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Gary Ireland asks his Australian football expert friend Ron Smith a few questions on the relevance and importance of juggling. Ron Smith is the Australian National Mens & Olympic team Technical Advisor as well as being former Assistant Director of the Australian Institute of Sport (Soccer). Ron worked as assistant to Gus Hiddink at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and provided invaluable support for Hiddink in the run up to the successful campaign. Carine and Gary met Ron in Leipzig in 2005 when Australia were playing in the Condederations Cup vs Germany, Argentina and Tunisia. 

Gary: Do you encourage the players on the Australian Youth and Senior team to juggle? 


Ron: . I'm not in a position to influence what the players in the national team do, but when I watch them warming up in their own time I see plenty of them juggling the ball or playing games in small groups that involve juggling or 1 touch play to keep the ball in the air. 


Gary: How often should players be juggling? 


Ron:  I think juggling becomes a part of everyday training and it's a personal thing. juggling is a way of keeping in touch with the ball and all players like to develop feeling. It's a bit like putting for golfers, you have to feel the putt just like you have to feel the ball when you are playing with it. 


Gary: Is there a direct correlation between the best jugglers and the best players?


Ron: I don't have any evidence but if you watch the best players in the world they can all juggle the ball and perform amazing tricks. I coached Josip Simumic for three years at the AIS (he's the captain of Croatia) and at 15 years of age he juggled the ball non stop for 3 hours, I have a video of him doing it. Joe has played 98 A Internationals for Croatia and will be at the 2012 Euro's. 


Gary: Who is the best juggler you've coached seen in your opinion? 


Ron: Joe Simunic would take some beating but Ronaldhino is also amazing. 


Gary: Many people, including coaches, often comment that juggling isn't relevant to the game or that it's for 'show offs'. I've heard comments such as 'you should be in a circus'. How do you explain to these people that the Zidanes, Ronaldinho's and Henry's have terrific juggling skills and that the best players in the world tend to have fantastic tricks. 


Ron:  People who make those comments don't see the difference between developing 'touch" and how that is applied in the game. Players don't juggle the ball during the game but that's not a reason for not doing it. 


Gary: What are the benefits of juggling? How does juggling help a player? What specific attributes does juggling develop? (coordination? affinity? balance? dexterity, touch, feel etc) 


Ron: Juggling definitely develops touch and feeling. All the top players who have great technique and touch can juggle the ball. balance and coordination are developed through juggling as well as both sides of the body. 


Gary: What different types of juggling do you encourage. i.e in pairs or on the run


Ron: I think any form of juggling is good because it maintains feeling once it has been developed. i come back to golfers and putting. the top performers have a high level of touch and feeling and that has to be maintained. Top pianists notice a difference in performance if they don't practice for one week, so why should footballers or golfers be any different. 


Gary: 'Soccer-Tennis' is a popular form of juggling. Is this something you endorse/recommend? Do your players on the National team play soccer-tennis?  


Ron: Football tennis is not only fun to play but you can play around with the rules to force one or two touches etc. At the 2006 World Cup the players played football tennis regularly and so did the staff. We had a court set out permanently behind Guus Hiddink's residence and we played there most days after lunch. 

Try Ron Smith's Coaching App  "Football Practices' on ITUNES