Posts Tagged ‘throw-in’

Referees Are Teachers Too

April 25, 2010

I recently published a post with the title, “All Adults Are Teachers.” That post was geared more to coaches and parents who needed a reminder of the awesome responsibility adults have in teaching our kids and that some of our actions, though unintended, may be sending the wrong message to our kids.

Carrying on with the notion that it “Takes a Village to Raise a Kid,” it is important to remember the role of the referee. Sure the main responsibility of the referee is to officiate the game. But when officiating games that involve …

  • Young players
  • Players who don’t have a lot of soccer experience
  • Players who are being coached by someone with little soccer knowledge

… referees should also assume the role of on-field teacher.

There are many teaching moments and opportunities for referees to set a good tone for a game.

  • It is important for all players, as well as coaches and parents, to understand the rules and violations of the game and why a certain call is made. When I blow my whistle, I like everyone in the immediate vicinity to know why I did it.
  • The offside law is particularly difficult to understand. When I make this call, I always try to let the nearby players know why I made the call and which player was in the offside position. Sometimes I will tell a player I’m close to when he/she is in an offside position.
  • Be quick and decisive on all calls. Don’t leave the teams and fans wondering who the foul was on. Point as quickly as possible in the direction that the ball should played.
  • Be animated. If there is a bad throw-in, make sure to mime the infraction by raising your back foot off the ground.
  • Don’t enforce all infractions, especially with young players and when no advantage has been gained. Let the first infraction slide but remind the players that the ball must be played forward on a kick off and that both feet need to remain on the ground on a throw-in.
  • If a player does not know what to do with ball once the whistle is blown, make sure to be close enough to the action to be of assistance. I don’t like it when a referee can help speed up the game by helping but chooses not to.
  • Care about what you are doing. Run and always be in position. You’ll make the right calls more often and you will show the players that you are working hard just like them.
  • Have fun! Fun is contagious.
  • Talk to the players. Don’t talk only about fouls or infractions. Tell them, “Nice pass” or “Good defense” or “I like your sportsmanship.” Validate the positives.
  • Teach and educate but never be condescending. Don’t be a know-it-all.

Though they may not agree with all of your calls, players, coaches, and fans will appreciate the effort to help everyone understand the game better. In doing so, you will gain the players’ and adults’ respect and refereeing will be that much more joyous and rewarding.

Improving Throw-ins: Hit the Feet (part 3 of 4)

January 4, 2010

This is the third in a series of posts that discusses how to improve throw-ins. The first two throw-in posts covered checking in and throwing in to all areas of the field (all 180 choices).

You often hear coaches telling their players to pass the ball on the ground. This is great advice. After all, it is easier to control a rolling ball than a bouncing ball. But what should a coach tell the player who is throwing in the ball from a throw-in? Rolling the ball is not permissible and passing the ball on the ground is impossible given the angle from which the ball is thrown. But if a coach were to instead instruct a player to pass the ball to a player’s feet, this instruction could apply to a throw-in as well.

There are times when it is not doable or desirable to throw in a ball at a player’s feet. Some examples would be when:

  • You want a field player to flick the ball with his/her head.
  • Throwing the ball into an open space.
  • Throwing a long distance throw to an approaching player.

But for the most part, the player taking the throw-in should always aim for a player’s feet. Ideally the ball will land directly at the player’s feet. But as you can see in the photos below, there is some leeway. The ball can be thrown as high as the knees (transparent blue area) and up to a few feet in front of the player (transparent red area). If the ball is not directly at the player’s feet, it is expected that the receiver will make the necessary adjustments.

There are many advantages to throwing the ball to a player’s feet.

  • It is easier to control the ball. Players are used to and more comfortable controlling the ball with their feet when the ball is on or near the ground.
  • A player has the best control stopping the ball with his/her feet.
  • A player has more options for a next move when the ball is controlled with the feet. For example, receiver of the throw-in can:
    • Pass back to the thrower.
    • Pass to another teammate.
    • Control and turn.
    • Beating a defender with a quick move.

Throwing the ball accurately is much easier said than done. Most throwers are conditioned to throw the ball down the wing as hard as he/she can. Now when a player is running at them, it becomes a challenge to time the throw with the player checking in. What also tends to happen is when a thrower tries to take a little pace off the throw-in, the throw-in technique changes enough (i.e., the ball is not placed behind the head) to result in a foul throw-in.

If you read my other throw-in posts, I’m not a big fan of working on throw-ins during practice. This is in large part the result of seeing many coaches spending too much time on throw-ins. However, I am a fan of making sure that the game of soccer is played and taught properly. I also believe that when a team is in possession of the ball, they should take advantage of the situation and not just give the ball away.

With that in mind, the following exercise will help players develop more accurate throw-ins and also reinforce the act of checking-in.

  1. Team up players in pairs.
  2. To warm up, have the two players stand 5 yards apart. Have them throw the ball back and forth to one another (Scenario A) using proper throw-in technique.
  3. Next, have them move 10 yards apart. Have the receiver break toward the thrower (Scenario B). The goal is for the thrower to time the run and throw the ball at the advancing player’s feet. Have the receiver control the ball, pass it back, and then return to the 10-yard spot. Repeat this 5 times and then switch the thrower and receiver.
  4. Repeat this same exercise at 15-yards apart (Scenario C) and 20-yards apart (Scenario D).

During the exercise, make sure that:

  • Good throw-in technique is used (hands behind the head and both feet on the ground).
  • The players make eye contact with one another and the receiver calls for the ball.
  • The ball lands at the receiver’s feet or within the designated area.
  • The receiver controls the ball properly.
  • The receiver breaks away quickly from the imaginary defender.
  • The receiver passes the ball accurately and with the correct pace back to the thrower.
  • The receiver returns quickly to the prescribed starting spot and repeats the check-in (this is a great conditioning exercise for the receiver).

Remember that the player receiving the throw-in does not always have to pass the ball back to the thrower. When the ball is passed back, I often see the thrower simply kick the ball up-field without much thought. In my opinion, this action is just as bad as throwing the ball down the wing. The player receiving the throw-in should always be aware of the defender’s and his/her teammate’s positioning. Based on this information, the receiving player has many options after controlling the ball. Make sure towork on these options and incorporate them into the exercise above.

Improving Throw-ins: 180 Choices (part 2 of 4)

January 2, 2010

In the first post on improving throw-ins, I wrote about the importance of field players ‘checking-in’ to the thrower. In this post, I write about the 180 choices the thrower should consider when throwing in the ball.

Why 180? That is the number of degrees in a semi-circle and normally the number of choices available to the thrower. However, what I see a lot of teams do on throw-ins is simply throw the ball down the wings. This type of throw only represents about 30 degrees of a semi-circle (Area ‘A’ on the field below), leaving 150 choices unused (Area ‘B’).

There may be several reasons why a team chooses to simply throw it down the wing but I believe the number one reason for this is poor ball control. For example, if a ball is thrown to the center of the field or back to a defender and it is misplayed, a scoring opportunity is likely to develop for the other team. Therefore, it is much safer to throw it down the wing. If the ball is lost, it is lost in a safe part of the field.

Despite the possibility of losing the ball, I strongly believe that much more of the field should be utilized on throw-ins. However, the spot of the throw-in should always be taken into account before the throw.

  • If the throw-in is takes place anywhere between penalty boxes (Line ‘C’), a team should feel comfortable throwing in the ball anywhere on the field.
  • Inside a team’s own defensive area, the ball should be thrown down the wing as far as possible. While the ball can be thrown to the goalie, he/she is not allowed to handle the ball with his/her hands. If it is handled, such an infraction will result in an indirect free kick at the spot of the foul. And if the ball is lost in this area of the field, a team is asking for a lot of problems (Area ‘D’).
  • When a throw-in is to take place inside the opposing team’s penalty area, I’m a very strong proponent of having the best throw-in player throw the ball as far into the penalty as possible. More often than not, this will result in a very good scoring opportunity. If the best thrower is playing on the other side of the field, it is still a good strategy to have him/her take the throw-in (Area ‘E’).

As I stated in the ‘check-in’ post, the best way to teach and condition a player to see all options on a throw-in is to teach him/her with fundamental soccer drills and small sided games. The more the player plays with his/her head up, the more field he/she will see, the more aware he/she will be of teammates, and the more aware he/she will be of the available options. This visibility and awareness will then easily transfer over to the throw-in.

Improving Throw-ins: Check-In (part 1 of 4)

December 29, 2009

I’m not a big fan of throw-ins. When I coached, I spent very little time on thrown-ins. I never had throw-in warm-ups. I never designed throw-in plays. My preference was to spend more time on soccer fundamentals, such as the first-touch, and playing small-sided games. I surprise myself that I am even writing about throw-ins. But year-after-year I see too many teams doing the wrong thing on throw-ins, so I feel I need to write about it. This is the first in a series of throw-in posts.

A peculiar tactic I see many coaches employ on throw-ins at all age levels is what I call, “the check-in, check-out” move. This is where a field player runs toward the thrower (checks-in) and then turns and runs down the wing (checks-out). While this is a good tactic to use a few times during a game and catch the opponents off guard, using it ALL the time simply does not work. A team that employs this tactic is literally and figuratively ‘throwing in the towel’ or ‘throwing away an opportunity’ on a play that can and should be much more advantageous to the team in possession of the ball.

A much better approach is for a team to simply have its players check-in to the thrower. There are many advantages to checking in.

  • A team will increase its possession percentage by retaining the ball much more often. A ball thrown to a player facing the approaching ball will receive and possess the ball much easier.
  • It creates movement on the field.
  • A field player is able to separate him/herself from a defender.
  • Open space is created when a player checking-in vacates or moves away from the area.

A field player should follow these steps when checking-in on a throw in;

  • If a defender is on the field player, play it cool. Referencing ‘Box 1’ below, when it is time to check in, the player (A1b) quickly breaks away from the defender (D1) in a quick burst. It a player is cool and appears nonchalant, the burst will leave the defender flat-footed and create greater distance between the two players (A1a). Now reference Box 2. If the defender (D3b) is marking a player (A3b) tight, the field player may need to first move away from the thrower (check-out) before turning and breaking to the thrower (A3a). This will leave the defender (D3a) further away from the play.

  • Before checking in, the field player should make eye contact with the thrower. If the thrower is unaware of the field player’s intentions, he/she may not be prepared to throw-in the ball to the approaching player.
  • If the thrower is not aware of or does not see the player checking in, communicate with a command such as ‘Ball!’ or call the thrower’s name to get his/her attention.
  • If the ball is not thrown to the player checking in, that player should cycle-through the check-in. The worst thing for a player to do is just stand still waiting for the ball to be thrown to him/her. Not only is that player in all likelihood covered but when a player receives a ball flat-footed, the next moves are limited. Veer away from the thrower and let another check in.

By far and away the biggest advantage to having players check-in on throw-ins is the carryover effect it has on all aspects of the game. During the course of a game, players should always be ‘checking in’ with the players who have the ball. Checking-in does not always mean running directly at the player. Checking-in also means checking in to the open space to give the player with the ball many options to pass the ball. Teach and reinforce the skill of checking-in with field play. Then when it comes to throw-ins, the players will check-in naturally.

Referee the Way You Would Want Your Game Refereed

October 1, 2009

I have many, many pet peeves. When it comes to refereeing, my biggest is when a referee or assistant referee (AR) simply does not put forth the effort.

I would like to see all referees recite the following oath before receiving or renewing their referee license: I will referee all games the way I would want my games refereed. If you can’t or don’t believe in this, then you should not be a referee.

I understand many referees may never have played soccer or will never play. That’s OK. Then these referees should recite this backup oath: Soccer players, coaches, fans, and my fellow colleagues deserve 100% of my effort each and every time I referee a game.

Nothing upsets me more than when I see young, able-bodied referees and ARs officiate from the center of the field or in only one position on the touchline. There is no way you can properly and consistently call fouls, out-of-play, throw-in direction, or offside without being in the proper position. As a center referee, it is not necessary to always be on top of the play but the effort needs to be there. As for ARs, there is no excuse for not being in line with the second-to-last defender. If you are unwilling or incapable of putting forth this effort, then you should not be a referee.

The following is some advice I have received or believe strongly in:

  • Don’t officiate too many games per day. While you may be physically fit, the mind tends to wander after a while. 3 games per day is normally plenty.
  • Try to learn something new or improve in some way every time you referee. This will keep you focused and motivated.
  • Be in shape

What other advice to do have?

2-3 Goal Difference Per Game: Throw-Ins

August 19, 2009

There is always one kid on the team that for whatever reason is able to achieve much greater distance on her throws than the rest of the players. Coaches should use this skill to their advantage.

  • Anytime there is a throw-in within the distance of the penalty box, have that player heave the ball toward goal. The objective is to create the same type of chaos that a corner kicks do.
  • If the team only has one player with exceptional throw-in ability, hopefully that player can play in the center of the field so she can quickly and easily take throw-in from both touch lines without get exhausted. If this is not the case and you are down by one, make sure that player is on the field and they are aware that they will need need to run across the field to take the throw-ins.
  • Incorporate the element of surprise. If you have this secret throw-in weapon, don’t unveil it immediately. Wait for an opportune time when you can possibly catch the other team unprepared.
  • A player can’t be offside on a throw-in. If the other team does not know this, you are in luck.
  • Add some variety. So many teams simply throw the ball in down the wing. There is no rule that states that this must be the case. Throw the ball into the middle or even backwards. It will make the throw down the wing much more effective when you do use it.

The rules state that a throw-in must be held with both hands and delivered from behind the head. Nowhere does it state that spinning the ball is illegal. The spinning of the ball occurs when one hands is much more dominant than the other. However, if a referee feels like a players is gaining an unfair advantage by spinning the ball, a foul throw-in may be called and the ball awarded to the other team. Teach your players to throw in with little or no spin.

Defensive Strategy

At the youth level, unless the other team has an extraordinary player, throw-ins should not pose a big threat if you do the following:

  • Since there is no offside on a throw-in, never let an offensive player get behind a defender.
  • Treat a long throw-in inside your own penalty area as you would a corner kick. Stack the penalty area with more players who are not afraid to head the ball.