TOCA employs a positive balancing act

USWNT player Christen Press at TOCA

In life and in sports, mental training is as important as physical training to gain success. The NBA coaching legend, Phil Jackson on basketball, life and philosophy, further articulates this sentiment, “wisdom is always an overmatch for strength.”

In his 22 years as a head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls, Jackson always believed in thinking outside the box not only to mold well-rounded basketball players but also human beings.

The basketball icon encouraged his players to expand their mental strength by learning and experiencing new things, and he created environments that allowed his players to take their game to the next level.

Similar to Jackson’s approach to training regimes, TOCA fosters training environments to mold well-rounded soccer players through balanced physical and cognitive training.

Like basketball, soccer requires a combination of physical skills and good decision making. TOCA Training emphasizes the development of physical skills sets but also the development of understanding the reasoning and strategy behind their effective use.

What we are trying to do at TOCA is help a player physiologically with the technique but at the same time trying to impose real decision-making elements a ball by ball basis that helps with their cognitive training as well.

What is often overlooked in soccer is the cognitive aspect of the game. Soccer players use their feet, which is already an unnatural movement, yet, this sport requires players to make quick decisions in speed of play. These decisions are ever-changing while balancing technique and potential physical exhaustion during a grueling 90-minute match.

“The analogy that is often used is that ‘soccer would be like having 10 NFL quarterbacks on the field at once,'” Lewis said. “What is different about soccer than a lot of other sports is that there is not a set pattern of play. It’s a very fluid sport and it requires that players are not only able to execute their passes or shots, but they have to be able to do it while making the right decisions in the process.”

Developing good technical skills boosts a player’s confidence; however, technique alone is not enough for a player to become successful. Making sound decisions is the major factor. TOCA Training provides countless opportunities to practice good decision making and execution which is paramount in a player’s development.

At TOCA, players not only learn the process involved in a particular technique but also when and where to execute it on the pitch, “If this can be mastered, the game becomes a lot simpler to understand,” Lewis said.

TOCA Trainers ensure that while players learn a physical technique, they are absorbing information for its tactical use. The trainers also provide the context for the exercises which fosters an understanding of how these new skills will produce positive results. Ultimately, through the exercises and constructive feedback, trainers fuse strategy and skill to create well-rounded players.

Speed of play mentally is not innate in most players; however, learning how to accelerate their thinking by possessing a 360-degreee awareness, players are able to coordinate this skill with their speed of play physically.

On a large pitch, with players traveling great distances with the ball in constant motion, soccer requires cognitive strength to anticipate where the ball will be and how to out-position the opponents.

TOCA employs exercises that foster mental quickness. For example, behind the player, TOCA Trainers hold up colored cones forcing the player to look over his or her shoulder to see the color and then pass or shoot into a goal that is marked with that same color.

You don’t have to rely on a lot of verbal coaching during those drills, such as ‘look here, look over your shoulder.’ Players eventually will innately look over their shoulder before the ball arrives.

Lewis goes on to say, “Checking over your shoulder to see where players are before you receive the ball, it’s not natural to do, but through this training, players start to develop those habits, so the coaches don’t have to continue to yell it whether during practice or in a game.”

As TOCA innovates and evolves its product line, TOCA Training will eventually use automation and technology allowing players to focus even more on technique while simultaneously enhancing decision making with every ball delivered by the Touch Trainer.

While TOCA balances cognitive and physical training, it also fosters a training environment that blends a strong work ethic with fun. TOCA utilizes a well-rounded approach with every exercise to include technique improvement and game-decision challenges while keeping the experience enjoyable for every player as they gain confidence.

Ultimately, TOCA’s goal is to develop players who enhance their soccer experience by opening their minds to all the possibilities of use with the skilled motion of their feet. If this is achieved, success will result through limitless experiences for each soccer player on and off the pitch.