunately, most of our players in the club are below these standards so we’ll be working to improve that this year.

When you talk about juggling with coaches you usually get one of two responses: important or unimportant waste of time. The comment from those that feel juggling is unimportant when they see someone that juggles well is, “Yeah, but can he play?” I don’t think that the ability to juggle is a directly reflection on the quality of the player but juggling does show some important soccer abilities: touch, balance, ability to control balls out of the air as well as focus and commitment. The last two may be the most important.

The one thing that you have to do to become a better juggler is PRACTICE! I tell my players that juggling is not a talent you are born with, it’s a skill that anyone can develop. Juggling is one of the easiest skills to practice at home. It only requires the player, a ball and a bit of space. As long as the basic techniques of juggling are understood, the more you juggle, the better you get. So it’s very easy for a coach to see who is juggling at home and who isn’t. That’s probably why I like to give juggling as homework and  why I think setting targets for juggling can lead to general player development.

In the end, I want young players to enjoy juggling because if they do then they’ll spend more time doing it. If they’re spending more time with the ball, they’re more likely to become comfortable and confident with it.

Do you use juggling with your teams? Do you do anything different that works for your players?

Have a Great Day,

Tom

6 Comments

  1. Lance says:

    Yes, we juggle on our team at every single training. I agree wholeheartedly with what you said above… touch, balance, ability to control balls out of the air as well as focus and commitment. The last two may be the most important. No, we don’t see players juggle the ball down the field of play in replacement of dribbling. But players juggle balls from throw-ins to their feet. They juggle balls are coming from goal kicks or free kicks. They juggle “free balls” that are just getting ready to come down to the ground. Juggling is important for the ball control and touch aspects of the game. When juggling at trainings, we often set rules such as “feet only with the ball no higher than the waits” or “feet only with the ball higher than your head” or “two right foot juggles to one left foot juggle” and vice versa. Add rules to make it fun and interesting. We even have juggling contests where we split up into two or three groups and juggle for one minute in the group. The team with the most juggles wins. 2 points for headers. 5 points for shoulders that lead to a controlled juggled. If anything, juggling is either a great warmup at the beginning of training or even a great cooldown at the end of an intense training session.

    Juggling. Good for the mind and soul ;)

  2. moyyim says:

    Yes..I believe juggling is important, apart from improving touch, balance etc I resonate with the view on focus and commitment.. When coaching, I’d instruct the boys to juggle whilst everyone was arriving before we got the main session underway.Some would keep going no matter how many they got always trying to improve, others would soon give up and start kicking it around aimlessly. Our top U12 juggler is up to 900+ and yes he can also play. I also think being a good juggler can improve confidence. Last year the player above was quite reserved and not fully expressing his playing potential..Now his teammates like to see him juggle -especially if challenged by a player from another team ! and this support/confidence boost has helped bring out his playing talent.(this years MVP, regional squad etc).

  3. Brian says:

    I use juggling and I do think it’s useful for technique, balance and control. But I think it’s absurd to set arbitrary standards for something that has no direct relevance in a game. Players should be judged against themselves and always be trying to improve their personal best.

    • tommura says:

      I agree that the standards are arbitrary but they are just goals to shoot for. It’s not like we’re going to cut a kid because he didn’t reach a certain number. Setting a number is meant to create motivation to practice and reach a goal.

  4. Coach Root says:

    I run an academy for players age 5 – 8 and also coach U9 traveling. We juggle in every single training (10 – 15 minutes: Foot only, thigh only, head only, then combinations). I believe sincerely in the adage, “Not all great jugglers are great players but every great player is a good juggler.” There is a clear connection between juggling and touch.

    Many coaches do not emphasize head juggling in the younger ages. I do. I have 5 year olds balancing balls on their heads and then doing at least a little bit of “bonking” of the ball with their heads (we emphasize proper technique, not volume). By the time they’re 8 they can get 5 or more in a row with the head. In matches my boys are fearless heading the ball comparatively. Because we’ve done so much with head juggling and balancing the ball, they’re just comfortable with it at or near their heads. They even flick the ball to each other in matches. Last year I had multiple players who would head balls that were punted by keepers.

    Huge proponent of juggling with all surfaces here.

  5. Lance W. says:

    Definitely a huge fan of juggling. I have worked in 10 minutes of continuous juggling at the beginning of practice as a great conditioning exercise. You would be surprised how much effort it takes to juggle for ten minutes.

    I also established a Juggle Club for our team. There are small rewards for hitting benchmarks but I agree with previous postings that anytime a player is out with the ball, they are increasing their confidence and comfort level.

    When I have a 12 year old boy that can juggle 987 times, I know that kid is out practicing on his own…and not just juggling skills.