Introduction to the Soccer Throw-In



When one team propels the whole of the ball out of bounds over the sideline (touch line), whether on the ground or in the air, the other team puts the ball back into play by means of a “throw-in.”



Like in American basketball, the player uses his hands to throw the ball back into play from the spot where it went out. Unlike basketball, however, it must be done with both hands simultaneously, according to a very strict set of rules.

At one time, long ago, throwing the ball back into play with one hand was tried, but this (or kicking the ball) resulted in a far greater advantage to the receiving team than was justified by the ball simply having gone out of bounds. Accordingly, the two-hand thrown-in was adopted and a set of requirements was imposed which limited the benefits to be gained from obtaining possession of the ball from a touch-line out.

The rule (Law 15 of the Laws of the Game) governing the throw-in reads, in part:

“At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower must stand facing the field of play; have part of each foot on the touchline or on the ground outside the touchline; throw the ball with both hands from behind and over the head from the point where it left the field of play…”

The best way to teach beginning players to perform a legal throw-in is to introduce the Standing Throw-In. The skill of the standing throw-in may be broken down into the following component parts:

1. Placement of the Feet
2. Gripping the Ball
3. Preparing to Throw
4. Throwing the Ball
5. Follow-Through

Each part may be demonstrated and practiced separately and then combined to complete the skill. Demonstration and practice should be performed at an actual touch line of a properly marked field. Before starting, young players must be shown what it means for the whole of the ball to go all the way over the touch line to be truly out of bounds. There is a great temptation by beginners to assume that the ball is going out and to pick it up before it actually does. (Parents, siblings, and spectators standing on the sidelines have been known to helpfully do the same!)

PLACEMENT OF THE FEET – The entire sole of the shoes of both feet should be firmly planted on the ground, completely outside of the field of play, with the toes pointed at the field of play. The feet may be placed beside each other, however, it is recommended that, for a right-handed player, the left foot be placed slightly ahead of the right or, for a left-handed player, the right foot be placed slightly ahead of the left. Although the rules allow the feet to be placed on the sideline (touch line) marking, it is strongly recommended that beginning players be taught to keep their feet completely outside of the line in order to improve their chances of making a legal throw in. Players must be constantly reminded that they must not pick their feet up off the ground at any time until after the ball is thrown.

GRIPPING THE BALL – At waist level in front of the player, the fingers should be spread apart and the hands placed symmetrically (“equally”) on the left and right sides of the ball relative to an imaginary line running from top to bottom through the middle of the ball. Players with large-enough hands may be told to touch their thumbs together at the imaginary line. This is similar to the “Goalkeeper’s ‘W'” as described in the Introduction to Goalkeeping feature article.

PREPARING TO THROW – Players should take the ball backward over the head equally with both arms. They should then touch their thumbs to the base of the neck at the shoulders. These actions reinforce that both arms must be used equally and that the ball must be delivered starting from behind the head.

THROWING THE BALL – To deliver the ball into the field of play, both arms should be used simultaneously to “catapult” or “slingshot” the ball. The ball should be released above the area of the forehead. The ball may not be dropped, it must be thrown. The ball may not be thrown down at the thrower’s own feet, it must be released from “over” the head. (It may seem obvious to the coach, but beginning players need to be reminded at this point that the ball is to be thrown to a teammate!) In general, a properly thrown ball will not have side spin or curve while in flight. Players should be instructed to try to be conscious of the ball leaving both sets of fingertips at the same time when the ball is thrown. If this is done, the ball will generally have underspin in flight or no spin at all.

FOLLOW-THROUGH – To get a maximum throw, players should continue their arm motion after releasing the ball. This is exactly the same concept as a batter continuing his swing in American baseball. Many beginning players tend to stop their arms in mid-air right at the point they let go of the ball. In order to promote a proper follow-through, players may be taught to slap their thighs with both hands after the release. It must be clearly demonstrated, however, that this is done at the end of one continuous motion of the arms. Otherwise, beginners will stop their motion with the release of the ball and then begin again to happily slap their thighs!

Throw-in Follow-Through

Throw-in Follow Through

All players should practice the standing throw-in until it becomes second nature.  This can start with youth throwing to the feet of their parents, standing approximately 10-yards into the field perpendicular to the sideline.  Teammates can then be substituted for the parents.

After completing a proper throw-in, players must then be instructed to immediately re-enter the field of play in order to resume playing their position. Some beginners will try to re-enter too fast, thereby not completing a legal throw-in. Others will unconsciously stand and watch to see what happens next.

Coaches may also demonstrate common errors to their players, or “what not to do,” when making throw-ins.  These include:

–       Don’t step over the sideline

–       Don’t slam the ball down directly in front

–       Don’t drop the ball, instead of throwing it

–       Don’t lift the feet off the ground (especially the “back” foot)

–       Don’t throw with one hand (baseball- or American football-style)

–       Don’t push the ball (basketball-style)

–       Don’t jump

–       Don’t be the first to play the ball after re-entering the field

The most common error, lifting a foot off the ground, is usually a result of trying to throw the ball too hard.  Coaches should tell their beginning players that it is more important to perform a proper throw-in than to try to get power or distance on the throw.


Soccer Coaching Tip:

  •  Defenders must be at least two yards from the thrower when the throw-in is taken.

© Copyright, John C. Harves