After mastery of the basic skill set contained in the Coaching American Soccer “Introduction to the Soccer Throw-In,” including proper placement of the feet, gripping of the ball, bringing the ball far enough behind the head, throwing the ball equally with both hands, and following through, players may be introduced to the moving throw-in, the throw-in as a pass to a receiver, and the application of basic throw-in options.
After mastering the standing throw-in, players are to be taught that they may walk or run up to the sideline (touchline) and throw.
Take steps and throw – In order to provide extra momentum to achieve a longer or stronger throw-in, coaches should demonstrate and have the players practice how to start two or three steps away from the spot where the ball went out and then step up and throw the ball at the correct spot. It is very important to demonstrate and emphasize:
1.) that players must start at a point away from where the ball went out so that the throw is made at the point where the ball went out;
2.) that players must not step over the touchline; and,
3.) that players must have both feet in contact with the ground at the instant of the throw (i.e., must not allow their momentum to cause them to “pick up their ‘back’ foot.”) In stepping up to throw, the “trailing (back) foot” is usually brought up beside the “leading foot” at the instant of the throw, essentially creating the look and execution of the Standing Throw-In.
Run up and throw – In order to provide the greatest momentum to achieve a longest or strongest throw-in, coaches should demonstrate and have the players practice how to start approximately four- to six- steps away from the spot where the ball went out and then run up and throw the ball at the correct spot. The momentum of the player during a running throw-in, or the desire to throw the ball too hard, exaggerates the potential for problems in all aspects of the skill, particularly the overuse of one hand and not keeping both feet in contact with the ground at the instant of the throw. Again, it is very important to demonstrate and emphasize: 1.) that players must start at a point far enough away from where the ball went out so that the throw is made at the point where the ball went out; 2.) that players must not step over the touchline; and, 3.) that players must have both feet in contact with the ground at the instant of the throw (i.e., must not allow their momentum to cause them to “pick up the ‘back’ foot.”) In running up to throw, the front of the shoe (toes) of the “trailing foot” is usually dragged along the ground at the instant of the throw.
The Throw-In Is a Pass
Coaches need to explain and demonstrate to their players that a throw-in is a pass to a teammate and not simply a way to put the ball back into play. (One of the most effective ways to demonstrate this to youth is for the coach to establish a teammate and a defender approximately ten yards into the field of play and then throw the ball to the defender!) Players are to understand that a throw-in provides an advantage and an opportunity to the team and that this advantage needs to be exploited to the maximum extent possible.
Teammate as receiver – Because the teammate of the thrower is now to be perceived as the recipient of a pass, it should be made clear that that the receiver must be fully prepared to receive and control the ball with any part of his body. Accordingly, the coach needs to demonstrate and practice throw-ins to different body parts. The most basic approach is to return to the standing throw-in with teammates in pairs. Without a defender, the thrower should be directed to throw the ball respectively to the receiver’s:
The receiver should control the ball with the appropriate body part, get the ball to the ground, and pass it back to the thrower, who is to be directed to step into the field of play to receive the return pass.
Leading a running receiver – one of the most important options for a throw-in is for a receiver to run upfield for the throw. This is otherwise known as “throwing down the line.” Coaches must demonstrate and have the players practice this, emphasizing the following important points: 1.) The receiver initiates the play by starting very near the thrower and approximately five yards into the field of play. This is only started after the receiver recognizes that the thrower is really ready to deliver the ball. Making eye contact is usual. 2.) The receiver runs parallel to the sideline in the direction of attack. (Young players tend to run upfield and toward the sideline instead of parallel, thus unwittingly closing down their available space to work with the ball. This should be demonstrated as “what not to do.”) 3.) The thrower must deliver the ball quickly, before the receiver can out-run the distance that the thrower can deliver the ball. 4.) The thrower must throw the ball low, hard, and straight, into the space between the receiver and the sideline, leading the receiver by one or two steps. (Young players need repeated demonstration and reinforcement of the concept of “leading,” e.g., “You have to throw the ball out in front of the receiver, to the spot where the receiver is going to be when the ball arrives.” Players may understand an analogy with a wide receiver in American football.) 5.) The thrower is to deliver the ball in such a way that it will be controlled by the receiver with his feet. 6.) The receiver must control the ball in such a way that the ball is screened from any opponent, generally continues its path down the line, and is not just touched out of bounds. (Young players tend to make a “hard” first touch toward the sideline. This can be demonstrated as “what not to do.”) A “soft” re-directional touch with the inside of the left foot or a “strong” reinforcing touch with the inside of the right foot, both initially keeping the path of the ball going parallel to the sideline, are the first preferred instructional steps.
Ball over a defender’s head – another important option for a throw-in is for the thrower to be able to throw the ball over the head of a defender to a teammate. Coaches must demonstrate and have the players practice this, emphasizing the following important points: 1.) The receiver initiates the play by standing far enough away from the defender and then moving slightly toward the thrower. This is also known as “checking-in.” 2.) The receiver may also move away from the thrower and then come back, in order to cause a defender to re-position himself. If effective, this creates space and is known as “checking-out/checking-in.” 3.) The receiver must always end up at a spot that is within the thrower’s range. 4.) The thrower must put enough arc on the ball to ensure that the defender isn’t able to jump high enough to intercept the throw. This causes some pace to have to be taken off the throw. The thrower must take into account the ability of the defender to back up or for some other defender to intercept the throw.
Throwing the ball ‘backward’ – another option for a throw-in is to throw the ball to a back defender (in the direction of the thrower’s own goalkeeper). For youth, this is to be taught in essentially the same way as a back-pass used during the normal run of play. Coaches must demonstrate and have the players practice this, emphasizing the following important points:
1.) The receiver must position himself far enough away from the thrower (closer to the defensive end-line) so that there is enough time and space to work with the ball without it being intercepted (this should be a minimum of 10-yards).
2.) The receiver should position himself near the side-line.
3.) The receiver makes eye contact with the thrower that the ball may come to him.
4.) The thrower must not throw the ball backward if the potential receiver is covered or if there is an opponent close enough to intercept the ball.
5.) The thrower must throw the ball forcefully, directly to the receiver’s feet so that it may be controlled quickly, i.e. – the thrower must not throw the ball “short” or “softly,” which would allow it to be more easily intercepted.
Throwing to the goalkeeper – the last basic option for a throw-in is to throw the ball to the goalkeeper. It is extremely important to note that the goalkeeper may not pick up a throw-in, but must play it with his feet. Accordingly, this is not a preferred option for youth. Again, coaches must demonstrate and have the players practice this, emphasizing the following important points: 1.) It must be certain that the goalkeeper is going to properly receive the ball and will have the time and space necessary to control it and be able pass it to a teammate, or kick it upfield, without it being intercepted. 2.) The thrower has enough power and accuracy to get the ball to the goalkeeper quickly. 3.) The goalkeeper has communicated orally or non-verbally so that the thrower is certain that the goalkeeper is expecting to receive the ball. 4.) The ball is to be thrown to the goalkeeper’s feet.
As with all passes, a throw-in is a “service” and the ball should be thrown to the receiver in the best way possible for the teammate to control the ball.
Applying Throw-In Options
Throw-ins are not simply another form of re-start. They also represent an offensive opportunity. Conversely, if they are executed poorly, they can represent a defensive headache. Coaches may work with a number of throw-in options, depending on the age and ability of their players:
Throw-in based on location – for young players, a ball which is put into play in their own half of the field should almost always be thrown down the line, not into the middle or backward unless the receiver is so wide open that there is essentially no chance of the ball being intercepted. At midfield and up to the attacking third, the ball may be played into the center or down the line. Throwing the ball into the middle of the field may be introduced as checking-in and checking-out becomes better understood. In the attacking third, the ball may be thrown into the middle of the field, backward, or to anyone who is otherwise open. Close to the attacking goalline (end-line or “bi-line”), it is important to recognize that there has to be enough room available when throwing the ball down the line in order for the ball to not go out of bounds before the receiver
can reach it. Similarly, when the ball is thrown backward, the thrower must ensure that there is enough space and time for his teammate to work with the ball before an opponent can challenge him.
Who takes the throw – in order to optimize field advantage, while ensuring that a proper defense is in place in case the ball is stolen, it is recommended that young teams have the nearest wide midfielder take the
majority of the throw-ins. Closest to the attacking end-line, it is reasonable for the throw-ins to be taken by the player with the longest throw. As players get older and ball security is ensured, at the option of the coach,
throw-ins may be taken by the closest back defender.
Quick throws – sometimes it is optimal for the player closest to the ball to take the throw-in. This is generally the case when the defense is disorganized and the opportunity exists for a fast strike. As such, the player closest to the ball takes the throw-in while the player next closest to the ball sprints in the direction of attack. This is one of the cases where it is extremely important for the coach to emphasize to the players that there is no offside at the time of a throw-in.
Multiple options of receivers – the most basic throw-in “play” sets up the three choices of throwing the ball down the line, into the middle of the field, or backward. The thrower needs to be able to determine which choice is best under any given set of circumstances. The thrower may even initiate the play by smacking the ball with one hand, indicating that he is ready to throw and causing the teammate for the down-the-line option to head upfield, the teammate for the middle-of-the-field option to check-out and check-in, and the teammate for the backward option to backpedal to create more space.
● A standing throw can also involve a feint, for example, the thrower may face directly toward the center of the field and then twist at the waist right to throw down the line or left to throw backward.
● Whereas the thrower does have to take the throw in an expeditious manner, the thrower does not have to throw the ball immediately if he perceives something is initially wrong, such as a covered receiver. The thrower may even stop his motion, re-set, and then throw.
● The coach needs to determine, and then teach, what he wants the players to do with the ball after they receive it from a throw-in. For example, a backward throw can then be chipped to the striker who was creating the down-the-line option. (Note that in this example, however, the striker would then be subject to the provisions of offside at the moment the chip is taken.) Another option would be to pass the ball back to the thrower. This is why the thrower must immediately step into the field of play right after throwing the ball.
● Reinforce the other rules associated with throw-ins (not a complete list):
○ no offside at the moment the throw is taken;
○ thrower can stand on the touchline, but can’t step over it;
○ the goalkeeper can’t catch a throw-in directly;
○ a throw-in where the ball never goes into the field of play (either on the ground or in the air) is retaken;
○ the ball is “live” as soon as it enters the field of play;
○ the thrower can’t touch the ball again until it has touched someone else;
○ a goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in (a throw-in is ‘indirect’).
Soccer Coaching Tip
● The introduction of new skills should not be cause for breakdowns in proper technique for the throw-in. Emphasis should be maintained on the original basics: ball behind head, both hands equally, etc.; don’t allow errors or poor technique to creep in.
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