Young players are notorious for losing possession on throw-ins, even after they have learned how to keep possession momentarily by doing a legal throw. Therefore, this lesson plan will cover the basics of a legal throw, as well as some ways to teach the players how to retain possession. Before holding this practice, it is a good idea to do some beginning work on chest-traps, as well as on receiving air-balls with the feet.
Start with some basic ball-control movements, such as rolls, vees, toe-taps. Do your stretches, interspersed with assorted ball control moves that you want to practice.
To do a legal throw-in, the ball must come back over the head (refs usually look to see if the ball goes back past the ears) before being thrown forward; both feet must be on the ground when the ball is released; and both feet must be behind or on the touch-line.
There are two basic ways to do a legal throw-in. One is to step forward with one foot in the direction of the throw, and drag the toe of the trailing foot as the ball is thrown. The other is to simply stand with both feet firmly planted and throw the ball in. Which style is used is a matter of player preference. Both ways are effective so let your players use the one that works for them.
The most common error in throw-ins is lifting the foot. This error almost always occurs because the player is trying to throw the ball too hard and almost always occurs in players who use the first method and are lifting the trailing foot in an unconscious effort to get more power on the ball. Therefore, if you notice that a player is lifting the foot repeatedly, switch them to doing throws by standing with feet together and tell them that their main job is just to get the ball on the field. By taking the pressure to set distance records off, your chances of a good throw are greatly improved.
After demonstrating the two styles of throw-ins, divide the players into pairs. Create two long touch-lines with a space of about 5-7 yards between them. Have one partner stand at or behind his touch-line and throw to the other partner, who catches the ball and throws it back. Watch for proper technique and make necessary corrections.
A fun game, which gives lots of repetitions, is to play "housekeeping" by putting one or more players in the "house" (center circle works well) with a supply of balls. Put the rest of the players around the circle. Objective is to clean house by throwing balls out using proper throw in technique. Foul throws are penalized with a five-second no-throw penalty for everyone in the house, which means that the house can get full of balls again. Outfield players retrieve balls, and then must dribble them back into the house. House players work for one to two minutes or until they clean up, whichever comes first. By varying the number of balls, you can make it more or less difficult to succeed. You also can place conditions on the outfielders to slow down the refilling of the house. When you call "time", you can count the number of balls in the house and record this for the "team". At the end, hold a "clean-off" contest between the two teams with the cleanest house.
Return to the touch-lines, and divide players into groups of 3. One will be the thrower, the second will be the receiver, and the third will be a shadow defender who plays behind the receiver. Start by having the receiver side-by-side with the shadow and have him break in towards the server, then sharply cut back down the line. As soon as he makes the reverse cut, have the server throw the ball down the line into the space where he will be running. In general, it is easiest for players to collect a ball which is already moving in the desired direction, so this is a good choice for a throw. Switch roles after 3-5 throws. The key to this throw is timing, so that the throw is made as soon as the player reverses direction.
The second option is to have the shadow defender on the back of the attacker, so that he cannot turn easily. Have the server throw in a gentle ball to the receiver's chest, which is immediately passed back to the server as he steps in bounds. Once again, rotate the 3 players through all roles.
The last throw-in option is to throw the ball to the feet of a player who is standing downfield. This is almost always the best choice for young players and, unfortunately, rarely used because all of the players are expecting the ball to go up-field and never mark the back players. Practice this option by having the shadow stand up-field and the receiver stand some distance downfield. The thrower initially sets up to throw up-field in the direction of the shadow, then quickly turns and throws the ball back to the open receiver.
Put 3 attackers on the field, along with 2 defenders. Put a thrower on the touch-line. Now, explain to the attackers that the thrower always must have a front target, a middle target and a back target player. You might also want to take time to explain what positions would serve this function in your lineup. In general, your wing defenders will take all throws outside of your defensive third. Wing midfielders will take your throws in the defensive third, because you want your defenders available in case possession is lost.
Start with shadow defenders, and work on movement of your players to get themselves open for a throw, except for your back player who should remain quiet and just slip back to become available. After 2 throws per attacker, allow the defenders to become active, and play a game where the attackers must have 3 touches on the ball to score and the defenders score if they can intercept the ball before these 3 touches. Play until all attackers have done 2 throws apiece, then switch 2 of the attackers with the defenders and repeat.
Play a regular game with the full team. Focus on good quality throw-ins from a technique standpoint, and look for target players to get open to offer options to the thrower. It will take several years for the players to develop the ability to break well, and to develop the judgement about when/where/why to throw a ball to a particular player. It also will take some time to develop air-ball receiving skills. As a result, your main objective is to get legal throws, and to get a beginning awareness of the tactics.
Updated 26 March 1999