Juggling for athletes – 15 reasons why you should learn to juggle today

Juggling for athletes – 15 reasons why you should learn to juggle today

Juggling for athletes! Why should athletes learn to juggle??

Athletes who can solve complex motor problems succeed! Sure the motor patterns are somewhat specific so the less similar to juggling your sport is the less directly beneficial it will be. Specific for cricketers, not so specific for curling or ironman.

How then can we say..??

Every athlete should learn to juggle!

I remember it was a challenge my father, Brian Smith, set for his team one off-season. “Make sure you can juggle by the time you come back!”

To get good at solving complex problems you have to go through failure!

Athletes who can accept failure as part of the process to becoming the best can be the best.

Athletes who “play it safe” are taking the biggest risk of all!!

See the first few hours of practicing something new people tell you that “you’re not talented”, or “you should have learned that when you’re a kid.”

The reality is you haven’t spent enough time getting good at what you want to be good at. I’ve read lots of mainstream skill development books: bounce, outliers, talent is over-rated, the talent code, mastery, and recently The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman. From these books it’s clear that to become great at anything takes a long time and quality practice, to be competent takes a lot less time!!


At workshops I will sometimes give people 3 balls and say GO! No instruction. 2 minutes later I ask them to use 1 word to describe their experience. Most of them say: frustrating, challenging, difficult, annoying.


When the reality is with 2 minutes of instruction and 5 minutes of practice most of the attendees are well on their way to juggling!

Once you can get 4 consecutive throws from the same hand without an error you can consider yourself to be juggling.

How learning to fail helped me get selected for the Australian indoor hockey squad.

As a young hockey player 10-16, it was all about the team. My teams consistently over-achieved and I worked hard to get the most out of every member of it. Sometimes a little too hard, beyond the level that others were wanting to be helped! Still I wasn’t making the rep teams while more “selfish” players who couldn’t read the play or do as much for their team-mates were wearing state and national colours.

When I started playing in Sydney and making some state teams I got the chance to meet Brent Livermore, Mick Mcann and Jamie Dwyer.  You may or may not have heard of these guys but to me in my late teens these guys were super-stars. What I saw is that they worked very hard on individual skills and that they were much more skilful on the ball than I was.

Time to be more selfish.

Over the next 2 years I worked hard on everything I was bad at:

  1. Goal shooting
  2. Drag flicks
  3. Dribbling
  4. Beating players 1v1
  5. Stealing the ball aggressively (rather than just blocking and channeling)

Over those 2 years I went from just making state teams to being a key player. We won the national U21 championships and I felt like I wasn’t too far from making the AUS U21’s team. I may have been deluded but at least in my own self-image I had reached that level. I was also drag flicking on short-corners for club, state and even German club teams rather than being the “trapper” who stopped the ball for the “drag flicker.”

How did I get there?

By doing what I wasn’t good at over and over.


Juggling teaches you to fail, and keep getting better.

Kobe Bryant is the 4th highest all-time points scorer in the NBA. He has also MISSED THE MOST SHOTS IN NBA HISTORY. Even the best players have to accept failure to be the best.


Reasons to juggle everyday:

  1. Improve the right and left brain connection

  2. It’s fun!

  3. You can always progress

  4. It allows you to be creative in developing new moves

  5. If you’re juggling everyday then your juggling improves every day!

  6. You will inspire other people to juggle and therefore overcome self limitation

  7. Improved self-belief

  8. Improved hand-eye co-ordination

  9. It’s a great way to take a break from desk / digital work

  10. Portable

  11. Sharpens concentration and focus

  12. May prevent Alzheimer’s (according to Nature – Journal)

  13. Prevents ageing! Keep joints young and avoid falls through better co-ordination

  14. Makes your brain grow

  15. Changes in white matter from juggling – a loss of white matter is one of the key risk factors to memory loss and Alzheimer’s

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Not surprisingly there are a bunch of JUGGLING videos on TED

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