Illini soccer players use flip throw-in to aid offensive attack

A flip throw-in requires skill combining two sports — gymnastics and soccer.

Stephanie Pouse is one member of the Illinois team who can perform a flip throw-in.

“You’re holding the ball and then you run with it and as you are coming down, you pretty much do a handstand on the ball, then you flip forward,” Pouse said. “Coming out of it with the momentum going forward gives you that extra ‘oomph’ to get it in the box.”

Megan Pawloski and Pouse are the only two players on the Illini soccer team able to perform flip throw-ins. Pawloski became interested in the skill while attending a soccer camp as a child.

“I saw a kid doing it at camp when I was younger and I thought it was really cool,” Pawloski said. “I tried it a lot of times and ended up being able to do it.”

Like Pawloski, Pouse also learned the skill at a soccer camp, but had some background in gymnastics from her mother, who is a former national gymnast.

“Since I was little, she would teach me how to do flips, and so I was flipping all over the place all of the time,” Pouse said. “I went to a soccer camp and I was doing flips like usual and one of the trainers said, ‘Have you ever tried doing one?’ And as a little kid I was fearless so I said, ‘No, but I’m sure I can.’ They explained it to me and had someone stand there for me the first time I did it and then I did it from then on.”

Aside from entertaining the crowd, the flip throw-in also serves a purpose: to launch the ball farther than a regular throw-in allows. Senior Julie Ewing said having team members who can do it makes Illinois more dangerous when on the attack.

“I think with a flip throw-in, if you get it further down the field is like another corner kick or free kick, it is a lot more dangerous than just a regular throw-in,” Ewing said. “I have seen people who can flip throw it basically into the goal, so it can be pretty lethal.”

Though Pawloski plays the forward position and Pouse plays as a defender for the Illini, they both are able to use the flip throw-in to help get their team out of tough situations. Head coach Janet Rayfield said that even though it is an attacking weapon, the skill is one the Orange and Blue are lucky to have on both sides of the field.

“Most of the time it is an attacking weapon and most of the time you use it in the final third (of the field),” Rayfield said. “We are fortunate that Stephanie Pouse has a flip throw-in as well, and we used it against Michigan State to get us out of our end.

“It was late in the game and we have a throw-in deep in our defensive third and she can flip and throw it into our attacking third and get the ball out of our end late in the game when we don’t want to put ourselves under pressure.”

As dangerous as the skill is to opponents, there are times in the process when a player may make a mistake, which both Pouse and Pawloski have experienced.

“I had to learn obviously that you can’t throw when it’s raining,” Pawloski said. “One time the wind was coming so hard one direction and I tried to flip into it and the ball went ‘whoop’ and went backwards.”

Pouse said there were difficulties performing the flip throw-in against Michigan State because of the lack of space on the sideline.

“It is difficult when there is not a lot of room, like at Michigan State, the bleachers are really close to the side of the field, Pouse said. “I had a baby one in Michigan State, because I didn’t have enough room to run.”

Rayfield feels it is advantageous to have more than one player on her team who can perform this skill and tries to use it whenever she can during a game.

“Having players have that skill is just another thing that you can utilize,” Rayfield said. “Just like if you have someone who strikes a ball really well or someone who serves the ball really well with their left foot, it is just another attribute that we can use and take advantage of in terms of creating things for us or getting us out of jams from a defensive standpoint.”