My name is Neil Crawford and I am the founder of Anytime Soccer Training. In this post, I am going to answer one of the most frequent questions asked by soccer parents around the world.
How do I help my child improve in juggling – especially if I never played soccer?
Like so many parents, I didn’t play soccer growing up. The great news is that soccer experience is not needed to help your child smash their juggling record.
All you need is dedication, consistency, and a good system. In this post, I am going to share the system I used to take my son from a juggling record of one to over 1,000.
Before we delve into juggling, let’s talk about an area far more important.
Positively Managing the Parent-Trainer Relationship – The challenge for any parent is helping their child get the high volume of repetitions necessary to improve without frustrating them.
Training your child is like starting a flame – if you push too hard you will blow it out, but if you don’t push at all it may never grow.
The key is striking the right balance.
This system is designed to help you strike the right balance.
Why is Juggling So Important – Occasionally, you will hear a parent (or even a coach) proclaim that juggling is not that important because it’s a skill rarely used in the game.
When you hear that – my advice is to run (not walk) away.
Not only does juggling improve a player’s first touch, but, with younger players especially, it drastically improves balance, coordination, and agility. Another often overlooked benefit is that aerial training improves shooting and finishing techniques.
In-game examples – Good players must be able to control the ball from any angle of the ground or air. Look at this video of my son when he was six or seven years old. If you notice, he is not aimlessly kicking the ball in the air as many children do at this age.
He first controlled the ball from the air and then juggled it in the direction of his team’s goal. This led to a potential scoring opportunity.
Here are two more examples of him utilizing juggling skills during the game. I hate using my own son as an example, but there is so much misinformation out there about juggling that I feel I have to show real in-game examples.
While most people focus on the score (rightly so); notice how my son used an aerial kick to place the ball directly at the feet of the attacking wing player. This is a direct result of practicing aerial control in the backyard.
While subtle, this video demonstrates the precursor to finishing off the volley and half-volley in the air.
And remember these are just a few clips that a proud dad was lucky enough to capture on film. The benefits of juggling are tremendous.
Below are a few tips to help your child smash their juggling record without getting frustrated.
Tip #1 Start Slow
In some respects, juggling is like weight lifting. Every time you juggle, you strengthen muscles in your legs and grow cells in your brain. Your child needs time to build the necessary strength, coordination, and stamina to become a good juggler. Allow it to happen naturally without adding pressure.
My son’s training began with a five-minute juggle catch routine at the bus stop. Practice with this video from the Anytime Soccer Training Juggle Master Series. The series has a progression of over 200 juggling videos.
Tip #2 Increase Training Slowly
I enjoy long-distance running. All running plans gradually increase mileage over a long period of time. That’s because adding miles too quickly could lead to injury and overwhelm the runner. Rapid juggle training may not cause injury, but will certainly discourage your child from continuing.
That is why we include over 200 videos in the series going from beginner to advance. You never want a single session to be too difficult.
Tip #3 Increase Efficiency Before Increasing Time
Many people wrongly assume that a player must spend hours each day practicing juggling.
I can’t emphasize this enough. Two to five minutes of consistent practice is all you need to improve. Also, it’s better to get five quality minutes than struggling through 15 to 20 minutes – frustrated. As your child memorizes the routine and becomes a better juggler, they will be able to get much more touches in the same amount of time.
Tip #4 Use Idle Time Wisely
Your child can get nearly 500 touches in five minutes. If all you do is this juggling video before practice and games your child’s aerial control will increase dramatically.
And the beauty of it is that once they get used to the routine – your child will barely notice the few extra minutes.
Tip #5 Don’t Over-Coach
The key is repetition, not perfection. Once you explain and demonstrate the technique, they will gradually improve with practice.
That is why all Anytime Soccer Training videos have a slow-motion demonstration and clear verbal instructions.
Tip #6 Provide Rest Periods & Days Off
Mental rest and physical recovery are important.
That is why all Anytime Soccer Training videos are relatively short and give plenty of rest periods.
Tip #7 Stick to a Standard Routine
Juggling is about repetition. The more you do, the better you will become. It’s really that simple. Therefore, it’s best to get the most reps in the shortest amount of time.
Implementing a standard routine helps your child focus on juggling and not instruction.
Anytime Soccer Training creates the routine and structure. It tracks where you left off and becomes progressively harder.
Tip #8 Provide External Incentives
Rewarding a child for beating their personal best is an obvious and effective way to encourage practice. That’s why Anytime Soccer Training will have an amazing reward system that will motivate your child to keep practicing (coming soon). Until then, write it down and stick it on the refrigerator.
Tip #9 Watch Them Grow
This is not really a tip, but once you introduce consistent juggling, you will notice your child practicing on their own. They typically consider it playing around, but you will notice the extra touches nonetheless.
Tip #10 Don’t Wait to Use Different Sized Balls
Many people mistakenly think you need to be advanced to practice juggling with smaller balls. The key to success is starting with a slow progression. Try this video below and notice that your child can start training with a size-one ball today – regardless of skill level.
Tip #11 Use All Parts of the Foot and Body
Another often overlooked part of juggling practice is how the player can utilize all parts of their feet and body. Try this video and see how the Anytime Soccer Training Juggle Master Series helps the player practice aerial control using all parts of their body.
Tip #12 Implement “Corrective Constraints”
Corrective Constraint is a method I use to align my incentives with my son’s incentives so that we don’t frustrate each other.
Children hate receiving a barrage of verbal instructions when they are practicing, especially from a parent.
Corrective Constraints are the best way to change your child’s behavior while avoiding a lot of verbal commands. Here are some case study examples of how I use Corrective Constraints.
The Problem – Your child juggles exclusively with their strong foot and you want them to juggle with both.
Ineffective Verbal Commands – I want you to juggle by alternating both feet. or The best players can use both feet. These types of verbal commands don’t help the child improve and can only lead to frustration.
Corrective Constraint – Do five extra juggles every time you use the same foot more than three times in a row.
The Result – Now the child is incentivized to use both feet. And if they struggle to use both feet then they have to practice a little longer (without becoming frustrated) – which is what you want in the first place.
The Problem – Your child is making a lot of mistakes due mainly to lack of concentration.
Ineffective Verbal Commands – Concentrate. Focus. You will never get better unless you concentrate. Again, these types of verbal commands don’t help the child improve and can only lead to frustration.
Corrective Constraint – Give the child (for example) 10 (cumulative) attempts to get 100 juggles which average out to 10 juggles per attempt. If unsuccessful give the child five additional attempts (ie. 15, 20, 25, and so on). Each round reduces the average amount of juggles needed, but increases the total number of juggles.
The Result – The child gets extra juggles and is motivated by the challenge.
Listen to this podcast to learn more about motivating your child long-term.
Tip #13 With This System Anyone Will Improve
When people with a more fixed mentality see my son juggle they often say,
Not every child will be able to juggle 1,000 times.
This saddens me for two reasons. Firstly, it’s not true. Secondly,
They are placing unnecessary limitations on children who have all the potential in the world.
A person’s ability to juggle is 100% a function of the time and effort spent practicing. Our job as parents is to help our children reach their goals in a way that is positive and fuels their passion for the sport.
Check out these two clips of my son’s transformation. You can do the same if you follow the tips I shared.
Before – Juggling Record of 20
After – Juggling Record of 2,700
Good luck and keep practicing!