The case for juggling (a soccer ball)

I run into a surprising number of soccer folks who don’t think juggling helps you become a better soccer player.

Their logic is pretty much: “You don’t juggle in a game, so you’ll be better off practicing the stuff you use.”

That’s too simple. Though juggling isn’t used in the game, it has lots of benefits.

Juggling trains you to use your whole body to control the ball and improves your ability to read and react to it. It also reduces your chance of injury*.

Engaging your whole body and enhancing your ability to read and react to the ball improves all aspects of ball control — 1st touch, passing, dribbling, shooting, winning 50/50s and tackling.

It trains you to use your whole body by training you to stay in the athletic position and light on your toes.

The athletic position is when you could snap a photo from the front of the player and draw a rectangle that intersects shoulders, hips, knees and toes.

This position helps reduce injuries by more evenly distributing game forces across your whole body.

Extending outside the athletic position concentrates forces into small areas of your body, like knees, ankles, hips or hamstrings. Play the tape back on many injuries and you will see the injured player was reaching a leg outside the athletic position.

The athletic position also helps you leverage your body weight and core strength, which improves ball control, strength of tackles and power on shots. Pay close attention to a  well executed bicycle kick. You will see the player did a back flip in the athletic position, driving all of his or her body weight and core strength into the ball.

Juggling has all these benefits, plus once you get half way decent at it, juggling is a fun way to pass the time and it can be done just about anytime and anywhere.

Juggling is not the only thing a player needs to work on to become a complete player. But, players who don’t juggle won’t reach their potential and increase their chances of injury.

Juggling can be learned at any age.

In soccer-playing cultures, it’s common for players learn before age 8 and not remember when they couldn’t juggle.

I learned in my 40s. In a way I’m lucky for that because I got to experience all the improvements I listed above as my juggling improved, so I could tell you about it. Had I learned it when I was 8, I may never had made those connections.

*A side note on injuries: I recall reading years ago about a study that showed that the ‘quickest’ (over short distance) players tended not to make it to the top of the game due to their propensity of getting injury. The hypothesis was that fast twitch muscles are more susceptible to injury than slow twitch muscles.

I have another theory. The quickest players tended to rely on their speed and not develop their skills and athletic position as much through practice like juggling. It could be that is what really causes more injuries.

It seems like there are more and more quick and skilled players coming in the top levels of the game like Vardy, Mbappe and Pulisic. Perhaps the skill work they’ve put in, including juggling, has helped them stay in the athletic position more and stay healthy.

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The answer is both: parents and USSF

I enjoyed reading this Twitter thread between Alexi Lalas and soccer fans regarding the role of parents and USSF. This is one of the gems from that thread.

I agree with Alexi. Parents should take more ownership.

But, I also think the USSF is missing out on easy ways to help.

Many parents who spend so much time finding ‘the right’ club and coach to help their child ‘reach their max potential’, miss the lowest hanging fruit — what their child does at home.

As Josh Sargent’s Dad points out about his success, “It was Josh.” I’m sure Josh’s club helped. But, it doesn’t develop all players into a Josh. As his Dad points out, Josh was always working with the soccer ball on his own. Same with Pulisic.

So, if your kid is doing that, then by all means, spend more time finding the best club and coach.

If not, start there. Also, read Tom Byer’s book, Soccer Starts at Home (I didn’t realize there’s Kindle edition!).

What can the USSF do?

This, by no means, lets USSF off the hook.

When I was a know-nothing soccer parent/coach, I visited the US Soccer site in search of answers to basic questions…

What can I do as a parent, at home, with my child to help develop basic soccer skills?

What should I be teaching a group of 6 and 7-year-old’s at practice? (Then later, 8-9 year-old’s, and so on).

I didn’t find the development handbook adequately answered these questions.

Two years into coaching, I joined my independent team to a club.

On day one, the club’s director pulled me aside for 10 minutes and showed me how to teach proper technique on a few soccer basics: inside-of-foot receiving and passing, outside-of-foot dribbling and basic changes of direction.

He said, “We teach them how to keep the ball, then we teach them to shoot. It takes time, but you have to work on this stuff every training. The first step to success is proper technique.”

Direct and simple!

It worked, too. We didn’t win state cups, but the players finally began their journey toward playing real soccer and their improvement was noticeable. Now, several years later, they keep getting better.

I remember thinking, Wow, why didn’t I find that on the Internet? Why isn’t that on the USSF website?

It should be.

Misplaced animosity

Ads for the Tru TV channel’s show, Paid Off (where winners get their student loans paid off) ends by asking a contestant what they would like to say to their creditors.

They usually answer with something like, ‘F you! I don’t want to pay you!’

I understand the point is to be funny, but I find it just plain dumb. Seems like a strange attitude to have toward folks who helped you out.

What’s next? A show where charity recipients punch the donors in the gut?

Strange Headline on Bloomberg

Headline

You might think from that headline that someone took Jack Ma’s stuff and kicked him to the ground or something.

Alas, from the second paragraph:

The chairman of India’s refining-to-telecoms conglomerate, Ambani was estimated to be worth $44.3 billion on Friday…

Ma’s wealth stood at $44 billion…

It turns out, Ma wasn’t actually hurt in the ‘toppling’ and none of his stuff was taken. He’s doing just fine. Just another example of clickbait journalism.

It turns out the economy is not a zero sum game. Jack Ma and this other guy can both be doing well at the same time without taking away from each other.

And, by the way, the customers of their companies probably come out ahead, too.

Positive sum is good.

Protectionism and Big Government Policy

From Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek:

A Protectionist is Someone Who…

… upon noticing that cardiothoracic surgeons earn high incomes concludes that the nation would be enriched if the government adopted policies to increase the number of citizens who suffer from blocked arteries and congestive heart failure – thus artificially increasing the demand for the services of cardiothoracic surgeons.

I think this example can be used to demonstrate the folly of another well intended, but misguided, phenomenon in politics:

Advocates of solving things with big government policy (maybe there’s a better description) are folks who…

… upon noticing that cardiothoracic surgeons earn high incomes concludes that we can help more people earn high incomes if the government adopted policies to increase the number of  cardiothoracic surgeons – thus artificially increasing the supply of  cardiothoracic surgeons.

I can imagine the support for such policies:

  • More cardiothoracic surgeons is a great thing! More is better.
  • Let’s help everyone realize the dream of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon!

But, just as Boudreaux’s example shows how dumb it would be to artificially increase the demand for cardiothoracic surgeons, it’s just as dumb to artificially increase the supply of them because we can easily predict what will happen.

Cardiothoracic surgeons will cease making such high incomes and big government policy advocates will scratch their heads for 5 seconds before coming up with the next big government solution to that problem, rather than realize where their thinking was flawed in the first place.

 

Intentional Errors

“I killed a 6 ft snake in my yard the other day. Er…I mean 6 inch snake.”

True story.

On occasion, I see errors in journalism, like the one above, that I suspect may not be errors.

Rather, they’re designed to exaggerate a story, perhaps to get your attention or to elicit an emotion.

They quickly follow with the correction. They can claim accuracy.

But, hopefully the exaggeration sticks in your memory.

Example.

We’re all one, more or less

Multiple personalities explains reality?

Yes, that’s what I’ve been thinking. Seems like Nietzsche had it figured out, too. Maybe Carl Sagan.