Soccer Coaching Blog | Professional Soccer Coaching Advice

Why quick throws work for youth teams

David ClarkeLast weekend, we were lucky to find our game was on given that most of the country was under water – we played on astro turf as our usual pitch was too wet. It was a fast game, requiring player reactions to be somewhat quicker than normal.

But whether on a fast surface or not, I always ask my players to think about performing quick, instinctive actions all the time anyway. Sure enough, on Saturday, we scored an opportunist goal thanks to one of my players taking a quick throw-in while the opposition was still getting set up to defend the set play. After the ball went dead, my winger ran over, picked it up and threw it first time into the path of one of our attackers. Two touches later, and the ball was in the back of the net before the keeper had even realised what was happening.

Something like a quick throw-in can make a huge difference in matches, and particularly in youth football where players are not as ‘tuned in’ and alert as they are in the pro game. Of course, players need to show good technique if they are to take advantage of the situation. In fact, after we had used the quick throw-in successfully, another one of my players repeatedly tried to replicate the tactic, and on each occasion he was penalised for lifting one of his feet off the ground.

I know he felt frustrated about it – he was trying to perform the throw quickly, but as a result lost sight of the action itself. You could say he was quick, but couldn’t keep to the rules!

But it’s still worth using quick throw-ins at every opportunity in your coaching sessions. Get players to try it under timed pressure – each time there’s a throw-in they have only 10 seconds to get into position and perform the action.

Of course, to make the most of this in game situations you’ll need for each player to excel at the technique. A lot of teams will have one or two players who are specialists, but if you want quick throw-ins, they’ll need to be performed by the player nearest the ball.

Tell your players to remember:

  •  To take the throw-in from where the ball went out of play
  • That their team mates can’t be offside from a throw-in
  • That another player has to touch the ball before the thrower can touch it again
  • That a goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in
  • And that opponents must stand more than two yards from the thrower

Try it out! It’s a great feeling the first time your team proves that something as basic as a throw-in can be utilised to such devastating effect!


The problem with training on astro turf…

I came in from training last night feeling a slight annoyance at the session. We were running the “turn 3v2 into 2v1” passingdavidclarke1.gif drill from Better Soccer Coaching (Soccer Coach Weekly, 25 July 2007, page 3) and it was going perfectly. Bang, bang, bang the passes were drilled to feet, controlled and drilled back. My Better Soccer Coaching colleagues would have looked on with a mixture of admiration and jealousy!

But at the back of my mind I know that come Sunday the boys will be on pitches that resemble ploughed fields and the ball will stick in the mud. You see, the problem is we train on astro turf. Outstanding if you play at Stamford Bridge or the Nou Camp every week, but on grassroots English pitches it doesn’t quite go hand in hand. When I write about training sessions in Better Soccer Coaching I am often tempted to give drills purely for astro turf and explain how you translate that onto the pitch on a rainy weekend.

Of course the best answer is to get your players to the match at least half an hour early so you can push them through some intense passing practice. One of the best ones is to get your players into fours and make a triangle with one player trying to win the ball off the other three, featured in our warm-ups in Better Soccer Coaching (Soccer Coach Weekly, 1 August 2007, page 2). Get them on the pitch and get that ball moving between the players. This is the best way to get the players used to the pitch before a match.

Astro turf is a great all-weather solution to training in rainy countries, and it is great for games like soccer tennis. It allows the ball to move around quickly for your passing drills – you just have to beware the stick-in-the-mud factor and take heed of what we say in Better Soccer Coaching: warm-ups work!

I looked at the pitch last night and wondered if David Beckham was to hit a crossfield pass to Ronaldo who beats a player then turns it inside to Lionel Messi, quick turn and on to Didier Drogba and bang into the net, would it work in the mud? I have my doubts, so why should I expect my players to do it?

David Clarke, Better Soccer Coaching editor