Soccer Juggling Fundamentals and Progression

Kelley O’Hara’s tips and tricks to sharpen your juggling skills

Every professional soccer player has something in common, they can all juggle for a very long time. And why juggling may not be a skill directly used on the pitch, during soccer competition, it will help develop the key skills used in controlling the ball. 

For beginners just learning the sport, juggling is a great place to begin. Coaches who emphasize the importance of juggling to players at an early age, often see measurable progress with on-the-ball skills. 

As a young player becomes more comfortable with this exercise, there is a substantial increase in the level of comfort experienced when the ball is at your foot. The point being that if you can control the ball in the air in consecutive touches, controlling the ball when it’s rolling on the ground should be easier. And this control and comfort with the ball will inevitably translate into a better performance on the field. 

Like anything in sports, to master juggling will require practice. So when you first begin, the ball will probably go all over the place. That is to be expected. But as long as you’re trying your best and staying focused, you will continue to improve.

“I was a pretty bad juggler in the beginning, as a kid. It wasn’t until I actually spent time on it, that I became better. That’s all it is. It’s just sheer minutes juggling and it’s the quality of what you put in,” admits O’Hara. 

The following article provides a detailed lesson from Kelley O’Hara as she outlines her thoughts on juggling. To get the most out of her tips and tricks, be sure to visit Versus.co

to learn more. 

Signing up for Versus means access to 1:1 exclusive training not only from Kelley O’Hara but also from Tim Howard, Ali Krieger, David Copeland Smith and other accomplished soccer players. Visit the Versus website or download the app to start training today. 

Juggling Fundamentals

Before you attempt to juggle, it’s important to learn the fundamentals of what it means to juggle. Foot and body positioning is the key to successful juggling. You will want to keep your foot and ankle locked, and create a flat surface upon which the ball can bounce. To begin, start with the ball in your hands, drop it to your dominant foot, and catch it. Like demonstrated here. 

Repeat this until you are comfortable, and the ball is not going in different directions. Once you master dropping it from your hands, move to the next step, starting with the ball on the ground and popping it up. To do this, put your foot on top of the ball, with your plant foot less than a yard behind. Using the sole of your foot, pull the ball toward you to get momentum, then put your foot under it and pop the ball up. 

Remember, when you begin to juggle, it’s all about being able to do it repetitively. So in order to get repetitive touches, you might have to get the ball a little bit higher. This gives you more time to set your feet and get your body positioned correctly. 


A common mistake among beginners is not putting their foot down between juggles. Putting your foot down quickly and back up to meet the ball will help to create a rhythm and remain balanced. Once you’re comfortable juggling the ball with your dominant foot, try alternating feet. As you improve, work on keeping the ball lower, or below your knees, like she shows here.


“But in the beginning it’s all about the consistency, the reps, and how in control you feel with the ball,” Kelley says. 

Challenge Yourself

There’s many different ways to juggle that you can challenge yourself with, so be creative! A good juggling progression to begin with is three low touches, followed by popping it up higher. When you first start, don’t pop it up too high. Go higher than your normal juggles, but not too high where you lose control. As you progress, you can start trying to pop it up higher. 

Once you master basic juggling, you can attempt tricks like catching the ball on your foot, or popping it up and catching it on your back. There are so many ways to challenge yourself and improve your juggling skills. 

Another fun way to challenge yourself while juggling is to size down from the ball that you normally use. Keep progressing to smaller sizes until you reach the size of a tennis ball. Juggling a tennis ball will be difficult, but it’s a fun challenge to see how many you can get!

Take 20 minutes out of your day, every day, to practice juggling and you will be surprised at the improvements that you will see in your ball control.

Key Takeaways

  1. Start somewhere. Be consistent. It takes time. “Start somewhere. You might be terrible, I was terrible. And that’s okay, that’s actually great, because you can only go up from there,” she says. 
  1. Set small goals for yourself and add to them, week by week. 
  1. Juggling is all about consistency. If you put in the time and consistency, you will see an elevation to your game on the field. 

If you’ve enjoyed this article, visit the Versus website or download the app to sign up. You will receive full access to all of Kelley O’Hara’s exclusive skills and mindset training videos, plus much more from other elite athletes and coaches. 

If you want to go deeper on soccer skills and what it takes to have a winning mindset, head over to Versus and check out our Game Plans. Any of our packages will get you access to Kelley’s lessons, plus tons of other training sessions, interactive content, and more.

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