This is a juggling game coupled with a story. It is useful for captivating the interest of young players and encouraging them to focus on the task at hand. Furthermore, it reminds them that YOU once started at the same level they are at; struggling rather than juggling.
My friend Tony from back home was, and still is, the best juggler of a soccer ball I’ve ever seen. Even better than Ronaldo. I used to watch him and think to myself “there’s no way I could ever do that”. And then one day, I plucked up the courage
to ask Tony if he would teach me how to juggle. Tony said “Yeah no problem; promise me that you’ll teach other players the same way that I’m going to teach you - you see it might seem simple, but sometimes simple is what it needs to be, for right now.
Step 1. Begin by spelling Tony’s name. TOE-KNEE; try it with two catches, maybe even try it with your left, right or both. Once you can comfortably do this with 2 catches, try it with 1 catch i.e.. TOE-KNEE-catch.
Step 2. Tony has 2 dogs; Nini and Toto. Toto is a big german shepherd and Nini is a chihuahua. It’s much easier to walk a chihuahua than a german shepherd, so we’re going to start by talking Nini for a walk. Players should hold the soccer ball in their hands and try KNEE-catch-KNEE-catch. Once players have mastered this combination with two catches, can they maybe do it with their other knee? or perhaps both knees? If players are competent with both knees, can they may do this with only one catch? KNEE-KNEE-catch.
Step 3. Repeat the above for Toto e.g. TOE-catch-TOE-catch followed by TOE-TOE-catch.
Step 4. - since the players are so good at walking the dogs separately, we’re going to really challenge them by walking Toto and Nini together. Begin with TOE-catch-TOE-catch-KNEE-catch-KNEE-catch (four catches), followed by 2 catches TOE-TOE-catch-KNEE-KNEE-catch, followed by 1 catch TOE-TOE-KNEE-KNEE-catch.
Step 5. Tony’s Last Name is Chestnut: let the players guess a little before revealing this. Use a similar method to the above to teach the correct technique for heading and chesting the ball. Standard boxing stance is normally a good place to start for beginners. Note: begin with CHEST-catch, followed by HEAD-catch. Once competent at completing these skills independently, challenge players to achieve both (CHEST-HEAD-catch).
Step 6. Can they tie it all together and complete the story? TOE-KNEE-CHEST-NUT walks TOE-TOE and KNEE-KNEE.
Begin with catches in between each juggle, then chunk the movements as above and break them down into forms which are simpler and more attainable.
Things to remind players of when going through the story:
- Just because the ball hits the ground doesn’t mean it’s over - let it bounce and see if you can time a kick correctly to flick it back up. 1 bounce = game ON / 2 bounce = game OVER.
- If I drop the ball to the ground, does it bounce back? Yes. Does the ground KICK it back to me? No. Then what does that tell you about what you need to do? You see, you don’t need to apply much force to the ball to juggle it, your foot/knee/chest/head is simply taking the place of the ground except a little bit higher.
- When juggling with the foot use the laces part of the foot and point your toes straight to create a flat surface (do not curl your foot towards your shin, it will affect the movement of the ball).
- When juggling with the knee, actually use your thigh, it’s like a cushion and will create a dull sound when done correctly. Be sure to raise the knee high so that the thigh is straight (parallel to the ground) when it makes contact with the ball in the air.
- When using the chest to juggle - take a boxer’s stance (one foot forward, both feet turned slightly diagonal, arms by up like a boxer - lean back using your back foot, use your arms to generate the momentum needed to pop your chest. In doing so, make good, well-timed contact with the ball and either cushion it forward or direct it upwards.
- When using your head to juggle - adopt a boxer’s stance (one foot forward, both feet turned slightly diagonal, arms up like a boxer - lean back using your back foot and use your arms slightly to generate the momentum needed to cushion the ball using your forehead.
- What part of the head do we use to head the ball? Our FOREHEAD. Why is it called our Forehead? Because its FORHEADING.
- Always keep our eyes on the ball, particularly when heading it. This oftentimes proves to be quite difficult for younger players, work with them on this and break the move down into its component parts in order to develop an elementary confidence with this particular skillset.
In addition to this mini-story and as a variation of juggling - it may also be useful to teach young players some ways of getting the ball back up off the ground and into our hands, without using our hands to pick it up. Get creative here and show some simple and skillful ways to do this. Players will thrive on setting and achieving of mini-goals/ tasks.