Soccer Throw-in Set Plays/Pieces, Drills, Tips & Tricks

By | Last updated October 5, 2017

Throw-ins in soccer are too COMPLICATED to make something out them…

Are they, really?

Well, that might not be the case…

…there are a few soccer throw-in set plays, tips and drills that can get your team to score or stop the opposing side from doing it.

And it just so happens that in this post here, I am going to show you what those plays, drills and tips are… and exactly how you can improve your (or your team’s) soccer throw-in skills both in attack and defense.

Introduction

In soccer (or football, depending where you are from), especially at the youth level, there are very few things more common than seeing a poorly taken throw-in.

Whether the player picks his or her foot up, commits another kind of foul to give the ball to the other team, or is told to do something that makes no sense by the coach, the throw-in becomes a wasted opportunity.

At the root of it, throw-ins, like all set pieces or plays, are opportunities to take an advantage against the other team.

In this article, we’ll look at ways for you to improve both offensively and defensively in this area of the game.

What Is the Definition of a Throw-In in Soccer?

A throw-in is the way a game restarts when the soccer ball goes out of play by crossing over the touch line.

(For those of you who don’t know, “touch lines” refer to the side boundaries of the game field.)

The opponent team from the one whose player made the football go out of play is then awarded the throw-in to resume the match.

The player responsible for doing the throw-in must throw the ball over his/her head using both of his/her hands and must keep his/her feet on the ground while outside the game field, behind the touch line.

What’s the Purpose of a Throw-in?

As we saw in the above definition, the purpose of a throw-in is to get the soccer ball back into play and, if while attacking, quickly make use of it to try and take danger to the opposing team’s goal.

On the other hand, if you’re defending, you need to take added precautions, to prevent your opponents from stealing the football from you and try to score a goal.

Soccer Throw-in Set Plays/Set Pieces

Kicking the ball out of the pitch is often times a good measure in helping you get out and staying out of danger.

That is why most recreational-level coaches will constantly scream “throw it down the line” to their players.

While this is not always a bad tactic, it is one that is so often overused.
The reason why is because there are better options!

Don’t scream this at your players.
Teach them better, and then let them use their creativity!

Let’s see how you can use throw-in set plays or pieces much more effectively in both attacking and defending situations.

Attacking

Points to remember:

  • No offside on a throw-in.
  • Anyone can throw the soccer ball in.
  • You do not have to wait on a whistle unless otherwise told so by the official.

Tactically, these three things are very important to remember, especially at youth level.

First of all, you need to realize that you can throw the ball to a player that is behind the defense. It’s a smart tactic that catches out poorly-coached teams.

You gain a lot by doing this as you force the other team to either drop back further than they want to, or you have a man going to goal that is essentially wide open.

If your throw-in isn’t close to the end line (goal line) and you don’t have a player that’s strong and capable enough to throw the ball in like he/she was taking a corner kick, then the idea that only a certain player can do it is one of the most annoying things I see regularly on the soccer pitch.

It gets worse, as it might end up hurting your team.

By picking a designated player to take the throw-in, you are basically telling the other team what you are doing and it also shows that you aren’t doing a good job as a coach for not teaching others how to throw in the magic sphere (as I like to call it) properly.

Without sounding too dogmatic, I prefer to play quick, possession-style soccer.

By having the man closest to the soccer ball throw it in, it allows you to do just that and play it quickly. At youth level, you can score tons of goals by taking these quickly.

You cannot do that while waiting on someone to trot to throw it “down the line”!

Second, and on the same level as the above tactic, is not waiting for the referee’s whistle.

You are just wasting time if you simply decide to have your team hold the ball.

Soccer is not like basketball. The other side does not have to be “set up”; so, take advantage of any positional lapses by taking a quick throw.

Third, you can use this kind of combinations to fool the opposing defenders.

Defending

If you take everything from attacking throw-ins and apply them to your defense, you should be just about golden.

But here’s a few things to keep in mind to help your team better defend your goal!

Because there are no required waits, unless the referee dictates so, you need to have your team on full alert.

They need to drop back and defend the key areas of the field; mostly in the middle first, and then toward the side of the throw.

Just knowing that your opponents can throw the ball at any time gives you a massive advantage over most teams.

Marking

Marking is basically “guarding” an opponent.

When you mark someone, you want to stay close to them. But more importantly, you want to stay between them and the goal you are defending.

Let’s see these plays here as examples where “X” is the defense and “O” is the offense:

Correct:

X
O

Incorrect:

O
X

The reason why the first diagram is correct is because “O” cannot be offside on a throw-in.

The second diagram, though, shows you the way to stop a player from getting the easy “down the line” throw.

Here’s an example if you happen to have two defenders and the attack doesn’t have an extra player:

Correct:

X
O
X

Incorrect:

O
XX

OR

XX
O

If you have two men, you can use them to prevent any throw from getting in close to the opposition player. The correct one shows you how to do this, and it gives your defenders options to pass with one another out of the back.

Soccer Throw-in Drills

Here are some simple, effective soccer throw-in drills that any player can follow and improve his/her throw-in skills do that do not involve “throwing it down the line”.

You will need one attacking team plus one defending team for these drills and you can practice both attacking and defending movements with these exercises.

In case you’re defending, you just need to stop the attacking side from succeeding in obtaining their desired outcome in these plays.

Drill 1: The Give and Go

Setup: Have the defending team cover all the players on the attacking team.

How to: This play is so simple and effective. We’ll see more why a little later.
Have a player throw it in, both hands completely over their head, toward the feet of another player.

It works great if everyone is covered, because that player simply just needs to play it back, firmly, on the ground to the thrower.

From there, the defense is usually in a mess and you can play further 1-2s down the field quickly.

Drill 2: In and Out

How to: Two players make runs toward the ball.

The unexpected movement, however, is that the player closest to the thrower should run away, while the player furthest from the football should run toward the thrower.

This allows more space for your players and creates havoc in the defensive third of the field.

Drill 3: A Trick Off-the-Back Play

Who doesn’t love a trick play?

How to: One way to get the ball onto a good player’s feet is to have them throw the ball off the back of a teammate.

Once the ball is touched, they can once again touch it.

You can use this to your advantage with a little bit of clever planning.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, soccer throw-in set plays/pieces are not a very complicated part of the sport of soccer.

They are supposed to be a way to restart the game, but they are often wasted opportunities for teams on both sides of the pitch.

Having a clear, concise plan that everyone knows straight away will help you navigate any tricky situations that might exist.

There are so many coaches — well-meaning of course — that just do not think hard enough about how to help their teams out.

This information serves the purpose of getting all the players involved, rather than just your “stars”, and it gives everyone a real function in the team, even when they are not the best player.

This is how you build chemistry together, and what will bring you more wins!

Your Coach,
–Mike