Sam’s Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. Sam Snow is the Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.
So what’s the deal with the throw-in?
It appears from what our players do that no one is teaching them the techniques or tactics of this first attacker pass.
So here are a few ideas straight away. Yes, the player taking the throw is the first attacker. Yes, there is more than one technique to make a throw-in. Yes, there are tactics to the throw-in for both the thrower (1st attacker) and the potential receivers (2nd attackers). Yes, the throw is a pass and should have the same qualities of a good pass. Yet too many of our players just heave the ball onto the field or they throw to a teammate but seem to regularly send the ball to their teammate’s knees or belly button.
Evidently too few coaches take the time at Under-8 to teach the mechanics of the basic standing throw-in. Not nearly enough Under-10 coaches refine that technique with their players. Could not more Under-12 and Under-14 coaches teach the moving throw-in? That is a short run to the touchline and while coming to a stop to take the throw. This adds momentum and therefore distance to the throw.
Why do coaches not speak up when a throw-in goes to the kneecaps of a teammate of the thrower? This is quite an awkward ball to receive and it will take at least two touches of the ball to control it. Throw-ins should go to the receiver’s feet or head or into space for a teammate of the thrower to run onto. Since the throw-in is a pass it should have proper pace, height, timing, accuracy, spin and disguise. Teach the kids that when they throw the ball into space for a teammate’s run to release the ball off the fingertips so that the ball has some backspin. This will cause the ball to stick a bit when it hits the ground and is less likely then to roll too far or even out-of-bounds.
The technique must also be taught to the letter of the law so that it’s a legal throw-in. It’s difficult enough to keep ball possession in soccer without giving the ball away on a throw-in (definitely allow for do-overs at Under-8 and be patient with the Under-10 and Under-12 age groups here).
The throw-in is a restart and like a free kick the off-the-ball players have a role to play. They should move to shake off markers while getting into space to receive the throw. Too many of our players simply stand and wait for the thrower to put the ball into play. They react to the throw rather than create options for the thrower. Now this is fair enough for the Under-8 age group, but by Under-10 at least one of the thrower’s teammates needs to make a forward run to receive the throw.
In general make throw-ins forward toward the attacking third. For teenage players who have better tactical awareness then sometimes the throw can go square or backwards to maintain possession if a penetration throw is shut off by the opposition. In other words the same decision making as with any other pass in the game.
Indeed there is more to the humble throw-in than it appears! Oh, and one more technique, the flip-throw. I’ll let you demonstrate that one.