Developing the Long Throw-In
The best throw-ins come from players with good arm strength, but technique rules. The players I've had who developed very long throw-ins used a heavy ball over about a one year period to develop an excellent throw. The first kid, who was born in 1971 and played for me years ago, made a home-made heavy ball by wrapping a size 5 with lots of duct tape. Other kids have purchased heavy balls from Kwick Goal and gotten similar results.
As for a progression, I can offer this simple one, done after stretching, and then a second series of exercises we do on other days (maintenance).
Initial Throw-In Training
1) Partners with ball facing each other, each gripping the ball, pulling, head up, feet forward, butt back, knees straight and locked, isometric - no motion.
2) Partners with ball, facing, pushing on ball.
3) Partners with ball, seated, feet touching, sit-up toss to partner's chest.
4) Partners with ball, seated 5 yards apart, throwing ball to partner's chest. Leg motion and foot action is removed. Emphasis is on coordinating back, head, and arm motion. Move partners further apart as is appropriate for their age until maximum range is reached.
5) Partners with ball, 10 yards apart. Stationary feet, throwing ball with back and arms. Knees slightly bent, but feet remain glued to ground. You get balance, but don't have to worry yet about coordinating step timing and motion or starting position.
6) Individuals, no ball. Work on simple foot drag coordinated with arm motion. Get them to pick a favorite foot, and to stay with it. Limit to a couple of steps, drag and throw, still no ball. Choreography. Be observant at this step.
7) Partners with ball, 15 yards apart or more, depending on age. Complete throw-in to partner's feet. Don't increase distance until technique is smooth. Dwell at this phase again and be observant.
8) Throw-in tournament - each player gets three throws from a cone mark. Coach puts down a cone after each throw, moves cone to best (longest). Don't coach, just let the game happen. Before you start, put cones along the side every 5 yards. After each player completes throws, record approximate length of best throw.
Here's the fun part. In every single case so far, kids improved their throws about 10 yards after the first practice, and another 10 yards or more after another practice.
1) Groups of 4 at corners of grid, sized according to age and throwing ability. Each grid has one heavy ball. Partners throw heavy ball to next player along grid edge. Do not catch heavy ball, pick it up after the first bounce.
2) Increase the grid distance, add 1 regular soccer ball. Start ball at corner of grid diagonally opposite from player with heavy ball. Players throw to next player along grid edge.
3) Add 1 more regular soccer ball, so that there are 3 balls and 4 players.
4) Put the heavy ball away, increase the grid size, slow down the pace. Longer throws with regular ball, allow time for technique. The strength work is over.
5) 8v8 to full-size goals with goalies. Play with hands and throw-ins forward to attack. Score by throwing ball into net. For throws that don't reach the goal, first player that touches ball gets to pick it up. No out of bounds. No marking.
6) Ultimate Soccer - adds movement and support. Like Ultimate Frisbee, with soccer ball. Player with ball can not move, but must throw ball. Players throw to member of their own team, score by throwing ball into net. One player can oppose throw, but can not grab ball. Balls that hit the ground go over to opponents. Opponents can also win ball by intercepting throw. Lots of marking and tracking, transition, support, combination play. Encourage players to try outside shots with long throws.
7) 8v8 to full-size goals with goalies. Four designated throw-in players work outside each touch-line in each half. Score directly from throw-in by volley, half volley, or header. If goal not scored, teams fight for possession, move ball to attacking half, play ball wide for throw-in player. Encourage attacking players near throw-in player to make bending runs to back post, turning hips toward throw-in so that they can adjust to the throw. Players starting away from the throw-in make slant runs to near post. Rotate throw-in players.
8) Play 8v8 with no restrictions. If you want more throw-ins, narrow the field.
Step 6 is not entirely throw-in stuff, but your kids will love it and you can play a variation, using a real Frisbee, as a warm-up game. Year in and year out, this is one of the most popular warm-up activities I have ever encountered. It never fails and the kids get the idea right away. Make sure that there is only one player marking the Frisbee, and that the player is never closer than arm's length. Make sure that the player who catches the Frisbee does not move with the Frisbee after the catch. Pivoting to open hips to throw to other parts of the field is OK. Opponents get Frisbee after giving up goal, when Frisbee hits ground, or by intercepting pass.
You will find, as you observe, who your genuinely energetic and enthusiastic players are, as they are willing to go forward to support, and you will notice stand-around players because they are never near the Frisbee. After 10 minutes or so, switch to a soccer ball, same rules. Score by throwing into net.
After 10 minutes with throwing, put the ball on the ground and pass with feet. Whoops - now you have a real game with support. Player with ball can not move, only one opponent may mark player with ball. Player with ball can turn ball to pass in a different direction. Score by shooting on goal.
Finally, allow player with ball to move. You are playing game and having a good time. There is very little coaching required. Praise the players who are quick to support. Slow support is no support. Also encourage players not to pass to unsupported players who don't have a shot.