Open body shape is critical for soccer player success. Players who work to show an open body shape to ball and field elevate their game to an entire level. Open body shape means that the player who does not have the ball turns to face the open field and the ball, and to get to a position where that player can receive the ball and immediately turn and move forward.
In the picture here, the blue player is running to a supporting position, and keeps his body shape open to the ball as he moves. If he receives the ball, he is free to move forward or go backwards toward goal, as play dictates.
In many cases, players “run away from the ball”. This means that they are closed to the ball and the open field. You can discern when this is this case by asking this one question: If that player had the ball right now, could he or she pass to anyone else on the field? If the answer is “no”, you know that the player has a closed body shape.
In the picture following, a player walks away from a goalkeeper taking a goal kick. This is a closed body shape. Instead of turning her back to the touch-line and backing up to get out of the penalty area, this player walks away toward the half-way line.
Often, you will be able to recognize players who have a closed body shape (bad) because their back is to the ball and the main open space of the field. For example, a player near the touch-line who is facing parents is usually closed to the field.
In the diagram following, you can see a defender bringing the ball out of our penalty area. One player, on the right, stands with an open body shape. The player on the right is ready to receive the ball, turn to the right, and continue the attack. The player on the left, #7, is running away from the ball. #7 cannot receive the ball, and in fact, can’t see the ball.
As a coach, make every effort to push, prod, encourage, and praise players to get them to play with open body shape. You’ll be improving your speed of play and the team’s ability to play effectively against better teams.