The art of the long throw and how to counter it

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Since the dawn of time, mankind has yearned to to throw stuff really far. Rocks, spears, shapes in the night club, to be human is to throw. In this ‘article’ I’m going to ramble about throw ins and in particular, the long throw.

History of the throw-in

The throw-in has been part of the game since the nineteenth century when English public school boys would run amock with grassy knees. A wide variety of methods were tried and tested to return the ball to the playing field, including kick-ins and one handed throws but eventually the two handed throw was accepted (having been stolen from Rugby). Just like the modern throw, the direction of the throw was not specified.

Remember, you cannot score a goal directly from a throw in, unless you are Olaf Mellberg and Peter Enckelman miss-traps your throw.


At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower must face the field of play. The player should have part of each foot either on the touch line or on the ground outside the touch line, and use both hands to deliver the ball from behind and over the head. Most throw-ins are taken short with a throw to a player within a few meters of the thrower, to control the ball under heavy pressure from the opposing team.

What I want to focus on, is the long throw. This is when a player managers to launch the ball at great distance over the heads of the surrounding players to reach an attacking player closer to the opposing goal.

The Looping long throw

The player takes a bit of a run up, arches their back and launches the ball as high and as far as they can muster, causing the ball to come down like a mortar. Here is Republic of Ireland womens team Megan Campbell with astonishing distance on her throw which leads to a goal.

A flat trajectory long throw

Very hard to pull off but impossible to defend against, Rory Delap was a master of this. A junior javelin thrower, Delap managed to hone this skill into football to make a throw in nearly as dangerous as a corner. Delap manages to throw the ball at a great distance with a relatively flat trajectory. Researchers at Brunel University estimate that Delap could throw the ball 40 meters at around 40mph. His throw-ins were even more accurate than freekicks or corners because a lot more muscles are used in throwing a ball than kicking it.

How do you stop it?

  • Considering the flat trajectory of the ball means you can only get your beak on it once it’s dropping out of the sky at the final moment, study suggests that the Keeper needs to take a bigger role in coming out to catch the ball. One option could be to clear the 6 yard box of defenders allowing the keeper more room to traverse. The main problem with this is that if you have a keeper who can’t catch, you’ve basically given the ball away.
  • Stop conceding throw-ins. Simple one but if you know their team has a long throw specialist, it might be argued that it’s more beneficial to concede a corner than a throw in. After all, something like 1% of corners are conceded… May the odds be forever in your favour.

I want to throw the ball like Rory Delap

I think football clubs are missing a trick here. How often do we hear about players staying behind in training to practice their penalties and freekicks, but I cannot recall anyone saying they’ve been practicing their throws. Furthermore, it baffles me when Premier League players concede a foul throw. What are you actually doing?

First and foremost, you have to start from a young age, ideally. If you want to be signed to a professional club you have to stand out from the rest. Delap was throwing javelins from when he could walk and for a decent footballer, has managed to become a bit of a household name purely because of his talent with a throw. Seriously, sign your little one up to some throwing sports and get practicing.

  • Get building those back muscles and the triceps. Bench press, dips, dumbbell exercises are all your friend here.
  • Grip! You’d always see Delap and Shotton drying the ball to maximise grip before throwing it.
  • Have a target. Go and put a thing on the penalty spot and just keep throwing stuff at it. I believe in you!

Ridiculous throw ins

To end on a funnier note, here are some interesting throw in techniques.

    • The flip throw. Generate momentum by flipping the ball onto the pitch. You can throw it far but you lose accuracy and may break your neck.

-This post first appeared on r/soccer by Bell_Whiff

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