Soccer 101: How to Do a Throw-In

Learn how to set up a play and help your team advance the ball.

Throw-ins restart the action after the ball has left the field of play at the sideline. When the opposing team plays the ball out of bounds, your team earns a throw-in. Similarly, if your team has the last touch before the ball goes out of play, then the ball is given to your opponent for a throw-in.

“The throw-in is a very basic and essential part of the game of soccer. It can help you retain possession or turn defense into attack,” says DICK’S Sporting Goods Soccer Pro Haris Merzihic.

It’s important to know the basic rules of a throw-in, so you don’t give up possession with an illegal throw. A throw-in can be called illegal if a player lifts a foot while throwing or does not throw from behind the head and complete the motion of a throw-in.

There are two main ways a player can perform a throw-in. No matter which method you choose, you must face the field of play at the spot where the ball went out of bounds.

RUNNING THROW-IN

This type of throw-in can be performed from a stand-still position or as a run-up for added momentum. You can throw from behind or directly on the sideline. If you’re performing a running throw-in, start by standing a few feet behind the sideline. Run up to the line and firmly plant both feet on the ground before letting the ball fly.

You’ll hold the ball behind your head with your arms at about a 90-degree angle and your hands behind your ears. The ball must come from behind and over your head.

“For maximum distance, you want to release the ball right as it is over the top of your head,” Merzihic says. “Make sure that both of your feet stay on the ground as you perform this throw-in.”

DRAGGING FOOT THROW-IN

The second way to do the throw-in is with a dragging foot. This starts the same as the first running throw-in, a few steps behind the sideline.

“This time you are going to drag a foot as you throw the ball, which is going to help you with some distance,” Merzihic says.

A few more tips to remember when performing a throw-in:

  • Encourage your teammates to move and try to get open for the throw. The other team knows the throw-in is coming, so it can be easy to intercept it if your team is not actively trying to evade or step in front of an opponent.
  • Leading your teammate with your throw-in can be a great way to start an attack. Throw the ball into your teammate’s running path rather than at him or her.
  • Make sure the ball goes inbounds. If you’re trying to throw the ball down the line for a teammate making a run and the ball hits the ground outside the touchline prior to going onto the field or breaking the plane of the sideline, it can be called. Depending on your age and league, you may be allowed to retry the throw, or your opponent may be awarded the throw-in.
  • Re-enter the field of play after fully completing the throw. Once another player has touched the ball, you are free to make a play on it, so get back into the action quickly.

CAN I DO A TRICK PLAY WITH A THROW-IN?

Well, that depends on what type of trick you’re planning.

NO – You cannot score directly off a throw-in, so even if you have a strong, hard throw, you can’t throw it directly into the net. You may throw the ball into the box, giving your team a set-piece opportunity, if you can throw that far with pace.

NO – You cannot take the first touch after you have thrown the ball in. Another player, from either team, must touch the ball first. After that, you are clear to play the ball.

NO – Your own keeper may not directly catch the ball from your throw-in with their hands. They may make a play on the ball in the same way a field player may – chest, head, knee, foot, etc.

YES – You can do a front handspring leading into the throw, sometimes called a Flip Throw. However, the rules for throw-ins do not change. The flip must be completed completely behind the line with both feet touching the ground at the time the ball is released.

By mastering the throw-in, you can help your team stay in possession of the ball and turn up the pressure on your opponent’s goalkeeper.