Throughout the entire 2016 USA High Goal season in Florida, the winning team averaged 12.9 throw-in wins per game, while the losing team actually averaged more at 13.1 throw-in wins per game. Players and officials alike constantly refer to throw-ins as a 50/50 play, which in itself contradicts the theory that winning teams are better at throw-ins as each given time it is a 50/50 chance. Further to that point, 57% of all throw-ins are indirectly won, meaning the ball bounced off a pony’s leg or was deflected before the possession was won, which further decreases the likelihood of winning a throw-in purely by skill.
However, there is an advantage in throw-ins, albeit a small one. Players starting to the left of the umpire, with their offside closer to where the ball is being thrown in, won 56% of all throw-ins. Also, teams were more successful winning throw-ins toward the back of the line-up as 77% of all throw-ins were won either in the middle or back of the line-up.
So if both teams average approximately the same number of throw-ins, and more than half the time, the ball is unexpectedly deflected off a pony’s leg, how can teams best prepare for throw-ins? The answer lies not with what happens during the throw-in itself, but what happens directly after. Of all attacking plays generated during the USA season, 20.1% originated from throw-ins, trailing only open play interceptions as the most common way for an attacking play to begin. More surprising may be the fact that of all of those throw-ins that resulted in an attacking play, 61% were done by a single player attacking individually with no passing.
More possessions are always beneficial, yet throw-in outcome often depends on how the ball bounces or the small advantage by being positioned to the left of the umpire. With a high percentage of attacking plays beginning from throw-ins, the most effective teams will utilize the throw-ins they do win and create scoring chances, while at the same time, preventing their opponent from attacking when they lose a throw-in.