(This progression continues to be tweaked. One of the things we've discovered is the impact it has on the ability to use the weaker foot. In testing of U11's this past winter (24b, 28g), those who were at the Weak Foot Only juggling level or better on average a) improved with that foot 35% in tests two months apart of shooting power and distance service (3x the improvement of those at lower levels) and b) had narrowed the gap between dominant and weak foot proficiency on those tests to less than 10%.)
THE GREAT TOUCH JUGGLING PROGRESSION
Juggling makes every touch better. It has an amazing impact on making your 1st touch more productive, so the ball goes right where you want it to go with that touch. It also helps to make all your other touches on the ball better. Good jugglers always have confidence in their ability to control the ball. Learning to juggle is not easy (or everyone would be able to do it.) To get good, you have to work on this at home. This helps with your focus on soccer and helps you to develop the habit of training on your own, “when no one else is watching.” That’s something which all good players do.
If you’re 9 years old or younger, you can start with “Keep Up”. Here the ball is allowed to bounce once between touches. Then take two touches between bounces, then three, then four. After you can do this most of the time, switch to juggling. Once you switch to juggling, try to make every touch the same. And never catch the ball in your hands; getting that last extra touch helps to make you better. (When you catch the ball in your hands, your score for that try is ZERO!)
The juggling progression has five levels beyond “Keep Up.” (Some younger teams divide Level 1 into three parts.) You move on to the next one when your score reaches 100. “The hard part is getting to about 15 touches at any level.” You really won’t get much better from making more than 25-30 in a row at any level. But it only takes a little more work to make that 25 into 50, which multiplied by 2 gets to a score of 100 – a magical number without a whole lot more effort.
Be patient. The next goal after you can do 5 touches is not 15. It’s 6! Be persistent. 10-15 minutes of juggling 2-3 times every week works better than working for an hour once a week. No matter what, record best scores every week.
We’ve suggested goals that players should reach at different ages. Some teams and some players set goals to do it faster. But quite a few 9 year-olds have finished the progression, including Body Parts Juggling. Needless to say, their ball control is awesome! So “Go For It.”
Beginners: Keep Up. (For players through under 8 years old.) Start with the ball in your hands. The test: take 4 tries, add the best two together. That’s your score. The ball is allowed to bounce only once between touches. Move on to level 1 – “Any Touch” - when your score – “4 tries, best 2” – gets to 50.
Level 1- Bronze: Any Touch. Start with the ball in your hands. The test: “4 tries, best 2” That’s your score. (Note: only 4 tries, no mulligans, and if you touch the ball with your hands or catch it, the score for that turn is “0”.) Every touch counts, even the unintentional one off of the face or chest. Goal: a score of 100 by end of first season of U11. Move on to level 2 – “Feet Only” - once your score gets to 100.
Level 1B (optional): Any Touch. The test: take 4 tries: the best one of the four is your score. Try to get 100 touches in a row. Goal: a score of 100 early in 2nd season of U11. Even when you move on to the next level, do this test every month or so. After 150 touches, limit yourself to 3 tries, at 250 limit to 2 tries.
Level 1C (optional): “Mostly Feet“. The test: “4 tries, best 2”. Only touches on the feet count. Goal: a score of 100 by end of your U11 year. Some coaches have players move on to Level 2 once the score reaches 50.
From this point on, start with the ball on the ground. Any turn with a score of 3 or more counts.
Level 2 - Silver: Feet Only. The test: “4 tries, best 2”. Only touches on the feet count, and any other touch ends the turn. Goal: a score of 40 by the end of the U11 year, 100 by middle of the season at U12. Move to Level 3 - “Weak Foot Only” - after 100.
Level 3 - Gold: Weak Foot Only. The test: “4 tries, best 2”. Starting with the weak foot from a ball on the ground, only touches on the weaker foot count, and any other touch ends the turn. Start working on while you’re still working on “Feet Only” – you don’t want your “weak foot” to be just a shoe rack. Goal: 50 by middle of the U12 year, 100 by end of that year. Move to Level 4 - “Progressive Juggling” - after your score gets to 100.
Level 4 - Platinum: Progressive Juggling. The test: the best of 4 tries is your score. Follow this pattern: “right(1), left, left(2), right, right, right(3), left, left, left, left(4), …” All touches must be with the feet and any variation in the pattern ends the turn. The Women’s National Team standard was reported to be 13. Coach or asst. counts once player reaches 12. Goal: 15 (=120 touches) within a month of finishing “Weak Foot Only.” Move to Level 5 - “Body Parts Juggling” - after 15. (Come back to this from time to time; try to get your score into the 20’s or 30’s.)
Level 5 – Diamond: Body Parts. The fourteen parts are: four parts of each foot (instep, inside, outside, and heel), chest, head, each thigh, top of each shoulder. Players take as many turns as possible in two minutes plus whatever “extra time” is needed to complete last turn. Coach or Assistant Coach does the counting. Players collect as many body parts as possible in any order on a single turn. Each body part only counts once until all 14 are collected, even if the player selects to use some part multiple times. When you get all 14 on a turn keep going, begin a 2nd collection on that same turn. (We’ve seen U13 boys and girls reach scores of 42, 3 times around!!!) Record the best turn.
( “14 in 14” – getting all 14 body part touches in exactly 14 touches. Same 2 minute test as above. This is ridiculously challenging, but four of those U11's mentioned at the beginning, 2 boys and 2 girls, had done this. Their ability to control any ball with none touch, and with either foot, is breathtaking.)
EVEN MORE: Head Juggling. This is also something to do every week, starting mid-U11 or at U12. Level 1 would be to get to 50 in “4 tries, best two”. Level 2 would be to get to 50 in a row. Around the World: Foot to thigh to head to other thigh to other foot to first foot, etc. (add shoulders for the “Long Trip”.) Rainbow: The number of times a player can pop the ball up over the head, turn and catch the ball on feet to continue (limit number of touches between rainbows). Sitting. or Standing to Sitting to Standing. Speed Juggling: 100 touches in 60 seconds, right only, left only, alternating.