You are willing to go above and beyond and improve different parts of your game. Below are some great exercises that can be done before or after training sessions or at the park on your own time. These exercises with the ball will help improve your touch on the ball which will help develop many other parts to your overall game.
The best soccer players in the world have one thing in common and it is not their size, speed, strength or flashy skills with the ball but rather their touch on the ball. The best soccer players have the best touch on the ball meaning they can control the most difficult passes, speeds and ways a ball can come at them.
Drill #1) Kick the ball as high in the air as you can and in one touch bring the ball down under control. Under control meaning the ball stops dead at your feet. The better you become at this the less the ball will move upon impact with your foot. If you are with a partner have them kick the ball in the air for you. The key when trapping the ball is to think of it like catching an egg. Receiving is the most important part. You want your leg to cushion the ball as the ball comes down. This will prevent the ball from bouncing away. Watch Diego Maradona warm-up with a ball before a game. Notice the ball does what he wants. This is the level of control to aim for.
Drill #2) Juggle with smaller size sports balls. Don’t get caught up in juggling a regular size soccer ball all the time. Mix it up by practice juggling smaller size soccer balls. It’s a great way for improving your touch on the ball. In Spain, practices and training sessions are often conducted with tennis balls or size one soccer balls. The concentration and skill required in controlling a ball of that size with your feet is immense. So, try juggling a tennis ball. It’s harder than it looks but once you are good at this and then go back to a regular size soccer ball your touch on the ball will have improved tremendously. Watch this video of Zlatan Ibrahimovic juggling chewing gum.
Drill #3) Juggling exercises: challenge yourself by juggling with one foot only doing smaller kick-ups and then higher kick-ups. Then try both feet with small kick-ups and then higher kick-ups. Then try juggling with your thighs one at a time and then both. Then incorporate your head and eventually shoulders.
Once you get really good start making combination juggles on different parts of your body. For instance, start with the head, followed by right thigh, followed by left thigh, followed by right foot and then left foot. You can make any combination you want here. Be sure to use both legs or spend more time on your weaker foot so you become well rounded. You can set yourself a number such as 100 and try attaining that. Once you attain that then increase your number. In a summer camp I once participated in, we did a small exercises where the last one still juggling the ball was the winner. The winner ended up juggling over 2,000 times and simply stopped because he all other jugglers had dropped out.
Other exercises you can do while juggling including walking with the ball up and down the field or around the 18 yard box. You can even go around pylons while juggling. The exercises are endless.
Key factors in juggling are to keep good body posture. Stand straight, keep your eyes up while watching the ball so you know what is going on around you and breathe calmly. When your breathing is under control so are you and it will carry over in into your game. Being calm while under control will give you the advantage over your opponents.
Being the best juggler does not necessarily make you a better soccer player. However, it will certainly improve your touch on the ball which will carry over into other parts of your game. These drills mentioned above work many parts of your game but specifically the touch you have on the ball. The scenarios will often happen in a game where you’ll have to bring a high ball under control. The sooner this can be done and with the fewest touches, the better player and more dangerous you’ll be. The best players in the world can control balls coming at them from almost any angle, height and speed and bring it under control with minimal touches. This should be your goal. Bringing the ball under control in fewer touches also buys you more time which only works in your favor.
What juggling exercises do you do?