Throw ins

Everyone in your team must be able to throw the ball in. Don’t opt for dedicated throwers.

In youth football (soccer) nearly 70 per cent of throw-ins are foul throws and the ball is lost to the other team. It seems young teams might be better off kicking the ball out of bounds and stealing the ensuing throw-in.

To reverse these odds, every player on your team must be prepared to execute a proper throw-in and get the ball into play almost immediately. A sudden restart can catch the defence off-balance and greatly increases the odds of keeping possession, and offers a chance to get behind the defence and make a run on goal.

The basic technique:

1. Hold the ball behind your head. Your hands should be behind the ball and the fingers spread so that your hands look like the letter ‘W’.

2. Stand a few inches behind the sideline with your feet together and about a shoulder width apart – I advise against taking a run up or having one foot behind the other. If your players do this they will almost certainly lift their back foot off the ground. If that happens the ref will call a foul and give the throw to the opposition.

3. Scan the field – where are your players? If you throw the ball to them will they have time to control it before an opposing team player closes them down?

4. If you need to throw the ball a long way it helps if you bend your back as the ball is released.

5. A throw in is a pass the same as any other – so be accurate and don’t throw it too hard.

6. Immediately look to support the receiving player.

7. Be decisive. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to find someone to throw to. Try to throw the ball back into play as quickly you can.

If you want your team to take quick, effective throw-ins you have to practise them. They won’t happen otherwise!

The easiest way to do this is to demonstrate the right technique, then play a small-sided match. Every time the ball goes out (even for goal kicks and corners) the game is restarted with a throw-in.

Make sure there’s a lot of movement from the players on the pitch and the throw is taken as quickly as possible; if the throw isn’t taken in X number of seconds give it to the opposition.

Take advantage of opponents

While teaching players to get the ball back into play quickly hardly seems like rocket science, simple things done correctly at the U-10 level and below are extremely effective. Marking off the ball is one of the weakest areas of youth football, and a quick-thinking player can take advantage of opponents not only during the run of play, but on restarts as well.

Don’t go for designated throwers

Some coaches rely on one or two players to take all throw-ins. We’ll call them designated throwers. The designated thrower is the most exhausted player on the field. The designated thrower is required to sprint up and down the sideline, or even across the field, to take a simple throw in. Most adults would soon collapse under such a pace, but it is routinely required of U-10s with shorter legs and smaller lungs.

Let them all throw it

All too often, when a ball is knocked out of bounds upfield, a quick-thinking forward prepares to toss it back in play, only to be halted by her coach. “Why can’t I take the throw?” protests the confused forward. “Because you’re not a midfielder,” yells the coach. “Only the midfielders take throws.”

Five tips for quick throw-ins

Quick throw-ins increase the chances of your team scoring goals.
Make sure every player on your team knows how to take a throw-in.
Don’t slow the game down by calling for a designated thrower.
Throw the ball towards the opposition goal “down the line”.
Don’t stop players who are first to the ball from taking quick throw-ins.

In touch with the ball

While a quick throw may lead to a great scoring chance or two, the impact of this tactic goes far beyond the win-loss column. In age groups where games may last only 50 or 60 minutes, too much time is wasted just putting the ball back into play. Young players must touch the ball as much as possible.

Teaching tactical awareness

Coaches who emphasize quick throws also play an important role in teaching tactical awareness to their opponents. Teams defending against a designated thrower usually have at least 20 or 30 seconds to drop back behind the ball. Casual defending against sudden restarts will not work.

Take time and teach skills

Since skills, experience and endurance are limited at the lower age groups, young players should never be asked to do the impossible. Coaches who truly care about preparing young players for a higher level of play should take time to teach every beginner how to execute a proper throw-in.

Once that is accomplished, throw the ball back on the field and let the kids play.