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671 Measurement and Instrumentation
Lab 5
Prof. Mathias Kolle

Jessica Ong
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA, United States

ABSTRACT When juggling a soccer ball, players generally
Passive stability can be achieved in soccer alternate between their left and right feet. Studying the
juggling under certain conditions. Gaining passive stability motion of single-legged juggling, however, allows
greatly decreases the effort and concentration required to comparison to previously conducted studies on bouncing
perform the task, as some perturbations are automatically a ball on a hand-held racket, which have shown that
eliminated without requiring a reaction from the player. In passive stability can be achieved when the racket is
this case study, a video was recorded of an experienced decelerating with positive velocity at the time of impact
soccer juggler using the dominant foot to juggle with the ball2. A previous study on soccer juggling
approximately 60 times. Through video analysis, it was revealed similar conclusions1, and provided inspiration
determined that the average phase lag from between the for this study.
ball and foot was 116.1o ± 3.7o. Average foot velocity was The current study was a case study on the juggling
0.138 ± 0.22 m/s at time of impact. Average foot patterns of an experienced soccer juggler using the
acceleration at time of impact was -4.43 ± 0.34 m/s2. In dominant leg. A video of the subject tracked the right
fact, foot acceleration was negative at every single impact. hip, knee, ankle, and foot joints, as well as the ball. Joint
Ankle and knee angles did not vary significantly and ball positions obtained through a MATLAB video
throughout the juggling time. It was concluded that a phase analysis script allowed computation of phase shift
lag between 90o and 180o, as well as a decelerating foot between the motion of the ball and foot; average knee
motion on impact with the ball are essential in maintaining and ankle angles; and foot velocity and acceleration at
stability during juggling. time of impact with the ball. These measurements
provided an example of a passive stability regime used
to simplify the act of juggling, and can aid in
understanding of optimal juggling strategy or methods.
Soccer is a sport that involves unique foot-eye
Because juggling is such an effective way to improve
coordination. Juggling (keeping the ball off ground by
soccer skills, understanding the requirements for passive
bouncing it on the foot) is a commonly emphasized drill
stability is helpful in knowing how to instruct new
that players often practice to develop skill and comfort
soccer players who wish to improve their technical skills
with the ball. There are many advantages to developing
through juggling.
juggling ability. It addition to boosting ball control and
touch, it improves balance, strengthens quadriceps and calf
muscles, and helps concentration. Juggling is a Soccer juggling is a skill that requires control to
complicated task. Not only does a player have to control stabilize the bouncing of a ball on the foot. Stability
the sinusoidal vertical motion of his foot, but he must also happens when the dynamics of the foot and ball do not
react to perturbations requiring the foot to react vary from one juggle to another. In other words, it can
horizontally, all while balancing on one foot and be seen as stable when movements follow a constant
constantly readjusting body position. Despite the periodic motion. From joint angles, to body posture, to
numerous control factors that go into juggling a soccer
foot motion, there are many simultaneous adjustments
ball, it is possible to achieve passive stability, which does and controls that a player has to make while juggling.
not require feedback control, in the vertical direction1 so
that the task requires minimal concentration and effort. Active stabilization requires feedback and
corresponding adjustments to eliminate perturbations

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and return a system back to its error-free state. Passive juggling motion was controlled and consistent. 3cm x
stabilization can be represented by an open-loop control 3cm squares of black tape were attached to the outside of
system that eliminates perturbations without requiring the right hip, knee, ankle, and foot as references to track
feedback control1. When juggling, passive stability in the joint positions. The subject stood in front of a white
vertical direction can free up other resources (muscles and wall, with a white sheet spread out on the ground in front
concentration) required for active, or closed-loop feedback of the wall. In order to maximize visual contrast, the
in different aspects of the control. Previous research has subject wore all white long socks, shorts, and t-shirt. The
studied the dynamics of a person using a hand-paddle to camera was placed approximately 0.75m high, and 2m
rhythmically bounce a ball1,2. Those studies determined from the wall, as shown in Fig. 1. Recording was done
that one of the conditions required to achieve passive indoors to minimize perturbations on the ball.
stability is negative vertical acceleration of the paddle as it
hits the ball.
The task of juggling soccer ball with the foot,
although more complex than hand-paddle juggling, is
similar in the vertical direction. Like hand-paddle juggling
described above, soccer juggling can be modeled as using
a moving horizontal plane to rhythmically bounce a ball2,
where the plane in this case is the foot. Ignoring any
movements in the plane of the ground, the system can be
viewed as a one-dimensional periodic controls system. The
current study takes this approach, seeking to verify that
acceleration at impact is negative while juggling and
explore other parameters that cause passive stability. Figure 1: Setup of video recording. A white sheet
was placed in front of a white wall. The subject
JUGGLING VIDEO CAPTURE AND JOINT TRACKING wore all white clothing. Four black 3cm x 3cm
In order to determine ball and foot kinematics, phase squares of electric tape were placed on the
lag, and joint angles, an iPhone 5 HD video camera with a subject’s right hip, knee, ankle, and foot as joint
markers. The subject was oriented perpendicular to
60 Hz acquisition rate was used to record a video of the
the camera so that her right side was recorded. The
subject juggling indoors approximately 60 times with the camera was located approximated 0.75m high and
right (dominant) foot (Fig. 1). Black electric tape placed 2m from the wall.
on the hip, knee, ankle, and foot joints allowed the joints to
be tracked and identified using an image analysis script
written in MATLAB for this study. The position of the ball
was also tracked.
The positions of ball and foot were low-pass and
high-pass filtered to remove noise. A smoothing spline fit
was applied to each of the adjusted position data sets. The
first and second derivatives of the spline curves provided
velocity and acceleration of the ball and foot.

All data collection was done by analyzing a 60 fps
video recorded using an iPhone 5 HD video camera frame
by frame in MATLAB. Positions of the ball and leg joints Figure 2: Sample frame of the output produced
through MATLAB video analysis, showing the
were tracked only in the X-Y plane perpendicular to the
joint and ball locations. The ball center is indicated
camera (Fig. 2); depth information was not collected. by the blue dot; the tip of the foot is indicated by
The subject was instructed to juggle approximately 60 the magenta dot; and the hip, knee, and ankle joints
consecutive times with the right foot while balancing on are indicated by the green dots. The solid green
the left foot. The right foot was not allowed to touch the lines show the knee and ankle angles. The video
ground during the juggling session. This ensured that the was cropped at the hip in order to reduce the
influence of shadows on the image processing.

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A MATLAB image analysis script was written to
determine the pixel position of the ball and joints in each
video frame. As shown in Fig. 3, the ball was tracked by
converting each frame into grayscale, and then selecting
the appropriate threshold to convert the image into black
and white. A circle finding algorithm was used to locate
the center of the ball. The ball was not recognized in four
of the 1500 frames, so those frames were discarded.

Figure 3: Image manipulation for determining
location of ball in a single frame: (a) original image, Figure 4: Image manipulation for determining
(b), greyscale image, (c) black and white image, and location of joints for a single frame: (a) black and
finally (d) ball center plotted on top of original white image, (b) inverted image, (c) fill holes, (d)
image. This routine was repeated for every frame of isolate ball, (e) subtract ball from image, (f)
the video. reduce noise, (g) locate white centroids, (h)
Location of the joints was significantly more difficult, eliminate irrelevant centroid and plot correct
because the ball and shadows interfered with the joints on original image
algorithm. Several checks were incorporated into the joint
detection algorithm to filter out frames with incorrect joint
positions. Approximately 120 of the 1500 frames were
incorrect, so those frames were discarded, taking care to
preserve the correct times corresponding to frames.
Although these frames were inaccurate, visual inspection
of the resulting video indicates that the good frames that
were kept were very reliable. The joint detection algorithm
started at the black and white image that was previously Figure 5: Raw positions of the foot and ball
obtained when finding the ball. It was then inverted so that before any filtering. Unusable frames have been
holes could be filled with white (Fig. 4c). The ball was discarded. The vertical grey lines indicate times of
isolated and inverted, and then added to the frame from impact between the ball and foot. By inspection,
Fig. 4c to produce Fig. 4e. Noise was eliminated and then the foot lags between 90o and 180o behind the
centroids of the remaining white spots were identified
(Fig. 4f). Finally, the correct joints and ball center were
plotted on top of the original frame image. This process
Using a first order Butterworth filter, the ball
was repeated for each frame.
position was low-pass filtered at 1.5 Hz and high-pass
Knowing that the diameter of the ball is 22cm, pixels filtered at 22.8 Hz (Fig. 6). The foot position was low-
were converted to meters by finding the pixel diameter of pass filtered at 2.1 Hz and high-pass filtered at 18.9 Hz
the ball in each image. The pixel-to-meter ratio was then (Fig. 7). A smoothing spline was fitted to the normalized
used to convert pixel positions of the ball and joints into and filtered ball and foot positions, also shown in Fig. 6
meters. Fig. 5 shows the ball and foot positions that were and Fig. 7. This allowed calculation of the first and
found using this method. second derivatives, giving us adjusted velocity and
acceleration over time for each data set.

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inspection of the portraits reveals interesting
information. The impact points in Fig. 8a are
concentrated in the upper right quadrant of the graph.
This is an indication of phase and frequency locking1.
The obvious linear shape of the Hooke portrait in Fig. 8b
suggests that the motion very closely approximates
sinusoidal motion. All of the impact points fall in the
bottom half of the Hooke portrait. In fact, every single
Figure 6: Raw vertical ball position appears in blue one of the impact points corresponds to a negative
on the upper half of the graph, and filtered ball acceleration.
position is shown below in blue dots. The raw ball
positions were low-pass filtered at 1.5 Hz and high-
pass filtered at 22.8 Hz using a first-order
Butterworth filter. A spline fitting curve, which
allows for differentiation, is shown in orange over the
filtered data.

Figure 8: Plots of normalized foot velocity and
acceleration versus foot position for six juggling
cycles. Black dots indicate points of impact
between the ball and foot. (a) A Phase portrait
showing velocity versus position. (b) A Hooke
Figure 7: Raw vertical foot position appears in green portrait showing acceleration versus position.
on the upper half of the graph, and filtered ball
Table 1: Summary of measurements made for this case study.
position is shown below in green dots. The raw foot
The signs of foot velocity and acceleration on impact are
positions were low-pass filtered at 2.1Hz and high-
consistent with expectations for passive stability. The phase
pass filtered at 18.9 Hz using a first-order
shift between the ball and foot has a large standard deviation
Butterworth filter. A spline fitting curve, which
due to the Lissajous figure method of calculation. The ankle
allows for differentiation, is shown in magenta over
and knee angles are relatively constant throughout the trial.
the filtered data.
Parameter Average (𝒙 ± 𝒖𝒙 ) N
Experimental data revealed that the foot acceleration Foot Velocity at
0.138 ± 0.039 m/s 0.087 m/s 64
is indeed negative on impact, with a positive velocity. A Impact
phase shift between 90o and 180o was detected between the Foot Acceleration
-4.43 ± 034 m/s2 1.44 m/s2 64
at Impact
motion of the foot and ball. In addition, it was determined o o o
that the ankle and knee angles are almost constant during Phase Shift 116.1 ± 3.7 13.1 49
o o o
juggling. Table 1 provides a quantitative summary of the Ankle Angle 85.06 ± 0.46 8.60 1389
findings. Knee Angle 163.79o ± 0.19o 3.51o 1389
Results from this study are consistent with findings in In addition to velocity and acceleration at time of
previous experiments. A recent study where subjects foot-ball impact, it is also important to control the timing
juggled a soccer ball with one foot discussed Phase and of the sinusoidal motion of the foot. Phase shift was
Hooke portraits, showing that foot acceleration is negative determined by plotting foot position versus ball position
at time of impact for a stable juggling regime1. Results for six cycles at a time, 49 times. Fig. 9 shows an
from the current study agreed with those findings. A Phase example of one such Lissajous figure. For each plot, a
portrait (Fig. 8a) and Hooke portrait (Fig 8b) for six least-squares fit algorithm was used to estimate a fit
juggling cycles was created and compared to an example ellipse to the data. The ellipse geometry allowed for
created from results of the previous study. The black dots calculation of phase. The average phase lag of the foot
indicate points of impact between the ball and foot. Visual behind the ball was 116.1o ± 3.7o with a standard

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deviation of 13.1o. Every single phase calculation was frames. Analysis of soccer juggling is extremely difficult
between 90o and 180o. This is somewhat unintuitive, as for many reasons. Many parts of the body must be
one would expect that the phase lag would be closer to employed in order to achieve stability, and the motion of
180o. Fig. 9 shows visual evidence of the phase lag. the ball with inevitable perturbations is spatially
complicated. Furthermore, there is significant variation
in the techniques that soccer players use to juggle.
Analyzing different juggling techniques would be
challenging because of the many unmeasurable factors
that come into play. Although single-footed juggling is
somewhat unnatural for a lot of athletes, it provides
some experimental control and makes joint tracking
significantly easier than it would be for two-legged

The objective of this study was to measure and gain
an understanding of the motions involved in soccer
juggling and some of the conditions required to achieve
Figure 9: Lissajous figure showing normalized foot
position versus normalized ball position for the same passive stability. Positions of the ball, foot, ankle, knee,
six juggling cycles at shown in Fig. 8. Impact points and hip were tracked via video analysis as the subject
are shown in black, and the blue curve is a least- juggled a soccer ball with the dominant leg. Vertical
squares fit ellipse. The phase angle of this particular positions of the foot and ball were low- and high-pass
Lissajous figure is 115o. filtered and fitted to a spline curve to obtain respective
The phase lag is consistent with the foot’s negative velocities and accelerations. The phase shift between
impact acceleration that we found. As the ball and foot ball and foot positions was determined to be 116.1o ±
make contact, and impulse is delivered to the ball, and it 3.7o with a standard deviation of 13.1o. The fact that they
immediate elastically deflects upward. However, since the were not completely out of phase indicates that the foot
mass of the foot and leg is so much greater than the ball, continued to move upward after impacting the ball. The
the foot continues to travel upward, and reaches its peak mean foot acceleration at times of impact with the ball
some time later. was -4.43 ± 0.34 m/s with a standard deviation of
Ankle and knee angles were recorded throughout the 1.44m/s2. All foot impact accelerations were negative,
juggling session. It was hypothesized that changing joint suggesting that timing the foot movement so that it is
angles might play a role in passive stability. However, it decelerating as it hits the ball is crucial in obtaining
was determined that the joint angles did not vary some passive stability when juggling.
significantly. The average ankle angle during the 1500 The drawback of this study is that it analyzed
video frames was 85.06o ± 0.46o with a standard deviation single-footed juggling, which is a somewhat unnatural
of 8.60o, and the average knee angle was 163.79o ± 0.19o and less common method of juggling. Conclusions
with a standard deviation of 3.51o. Small changes in drawn from this study about phase and foot acceleration
measured angles is likely to actually be due to small can lead into future studies of the more natural, yet
changes in the subject’s body position. The small variation spatially complex juggling system in which an athlete
of ankle and knee angles indicate that other body parts are alternates the ball between feet. Although results from
used to propel the foot upward, presumably the hip, this study are consistent with results from previous
supporting knee, and supporting calf. similar experiments, it provides analysis of only one
subject. Collecting and analyzing similar data from
This study was a two-dimensional analysis of a three-
multiple subjects with multiple feet and using different
dimensional task. Thus, some information was lost in the
juggling methods could give more insight into the
third dimension, leading to a small amount of error in
optimal control factors for juggling. Understanding the
measured foot positions as the juggler’s body shifted
requirements for passive stability in juggling can help in
slightly to maintain balance. In addition, about 8% of
instructing beginning jugglers, and can also provide
frames throughout the video were discarded, as the joint
tracking script was unable to locate the joints in those insight into other aspects of soccer, such as volleying
and receiving the ball in the air.

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The author would like to thank Prof. Mathias Kolle of [1] Tlili M., Mottet D., Dupuy M.-A., and Pavis, B., 2004,
the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the “Stability and phase locking in human soccer juggling,”
Massachusetts Institution of Technology for giving advice Neuroscience Letters, vol. 360.
on experimental setup and procedures, as well as helping [2] De Rugy A., Wei K., Müller H., and Sternad D., 2003,
“Actively tracking ‘passive’ stability in a ball bouncing task,”
with understanding of the dynamics of juggling. In
Brain Res., vol. 982, pp. 64–78.
addition, the author is thankful to Dr. Barbara Hughey for
providing help in understanding and analyzing the data

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