The Latest Trend In Soccer Training
I first learned about TOCA training last November. Both of my Sister-In-Laws separately mentioned their kids have been training weekly at a TOCA facility near their homes in Newport Beach, California.
I had never heard of TOCA, but was intrigued, especially since the Orange County area is a mecca for top soccer clubs and players. Two weeks later, I dragged my friends and their kids and drove nearly ninety minutes to our closet TOCA facility in Torrance, CA.
TOCA was the brain child of Eddie Lewis.
When Lewis was playing for UCLA, he discovered the Bruins basketball team often trained by shooting into smaller goals. Although already a top player, Lewis wanted to get even better, so he put the basketball theory to test in soccer. He began using a tennis ball machine to fire tennis balls at himself – the small balls, repeated in mass repetitions, elevated his game quickly.
Lewis eventually went on to play in the MLS and was later chosen for the U.S. National Team. Upon retiring, he created the TOCA Machine and eventually TOCA Training Facilities, taking his small ball training to the next level and making it available to soccer players all over the country.
When we arrived to try out the latest trend in soccer at the TOCA Center in Torrance, we were struck by how massive it was – as they share it with the LA Galaxy Soccer Center. There were several full indoor courts, 4 partitioned TOCA training areas, and a huge gym area that was occupied by a dodge ball tournament that day.
We had a variety of ages and skill level, but the TOCA manager helped us divide the kids, mostly according to size. This made it more cost effective since we could share the price, even with the additional multi-child charge, it still was more affordable then having a private TOCA lesson.
We booked each session to run simultaneously (something you have to do early – I recommend at least a week in advance as they fill up quickly), this made it convenient and easy to compare the training.
Each group was utilizing the TOCA Studio very differently, working on different skills in different ways. All the groups were focused and engaged and worked very hard for the hour. They touched the ball a ton and the rapid fire from the TOCA machine was more intense and efficient than working solely with a trainer. Although one of the sessions was having trouble with the machine and this slowed them down occasionally. Everyone ended the sessions, sweaty and tired.
The kids agreed that it was a great training and that they wanted to return. We have been to that center five more times since then, as well as an indoor gym that just has a TOCA ball machine closer to our home. We love Toca and try to mix it into our training as much as we can manage.
Here’s what my friends had to say about TOCA after we went:
“I do like the concept and feel that it’s been very helpful for first touch. That being said, much like traditional training, a lot depends on the coach. We’ve had amazing sessions and we’ve had average sessions. I would recommend that once you find a great coach, you always request them.” -Carrie
“My kids really like TOCA. They feel that it is a nice break from their regular training and that the ball machine makes it fun. They also like that they get to blast the balls into the net wall! I like that the coaches/trainers really mix it up and keep them moving. My kids are always dripping in sweat when they are done, so it feels like they are having fun and getting a great workout.” – Casey
“Great way to improve first touch and short game skills. A little pricey at this point and quality of training really depends on the coach provided at the time which of course varies.” – Allison