Frequently, I will ask coaches what they plan on doing in their practice that day, and they will tell me that they are going to spend time on teaching throw-ins. Regardless of the age of the players, this focus tends to take the form of the coach standing in front of a line of players, talking for too long and then having the players do the action (sometimes one at a time!). Why are we spending valuable practice time teaching throw-ins in a way that is divorced from the reality of the game?
Remember, my mission is to abolish lines from youth soccer!
Another part of my mission is to make practices fun. As coaches, we do this by allowing the kids to play soccer.
Let’s say you have 12 players (or 16 or 20, or however many you have on the team). I would make two fields with cones goals the end of each field. I would split the players up into 4 teams, and, guess what…I would let them play! You can make it a round robin, playing 6 minute games.
Ok, so remember, we want to teach throw-ins. The only rule is that when the ball goes out of bounds (on any line), the restart is a throw-in. If the player does a foul throw, stop the game, show him how to do it, let him have a quick practice, and then restart the game!
Why should you teach throw-ins in this way?
- You are letting them play soccer, so they are getting lots of touches on the ball.
- Because you made two fields, your players are getting many more opportunities to touch the ball, which means they will be more engaged, have more fun, and ultimately lean more.
- You are teaching them throw-ins in context. Now they can see when, where, and how to take throw-ins as part of the natural course of the game, instead of lining up and having the coach critique their form.
- As well as teaching how to take a throw-in, you can also teach where the ball can be thrown, what speed, what height, etc. because the ball will actually be going to (hopefully) a teammate in a game situation!
- Speaking of the teammates, you can train the thrower’s teammates on how to make space and make runs when the thrower has the ball.
- Again, you are teaching throw-ins in the context of a game that mirrors what they will see on a match day.
After you have played your round robin, let the players get water and ask them what they have learned.
Guided discovery questions could include:
- What is the proper way to take a throw-in? (Show me)
- Does the ball always have to be thrown forward? Why? Where else might it be thrown? Why?
- Who decides where the ball gets thrown? Why? (This is where you can bring in the role of the other team members at throw-in situations)
- When would it be appropriate to throw the ball a long way? Why?
- When would it be appropriate to throw the ball a short way? Why?
Following the guided discovery questions, go back to the round robin, except this time play goal kicks and corners (previously, every restart was a throw-in), so now it is looking more like “real soccer.” However, this time, say that every goal that is scored within 3 touches (or something like that) of a throw-in counts double (or triple). This will get them looking to make the most from their throw-in situations.
Finally, end with a scrimmage involving all players. When you see a foul throw, stop the play, correct the mistake, and restart the game. Again, this is teaching in context and the players will much more likely retain what you are teaching.
Try it. Let me know how it works.