May 08, 2007
The Value of Juggling

Excerpted from "More Than Goals: The journey from backyard games to World Cup competition" By Claudio Reyna with Mike Woitalla

Sometimes kids ask, "Why should I juggle? You never do it in a game."

Juggling trains you to become comfortable with the ball. To tap the ball in the air over and over means you're hitting the sweet spot. How can a player volley a ball that comes flying across the field if he can't connect well on a ball he's knocking a few feet or inches in the air?

Just as juggling with the foot helps a player acquire the skills for trapping and striking the ball, juggling off the thigh helps him become comfortable with bringing down the ball at that height. Remember - a player can't dictate how a ball is going to arrive during a game.

Besides training foot-eye coordination, juggling is a great way to work on balance. Standing on one foot and hitting the ball with the other. That's just what a player does when he shoots, passes, or traps the ball. And good overall balance is a key ingredient to being a superb athlete.

To this day, I love watching a videotape of Diego Maradona juggling the ball with every part of his body except his arms and hands. It's as if he has a spell over the ball.

One reason juggling is so much fun is that you improve so quickly. First, you try to keep the ball up a couple times. When you can do it 10 times, you try for 20. Then 50, and so on. Do it enough, and you can juggle the ball 100 or 1,000 times.

If you can juggle 20 times with your right foot, try 10 with your left foot. Alternating feet when you juggle is excellent practice. Juggling is the greatest thing players can do to work on their skills.

Being a good juggler doesn't necessarily make you a great player, but I've never seen a great player who's not a good juggler. I think that tells you something.