Lionel Messi’s wizardly ball control and phenomenal dribbling, Cristiano Ronaldo’s jaw-dropping skill set and deadly finishing, and Andrés Iniesta’s lightning pace and superior passing ability, are all examples of players who perform magic on the pitch. They rarely appear off balance or unable to maneuver a difficult situation. Their movements are smooth, purposeful, and most importantly, efficient.
In soccer, “efficiency” is used to describe the quickest way players achieve their goals by exerting less energy to prevent fatigue and damage to the body. An “efficient” soccer player masters technique, movement and decision making to yield the best possible results on the pitch.
Soccer is an endurance sport requiring a grueling 90-minute workout. The more energy a player can reserve through efficient movements, the more energy will be retained for late in the game.
Refining movements starts in training. In most settings, training workload becomes an essential aspect of the season. Especially for high-level players, the ability to take advantage of the training they need without all the unnecessary physiological challenges is an advantage. TOCA founder and former 15-year professional Eddie Lewis states, “TOCA becomes a perfect tool to let players work on specific skills without taxing the body in a way that traditional training can do.”
For younger athletes, who usually do not suffer from the same over taxing of the body, they have the ability to improve their soccer skills faster. In merely one TOCA session, the players benefit from hundreds of touches on the ball — equivalent to a week’s worth of touches.
Soccer is a fluid game with unpredictable moments such as stretching for the ball and recovering after turning the ball over. Body positions aren’t 100 percent as practiced; however, as Lewis points out, “it’s a law of average: the more you can reduce the random situation, the less chance of a risk of injury or fatigue.”
Athletes come to TOCA to minimize those unpredictable situations. Therefore, the more efficient a player is technically, the less energy required to fend off other players.
TOCA takes a traditional training environment and maximizes it into a controlled, purposeful 50-minute session with hundreds of quality repetitions using a smaller soccer ball. This specially designed smaller and lighter ball helps develop more quickly the athlete’s skill sets, focusing on precision. In turn, this philosophy helps mold a more efficient soccer player on the pitch.
“I think the biggest benefit from TOCA is the comfort on the ball,” said Christen Press, forward for the Utah Royals FC and U.S. Women’s National Team. “Then when you get out onto a large pitch with a larger ball, everything happens comfortably, naturally. And I can worry about everything else that is happening on the field outside of just my first touch.”
Becoming confident on the ball requires hours of repetition and regularly mimicking game situations, all which occur in a TOCA session. An athlete works on ball mastery by moving the ball in different directions at varying speeds as well as refining body movements without the ball. These sessions are also customizable to the player’s positional needs.
“I enjoy TOCA because I can focus on positional movement for D.C. United. “As a centerback, I can tailor my training to a centerback position. For instance, the machine [Touch Trainer] was ‘playing’ as a left back that passed it to me; I then took a touch and anticipated finding an outside back or center midfielder using the three [TOCA] goals. …”
Often in a practice environment, a player’s technique may go unnoticed due to a coach focusing more on delivery. However, at TOCA, the trainer takes advantage of TOCA’s technology to correct faults and establish an efficient way of training.
The TOCA Trainer has the ability to view the player’s touches, posture and movement to better optimize efficiency. With the emphasis on technique, Lewis believes, “a TOCA Trainer’s advice on how a starting position that can help a player take three steps instead of five when making a turn, becomes a huge opportunity that translates into saving time. … As a player works up the ladder, that really becomes the difference between completing a pass and being tackled.”
As a player’s movements become instinctive, then speed, power, explosiveness, and technique improve tremendously. This efficient use of energy will produce a more confident soccer player, creating the future Messi, Ronaldo and Iniesta in the sport.