Melanie Torres, a senior at Oak Lawn Community High School, believes soccer is more than just a game. For her, soccer develops skills and forms a family. She found both through a company called TOCA.
TOCA Football, a technology-based soccer training company focused on advancing players’ abilities, is opening a center in Naperville, making it the largest and first technology-enabled soccer center in Illinois.
“Experiences like this bring the community together,” Torres said. “I see soccer as a family. Once you start playing with the people you train with, they become like your friends or cousins. Soccer is all about creating a community everyone feels welcomed in.”
The center is planning on fully opening in April to allow players from around the area to experience practicing and playing at TOCA.
Founder Eddie Lewis, a 15-year professional soccer player with experience spanning from Major League Soccer to the Premier League, focuses on experiences that can bring out the most of a player’s abilities while creating a welcoming training environment.
According to the TOCA Football website, Lewis was inspired by learning that the UCLA basketball team practiced shooting on smaller hoops and realized he could achieve similar benefits by practicing his soccer touch with a smaller ball. After practicing this way, he realized adopting these strategies could help many aspiring soccer players advance their skills.
Playing at TOCA features a balance between technology, training and motivation. The program supports the advancement of players happens with hard work and in a mistake-friendly environment. This way, confidence and skills can develop to create well-rounded players.
The company highlights four aspects of playing that create a memorable and beneficial practice: personalization, experience, fun and “we all play,” which highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion through players, training and its mission statement.
“They bring a very positive message, and it’s certainly very timely,” said Steve Chirico, Naperville’s mayor. “Naperville has been working very hard on [diversity and inclusion] at a city level, and not only do we support it, but we embrace our diversity.”
The training process involves Player Pathways, an exclusive program aiming to maximize the results of one-on-one training sessions, identifying a player’s strengths and weaknesses to develop core skills and improve higher-paced playing, quality repetitions and touch-to-time ratios. It motivates players to make quick play decisions under time restraints and game-like situations.
The center is going to not only feature different training programs and different soccer and futsal fields but plans on including Kids in Sports, an early childhood athlete program focusing on building player’s confidence and love for soccer through training.
Hammond Morre, president of TOCA Performance, said participants will gain life skills such as taking instruction, working in groups and good sportsmanship, as reported by the Chicago Tribune on Feb. 12, 2021.
Chirico said because of Naperville’s strong sports program, TOCA will be a wonderful addition to the already blooming popularity of the sport in the area. For the Naperville area, soccer has always been a prominent sport. TOCA’s center raises an excitement in the community with the promise of finding ways to improve the soccer community.
Vanessa Herrera, an 18-year-old Oak Lawn resident who plays defense for Oak Lawn Community High School’s soccer team, agrees the center could be a great and exciting addition to the community.
“It sounds like it’s going to bring about a new way for not only athletes to stay active, but for everyone,” Herrera said. “Since it’s something new and different, a lot of people are going to check it out and end up liking it.”