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The secret to good ball juggling is practice

By Alan Hargreaves and Richard Bate

Ball juggling, as shown in figure 4.1, is an excellent way to introduce young players to the ball and to encourage players of all ages to develop and retain a feel for, and mastery over, the ball. Even young players in professional teams’ academies practice ball juggling continually; the skill some youngsters exhibit in keeping the ball airborne is impressive. They can flick the ball into the air and then use, at will, many parts of the body including, in particular, the platforms—the forehead, thigh, and instep. The constant touching of the ball develops finesse, balance, and confidence and encourages the use of many parts of the body, especially the platforms, which are so important in bringing the ball under control.

The secret to good ball juggling is practice. However, because formal practice time is limited, most coaches encourage their players to practice juggling on their own time. An inspiring example is Pelé, who as a boy used a grapefruit or a ball of rags tied together with string to practice ball juggling. To complement, and hopefully inspire, additional practice, many coaches start every coaching practice with a 1-minute competition to see who can achieve the most touches or keep the ball off the ground the longest. Because of this, we start this chapter with the skill of ball juggling and offer a number of techniques to help beginners learn and improve.



Drill for Beginners

With beginners, start simple! Beginners quickly lose interest if the ball bounces away from them, out of their control, every time they play. This is not only frustrating, but also embarrassing. This is why the following introductory drill, albeit basic, places so much emphasis on success.

Basic Ball Juggling


One light ball for each player (such as a volleyball or a soccer ball at reduced pressure)


Individual players stand in free space.


Players throw the ball into the air, let it bounce, and then play it once with the instep. Players try to keep the sequence going—that is, let the ball bounce, play it with the instep, let it bounce again, and so on.

Coaching Points

Players should use the instep as a platform to lift the ball into the air.

If the ball starts to spin, players should stop and start over (spin can make juggling more difficult for beginners).

Players should hold their arms out wide for balance.

Coaching Progressions

1. Players make two touches with the instep for every bounce (play, play, bounce, play, play, bounce, and so on).

2. Players make three touches for every bounce.

3. Players try to score 10 touches before the sequence breaks down.

4. Players try to use different platforms (e.g., forehead, thigh).

5. Players try to use the platforms in sequence (e.g., head, thigh, foot, thigh, head).

6. Players set their own targets and hold competitions. ?

Drills for Intermediate Players

Any player who can consistently achieve 10 or more touches without losing control is ready to move to the intermediate level. However, we do not advocate simply achieving more and more touches or mastering the use of body parts such as the shoulder or the back of the neck to catch the ball. Such skills are fine for the circus performer, but the soccer player will benefit more from developing basic moves with the regular platforms of the instep, thigh, and forehead. These moves are best progressed using partner activities and moving situations, which are realistic rather than contrived and encourage effective soccer skills.

Continuous Heading


One light ball (such as a volleyball or a soccer ball at a reduced pressure) for every two players


Players are in pairs of equal ability, 3 yards apart.


Player A gently lobs the ball to player B, who heads the ball back; the drill becomes continuous.

Coaching Points

Players’ eyes should focus underneath the ball.

Players should hold their arms outstretched to the side for balance.

Players should head the ball upward back to their partners.

Coaching Progressions

1. Players aim to reach 10 or more continuous plays.

2. Players try to maintain sequences while moving sideways, forward, and


Three Touch


One light ball (such as a volleyball or a soccer ball at a reduced pressure) for every two players


Players are in pairs of equal ability, 3 yards apart.


Players must juggle the ball and make at least three touches before returning it to their partners.

Coaching Point

Players should achieve height on the ball between touches to give themselves more time to make contact.

Coaching Progressions

1. Players return the ball to their partners with either the foot or the forehead.

2. Players call out the part of the body their partners must use to return the ball.

This is an excerpt from Skills & Strategies for Coaching Soccer, Second Edition.

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Skills & Strategies for Coaching Soccer-2nd Edition

Skills & Strategies for Coaching Soccer-2nd Edition


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Skills & Strategies for Coaching Soccer-2nd Edition
Skills & Strategies for Coaching Soccer provides key advice and over 125 drills for coaches working with players of all abilities.

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