Soccer Juggling, Brain Training and A ChallengeMy son Jackson was awarded his wristband for juggling a soccer ball 10 times in row in front of his coach. (I discussed his practice strategy in a previous post.) He practiced for a long time before being able to reach this milestone. I talked with a number of other parents and they noticed something interesting: once their children reach 10 juggles, they quickly got to 25, then 50 then into the hundreds, and then they could do as many as they wanted until they lost interest.

Jackson’s coach said something interesting as well. He said that as soon as he saw Jackson juggling on Friday he knew that he was going to get 10 juggles. How? Because he saw that Jackson had mastered a consistent touch of the ball, meaning it went about the same height each time.

What does this have to do with the brain? Everything, of course. While it was Jackson’s right foot and leg muscles that touched the ball, it was his mind that was learning how much force to apply to the ball, how to keep his balance while standing on one foot and focusing on the flight of the ball and ignoring distractions. Neuroplasticity helped him learn the skills with his right foot… but he still can’t juggle with his left foot. So he will have to go through a similar learning experience to train for that skill.

We experience this type of non-generalizable training all the time– we learn to write with a certain hand, brush our teeth with a certain hand, shake hands with our right hand, etc. For fun, and to challenge your brain, try brushing your teeth with your opposite hand for a week. I’ve started using my left hand on my shaving brush to lather my face in the morning. Let’s report back how much progress we make in a week and how hard it is to learn.