Sometimes a simple tweet can give a new direction to life. That’s what happened to the Dane Thomas Grønnemarkille46, who is known to be the first coach in Europe or the world specializing in boundary throws in football.
Now, for four seasons, he has coached the English Premier League club Liverpool’s team in boundary throws. In addition, he has trained dozens of other teams in Europe to improve their boundary throws.
Grønnemark made a profession for himself out of a neglected part of the game in football and has also been able to prove that boundary throws are more important in football than you might think.
“Boundary throws have been underestimated in football for over a hundred years. Let’s think they are just boundary throws. But they happen 40-60 times in matches. It’s not a small thing at all,” Grønnemark told HS when he went to teach a course in Finland at the invitation of the Football Association in June.
“When I do a boundary throw analysis for the team, I can show that it takes 15-20 minutes in a match for boundary throws and the situations that follow them.”
As the previous one on the day he had watched the Huuhkajie’s home match and also part of the Finnish under-21 national team’s home match.
Grønnemark says he saw great potential in Huuhkajie’s boundary throws.
“I’m sure I could improve the team’s boundary throws a lot.”
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When Grønnemark is asked more about what he saw, he refuses to reveal everything. He makes a living from cross-country throws, and the best recipe must not be revealed, he stated.
“But that’s all I can say is that Finland exposed themselves to pressure in their throw-ins. The players did not create enough space with their movements. Either they didn’t run at all or they ran to the wrong places.”
According to Grønnemark, you can also hear the belittling of boundary throws in match reports and commentary.
“Normally, match commentators don’t say anything if a team loses the ball on a throw-in. But if the same player loses the ball in the middle of the field, it will surely be said that he passed badly. In the world of football, it has been accepted that boundary throws are not useful.”
According to Grønnemark, the challenge of boundary throws is that in boundary throws you can lose control of the ball, which in turn can affect the outcome of the match.
The question arises, how could the national team benefit from a special coach, when the national teams have very little time to train together anyway. According to Grønnemark, it would be enough for him to spend 30-45 minutes on the field and talk to the team before that. That would be enough to develop the team in boundary throws.
“It would be cool to help the Finnish national team or any other national team. But mostly now I coach club teams.”
“In the world of football, it has been accepted that boundary throws are not useful.”
Green field has made himself a kind of brand as a boundary throw coach. He says himself that his story is crazy.
“But if you listen to my story, it actually makes a lot of sense.”
Grønnemark played football in Denmark at the highest junior level under the age of 19. He was good at boundary throws and very fast in the field. However, Grønnemark soon realized that he would not become a professional soccer player.
After his military service, he wanted to use his speed and try his abilities in athletics. He made it to the 4 x 100m relay team in the Danish national track and field team and was in the Danish national track and field team for six years.
Then athletics changed to the luge national team. The sledders once played soccer with each other, when Grønnemark got to show off his long boundary throws. It was a source of wonder for the other sledders, and the idea of teaching others to throw long boundary throws was born from it.
Grønnemark said that he spent half a year writing his own guide to shooting, and then he got to coach Vyborg, who played in the Danish Superliga.
Coaching boundary throws first became a side job for him. He coached in Danish clubs and also coached in England at Brentford.
In 2010, he got himself a world record in the shot put, when he threw a result of 51.33. The record was broken nine years later by an American Michael Lewis with a throw whose length was recorded as 59.817 meters.
His coaching work in the beginning, Grønnemark focused for a few years on coaching players to throw long boundary throws. Then he noticed that most teams lost the ball on more than 50 percent of their field goals.
“I thought it was crazy. I thought that probably only amateur teams are bad at boundary throws. I watched all the Premier League and Bundesliga matches I could catch on TV. And the readings were the same.”
“My philosophy is long, fast and smart boundary throws. No one wanted to hear what I had to say about quick and smart boundary throws.”
Until he had a stroke of luck in July 2018.
“It’s a funny story. I had coached at Midtjylland Andreas Poulseniawho had improved the length of his boundary throws from 24 meters to 38 meters during my coaching.”
Midtjylland received a large transfer fee for Poulsen when he moved to Bundesliga side Borussia Mönchengladbach.
“I was proud of him. I wrote about him on Twitter and added the hashtags to the tweet. At that time I only had a few dozen followers.”
However, a journalist from Borussia’s fan media saw Grønnemark’s tweet and wanted to interview the throw-in coach. Next, Bild’s reporter called, who had read an article in the fan media and wanted to do an interview as well.
“Of course I said yes, because millions of people read Bild every day. I didn’t think anything more would come of it.”
In July In 2018, he was on vacation with his family when he noticed that there had been a call from England. Liverpool head coach Jürgen Klopp had left a message on the voicemail.
“I tried to call him back and it was a good thing he didn’t answer because my heart was pounding so hard.”
When Klopp called again, Grønnemark drove his car to the ground to make the most important phone call of his life.
“Klopp said they had had a fantastic season in the Premier League, but they had been poor in penalty kicks. He said he read my interview in Bild while on vacation. A small tweet turned into a small interview, which turned into a bigger interview and Klopp’s invitation to Liverpool.”
“That phone call changed my life.”
After the meeting, Klopp was convinced that the Dane could coach the team in penalty kicks. Before Grønnemark started in Liverpool as a coach, Liverpool was the third weakest team in the Premier League in terms of penalty kicks.
According to Grønnemark, the Liverpool players reacted positively. To begin with, he said that he is not turning Liverpool into another Stoke, known for their long throw-ins.
“Klopp told the team that he asked me to help with throw-ins because that was the team’s biggest weakness. He said he was 100% sure that I could make them better.”
“In my first season, Liverpool became the best in free throws. The team was able to keep control of the ball in 68 percent of its boundary throws. Because they had been so bad at them in the past, they got an edge over others by improving their boundary throws.”
“Football matches can be changed with boundary throws.”
Grønnemarkin according to the biggest problem with boundary throws is that creating space for the throwing team is not at a good enough level. Either the team creates no space at all or very little space, or it is too obvious which player is getting the ball.
“If we talk about the offensive team’s boundary throws, I focus on creating space as a team in coaching. It’s about luring players out of the zone and bringing players into the free zone and so on. Then it is possible to get qualitatively better space and greater opportunities to keep the ball.”
“My system has 50 different solutions for different areas of the field. My teams learn 50 basic solutions, and then these options can be implemented in many different ways depending on the number of players and timings. In theory, there are thousands of options.”
Once the players have the basic solutions in hand, they can use their game intelligence to choose which option to implement depending also on the opponent’s defensive style. If one option closes, new facilities must be opened.
At the end of the interview, we walked past the under-21 national team’s training at the Ball Stadium, and the team’s head coach Juha Malinen came to greet the Danish coach.
According to Malinen, technically, the players of his team could be better at boundary throws.
“Possibly, we could use you later in our national teams,” Malinen said.
“I don’t need more than three quarters to give you the basic information to help you,” Grønnemark stated confidently.