A conversation with throw-in guru Thomas Gronnemark

Photo: Stephen Speer

Editor’s note: This piece originally misspelled Thomas Gronnemark’s last name. PSP regrets the error.

Danish throw-in coach Thomas Gronnemark, the former record-holder of the world’s longest soccer throw-in according to the Guinness Book of Records, was at Union II practice on Wednesday morning.

Gronnemark was back for a second visit to the Philadelphia Union’s two professional teams, and probably with their other amateur ones as well. Philadelphia is the second MLS team to use his services, he said. Frank de Boer’s Atlanta United was the first back in 2019. The pandemic postponed his visit to Chester from last season to this.

The genial Dane fits the points of emphasis in his instruction to the style of play of the club he is is helping. He teaches both long throws and their tactics, and shorter length creative space-creation. A possession-based team will get almost all shorter-length creative possession instruction. His MLS teams spend about 20-30% of their time on the longer more set-piece like demonstrations, with the rest on creative possession.

The key to the space-creation emphasis is teammates reading situations and each other’s intentions and decisions. Repeatedly, his qualitative descriptors were “fast” and “clever.” He does not emphasize repeating the same thing because predictability can be countered by scouting and coaching, especially in this day and age of detailed video analysis.

In soccer there are too many variables, so many that Gronnemark said he has to limit them. He does so in order that his teams acquire something understandable and useful.

Awareness of the total situation is key, where the opponents are and how attentive seem are two points of note. Space-creating runs are not basketball jab steps, but lengths of as many as 20 yards.

Video analysis plays a significant role in his instruction to improve individuals. He said there are 30 parameters he measures when analyzing an individual’s technique. He summarized them down to three qualitative generalizations: power position, transference, and the run-in. Over the course of time he said he can improve a player’s throw-in length by seven to as many as twenty yards.

He emphasized that the ball’s trajectory must been flat and hard to minimize the amount of time available to defenders to read and react. It is just like offensive restart service.

Gronnemark has visited eight to ten teams per season, although this year he will expand it to eleven when he goes to Iceland for the first time. He intends to improve winning. One of his side’s improved throw-ins contributed to it improving its overall position in its league table from 17th to 9th in the space of two months, he said. His definition of winning is much more than just championships. “Significant meaningful improvement” covers it.

Gronnemark is an optimist, as any salesman must be. He did seem genuine that he considered Philadelphia Union a good team. He stated that everyone seemed to know where they were supposed to go and what they were supposed to do. That is a compliment not only to the players but also to their teachers.

He thought the Union were among the top four or six teams in Major League Soccer.

One Comment

  1. Gruncle Bob says:

    The U can definitely benefit from improved throw-ins. That they recognized that is not surprising, but the fact that someone in the business office ok’d the consultant expense is encouraging.

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