There have been some strange innovations in the world of football, and the novelty of having a coach focusing specifically on throw-ins is certainly among them.
It’s a role that certainly isn’t among the more traditional cogs among the machine that is a manager’s backroom staff, but it’s something that Liverpool have seen fit to add as they appointed Thomas Grønnemark to the position at the beginning of the season.
But how on earth does one make a living through coaching people how to take a throw in?
“As a teenager I was good at throw-ins,” Grønnemark tells The Kopite. “The next 10 years I was on the Danish athletics team, running the 100, 200 and 400 meters and also the Danish bobsleigh team. Then in 2004 I decided to be a throw-in coach.”
Great! So can anyone decide to be a throw-in coach? Can I pack in this writing lark and go about coaching people’s celebrations or teaching them how to kick-off properly?
As it turns out, no. You have to have a pretty decent pedigree to take on this role — being named Rory Delap is not enough — and Grønnemark certainly has one accolade that no-one else can claim.
“In 2010 I set the official Guinness world record of 51.33 meters,” he tells us with a small hint of pride in his voice. That’s a distance of more than 168 feet, for those who prefer an imperial system of measurement. Mr Delap, eat your heart out.
“Coaching sessions aren’t just about the long throw though. It’s also quick throws, the whole team’s position, how to move quickly. It’s all very important. I use video analysis and look at 25-30 different technical things.”
Okay, so it turns out there may be a lot more to the humble throw-in than meets the eye, and it actually is possible to make a living off teaching professional footballers how to take them properly, but how did the Dane manage to get himself signed-up by Liverpool?
“Jürgen [Klopp] called me on the phone, I was driving with my wife and kids in the back, I received a voicemail which was from Jürgen directly, I tried calling back but no answer, we know he’s a busy man. Jürgen then called back and my wife answered, shouting ‘it’s Jürgen’.
“This is a dream job. My kid too is a big fan. My 16-year-old son is a Liverpool fan and he has been to Anfield before. I have been here for four weeks in total now, one week was during our trip to France in pre-season.”
This is not Grønnemark’s first dalliance with a coaching position for a professional football club. He has been on the coaching staff of Viborg, Silkeborg and FC Midtjylland in his homeland and has consulted with several Premier League and Bundesliga clubs before getting that call from the Reds’ boss.
But what sort of work has he been doing with the Liverpool players on the training grounds at Melwood?
“When doing sessions it’s a squad thing with Trent [Alexander-Arnold], [Joe] Gomez and [Andrew] Robertson on throws.
“On long throws, Robertson has improved by 6m — he practises the run-up, the power, position and transfer of energy, which is the most important. There is still a way to go. I helped improve a player’s long throw at Borussia Mönchengladbach by 15m.
“We improved the average person by 5-10m, while Gomez already had a long throw on him. But we are also working on precision and keeping possession of the ball.”
And that work paid off for Gomez at the weekend, giving fans across the country a reason to be thankful for the Dane’s tutelage. The 21-year-old defender’s long toss into the area resulted in an equaliser against Croatia in a game that the Three Lions would win to secure top spot in their UEFA Nations League group.
Benefits of Grønnemark’s coaching at Liverpool are already beginning to show, then, with the former-Charlton Athletic man benefiting from the unorthodox training method in an England shirt.
Reds fans will be hoping Gomez can continue to demonstrate his new-found ability in a Liverpool shirt — with any luck, the likes of Robertson and Alexander-Arnold can begin to do the same.
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