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How To Juggle A Soccer Ball
In soccer, ball juggling (also called lifting) is the practice of continuously keeping the ball in the air through a series of light touches. While often done with the feet, soccer juggling can also be done using the head, shins, and knees. This exercise is great for gaining familiarity with the ball, and when used correctly, it can also be employed to execute useful maneuvers during a game.
The type of footwear worn during lifting can have a significant effect on how the ball is handled.
Traditional cleats usually have a denser surface than tennis shoes, allowing for a lighter touch when juggling. Additionally, the spikes on the soles of the cleats offer excellent traction when lifting the ball off the ground. Some cleats are even specially designed for performing tricks with the ball, allowing for more elaborate lifts. As competitive (and many non competitive) matches are generally played using cleats, practicing lifts with them can be fundamental to your training.
While lifts can be performed with practically any type of shoe, tennis shoes or cross trainers are usually the easiest to manipulate the ball with. Depending on the type of material the footwear is made of, a firmer touch may be required to maintain the ball in the air. Additionally, the flat surface of the sole may require a bit more finesse than one wearing cleats would normally require in performing a lift. Speaking from Puma user's experience, I've found that the classic style Puma shoe requires a much heavier touch when lifting as opposed to when I'm wearing cleats. This is due to the fact that most of the outside of the shoe is fabric covered, giving it very little rigidity to hit the ball with. Although tennis shoes are perferred, other types of shoes can be used as well. I have even on one occasion witnessed an individual lifting and juggling the ball while wearing sandals, thus proving that, with practice, anything is possible.
Bare feet are also an option when it comes to lifts. However, because a bare foot is smoother and has a different contour than a shoe or cleat, it can be difficult to properly practice lifts at first. Despite this fact, one can quickly adapt to the differences and gain a much better feel of the ball in doing so. Many players even feel that lifting barefoot is easier than when wearing footwear, as it gives the opportunity to perform more extravagant lifts.
To perform a basic lift, start with one foot resting on the top center of the ball.
Roll your foot back (from heel to toe) until your toes slide down the backside of the ball.
The moment your toes reach the base of the ball, quickly push your foot forward and scoop it up underneath.
While scooping up the ball, lift your foot up quickly to send the ball aloft. The ball should go no more than a couple feet at most, so try to regulate the amount of force you use when connecting with it. (Note- The higher up the ball goes, the more difficult it will be to juggle with it using your feet, so it would be best to start low for the time being. As you get a better feel for lifting, higher lifts will be easier to control.)Try to send it up straight, as it will be easier to connect with when it comes down.
Once the ball is low enough in the air, lift your other foot and use the top area between the ridge and the toes to connect with the underside of the ball (a light tap upward should suffice; making sure to adjust the amount of force depending on the type of footwear worn). Repeat the process, alternating between feet. Timing your lifts and establishing a rythmn will make it easier to maintain your stability and keep the ball in the air. A single foot can also be used, but practicing with both will make your ball handling skills more evenly balanced.
Juggling doesn't have to end with your feet. Since soccer is a sport in which the ball can be handled with any body part (excluding the arms and hands), incorporating the rest of your body while juggling can be just as beneficial. To use any other part of your body, simply lift the ball in the air using the technique previously mentioned, and follow any of the examples below (Note- In doing so, you may have to exert more pressure on the ball to increase its elevation, depending on which body part you intend to use).
Knees: Bend and lift your knee so it is level with your waist. Hit the ball on the area just above your kneecap, where it meets the thigh. Repeat, alternating knees as you do so.
Shins: This one is simple to explain, but much more difficult to perform correctly. While the ball is in the air, lift your leg so that it is level to your waist, making sure it stays straight. Connect with the ball on the center of your shin and alternate to your other leg. Since the shin bone is a smaller target, this one will require more practice to get the move down pat.
Head: Yet another difficult one, since you can't always see where you head the ball. To juggle using your hear, connect with the ball using either the base of the hairline or the top of the head, making sure you are directly underneath the ball at all times.
Full Body Juggle: Instead of alternating between the same type of appendage, mix it up by switching between your knees, head, heels, shins, etc.
The type of lift explained is perhaps the most basic, but there are many other ways to perform them. Here are a few sites to check out for the more extravagent ones:
Try experimenting with a few, or see if you can invent some of your own. Good luck!