Receiving a soccer throw-in for most soccer players [even college players] is a time of nervousness… No matter the age or level you can see players are not comfortable while receiving the ball from a throw in. Just don’t get this mixed up with taking the throw in. You see younger players practice the actual throw, but there’s not a focus on receiving it. Of all the things youth players practice, receiving throw-ins is something that should be taught more because it happens every game.
You won’t have much opportunity in team practice, so practice at home. Throw a ball at a wall and let it bounce back in at you. Throw it underhand and overhand because the ball will come back at you different ways. If you have a family member or friend you can practice with do it. Players who practice at home put themselves at an advantage and I highly recommend it for everyone.
The fear of receiving a soccer throw-in
Ask almost any youth soccer player or high school player or even college about this topic. Ask them to be honest and tell you how they feel when they’re playing defense and their teammate is about to throw the ball back to them. Usually in this setting the defender is left alone in a dare from the other team to throw it back to the defender. Most honest soccer players are going to tell you that they do have a bit of nervousness in a situation like that. This is the reason that coaches are yelling “Throw it down the line”. To play safe and not lose the ball for an easy goal.
Pros vs youth soccer players in receiving a throw in
I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a professional game and seen a ball thrown down the line. You see them throwing it to the player, even with a defender on them. This is because at the pro level, every player is good at receiving the ball in pressure situations. For youth players even in high school I recommend they practice this with no pressure and get really good technically at it.
Once they can do this good and clean 90% of the time, add pressure. You can paint the picture where you have a defender 10 or 15 yards away and once the ball is thrown the defender can pressure the player receiving the ball. This will help the player get good at receiving the ball in a pressure situation, which will help them in a game situation.
Knowing how to shield the ball with your hips, rear, back, forearms, hands, legs will help you keep possession. You can also use your arms and hands to create space and separation before you received the ball. Checking away and checking to are things that help you lose and confuse defenders. During a throw in, switching space with your teammates can confuse defenders. You might switch places with a teammate and cause both defenders to stay with you, while your teammate is set free to get the ball.
When I watched Man United vs. Kashiwa Reysol
One of the best games I have ever seen live was U19 Manchester United (England) vs U19 Kashiwa Reysol (Japan) in the Dallas Cup a few years ago. The Japanese skills were amazing!! And I don’t mean flashy dribbling moves, I’m talking about 1-touch passing, trapping and patience in possession.
The way they could trap the ball from a soccer throw-in with a bigger defender on their back was Next Level. I will never forget that game and neither will Manchester because the score ended up being 5-1 Reysol who ended up losing in the final vs Fulham FC.
5 reasons players aren’t good at receiving a soccer throw-in
- Most Teams/Players never work on this compared to passing on the ground or volley’s and an over-hand soccer throw-in is much harder to control compared to a underhand volley toss.
- It’s a Difficult Skill controlling a throw-in because you never really know if it’s coming at you high, low, fast or slow. Then there is pressure from defenders.
- Depends on the flow of the game (meaning is it fast or slow pace); so if the flow is fast and aggressive it’s not as easy as if it’s slow pace / no pressure.
- Defenders are usually put in the toughest situations, because if they lose the ball it could result in a goal against, whereas a forward loses it and it’s not as important.
- The Thrower doesn’t know where to throw the ball to their teammate. It all depends on the situation and the pressure. If the player receiving is alone the ball should be thrown to their foot but if the player receiving has a defender on them it might be best to throw it to their thigh, foot, head or chest or the opposite side of the defender. Also depends if the player receiving is fast or if they have great control. If the player is fast then a throw into space might be better, compared to a slow player with great control.
What the Japanese know about soccer
One reason the Japanese players are so good at futbol is because they practice technique like crazy! Many football schools in Japan have training walls around the pitch and they do lots of passing and 1st-touch drills to build muscle memory. Most soccer players never reach this point and could, but they think they are so good already. Attitude and sports maturity is a big problem in American high school players. One reason for this is their parents tell them how great they are instead of saying “yes you’re good, but you can get better.”
Great drill for coaches
Young youths and college coaches can use these ideas. Listen, most coaches have drills that consist of long lines. Drives me crazy. At least get 3-4 smaller lines right? Or if you want to have drills where you can improve on several elements at once then follow these tips and feel free to adjust.
- Start your drill from a throw-in (Practice this from your own defensive third, middle third and attacking third). The soccer throw-in needs to be practices in all parts of the field/pitch.
- Have 4 Different Stations so that Station #1 is the throw in station, Station #2 Receives the throw in and has to pass to Station #3, passes to Station #3, Station #3 plays to Station #4 who scores.
- Rotate so that the player follows their pass. The shooter will end up going to the back of the throw in line.
- Once they figure it out, you can have 2 or 3 balls always going which mean players are always moving and getting more touches and goals.
Coaching notes by ages groups
- AGES 7 and Under will ‘ball watch’ meaning station #1 and #2 will want to watch the whole play develop so they see the goal. Eventually you want them to speed things up so that once Station #3 receives the ball a NEW ball is being thrown in by the next person in line.
- AGES 8-10 will be able to focus more and get 2 or 3 balls going at once, but will still lack the skills to have fast speed of play
- AGES 11+ Select players have more skill at this point, so you can give tons of coaching points, tactics and combo play. Teach them all the choices they have from different parts of the field, throwing it back, forward, center.
5 teaching points to the players
- Teach them that there are so many right things to do in terms of passing forward, sideways, back, diagonal balls.
- Quick Restarts are throw ins and free kicks which is not taught enough and can lead to lots of GOALS, due to catching the other team off-guard.
- Teach them how to check away and checking to the ball
- How to hold their runs
- Over-Laps (Which is when you make a run around or behind the player with the ball) to cause confusion in the defense and create space and options
Incentives, rewards & competition
Everyone likes competition which causes more hustle, focus, joy, passion. Here is how you can do it: Get 3 stations with 1 player at each. Once Player 1 at station #1 throws the ball in your ‘Stopwatch’ STARTS. Player 2 will receive the ball and pass to player 3 at the 3rd station. Once Station #3 scores and the ball hits the net your Stopwatch STOPS. So Example a good time could be 7 seconds and that is the standard till someone can break the record. This gives the players so much more care and focus which will improve their overall game. Feel free to adapt the number of stations and players.
Psychology is a BIG part of soccer
Here’s what I mean:
You can take the exact same player who plays forward and is really good at dribbling, and put them at defender and see how much less comfortable they are on the ball. For a forward or an attacking player the feelings inside are not the same as a defender who is not being marked but does have an opponent 10 yards away. This is all mental and whether or not you have been put in this situation and practice over and over.
If you’re a forward and your teammate has thrown you the ball, you were probably up the field with a Defender right on your back. So if you lose the ball it’s halfway expected because there’s a Defender right on you. Also if you do lose the ball the other team has the go all the way down the field to score.
Then if you are a defender you are often times receiving the ball with space, but not enough space that you can just casually control the ball. It’s just enough space that you can receive it and then quickly have to pass the ball or dribble. Coaches prefer that you are able to pass the ball. The main difference is how it looks from the outside; if there’s a defender on you & you lose the ball, people kind of expect that. However, if you’re all by yourself and you lose the ball it’s because your first touch and composure was not good enough. And, as you know, on a throw-in everybody is watching so everybody sees the mistake which is embarrassing.
How to fix receiving your soccer throw-in
Practicing this in the backyard or at practice is going to help tremendously. If you are comfortable at controlling the ball then you won’t have that anxiety when it happens in a game as much as most of the other players. In team practice I don’t think I can ever recall practicing receiving throw-ins.
And a skill that good coaches work on is volley drills but the difference is those are underhand soft tosses closer up, whereas a throw-in is over hand with a harder toss and from a further distance. So practice one that is harder or more difficult because you don’t practice it as much as the easier skill. This calls for panic and losing possession of the ball in most situations. Which is embarrassing and not fun which nobody wants to deal with as much as being successful with the ball.
Players need to spend extra time practicing
So for you coaches and players make sure in your team trainings, small groups and private lessons, you fit time for this skill: Receiving the ball from a throw-in. It’s almost embarrassing to watch youth teams in games receive a throw-in because it’s so ugly. I recommend receiving both short and long throws. Bouncing, soft, hard, everything you can think of. Defenders often receive the long bouncing ball, while mids receive the short throws.
Key points to make while practicing the soccer throw-in
- Let the player know they will have to get used to and be good at trapping it with different parts of the foot, thigh, chest. The one you want them to be good at most is using the inside of the foot so work on soft throw-ins so that they get used to that and good at that. But remember it’s okay if they have to trap it with their laces because if the tosses shallow or soft or short they will have to reach out with their foot and use their laces.
- Let the players know that it starts off rough, but gets better and that they need to keep practicing this on their own with a buddy or parent if they can.
- Make a point that the person throwing the ball in needs to quickly step onto the field after they released the ball, so that they can receive it and not be out of Bounds at that point.