[00:00:00] Speaker A: Hi, and welcome to this episode of Hustle and Pro. Today we are at FC Dallas'umb Bank Performance Center. We're talking to former professional MLS and EPL player Eddie Lewis. We're going to hear from Eddie about his professional soccer career and also founding Toca Training. And we're going to actually step into the training studio myself and get a few touches on the ball to see what it's all about. So let's get started.
[00:00:27] Speaker B: Welcome to Hustle and Pro. Eddie. Thanks for joining me.
[00:00:30] Speaker C: Thank you for having me.
[00:00:31] Speaker B: Okay. I want to learn about your journey through soccer, but I have a couple icebreakers that are kind of fun. I haven't asked these questions in a few years, so I'm excited to see what you say to them. Who's your favorite sports team of all time?
[00:00:42] Speaker C: The Lakers.
[00:00:43] Speaker B: The Lakers. All right, well, so I skipped over the question. What's your favorite sport? Because we're here talking soccer, so I assumed it was soccer. But what is your favorite sport?
[00:00:52] Speaker C: My favorite sport is still soccer.
[00:00:53] Speaker B: Okay, but it sounds like you're a basketball fan also. Then who's your favorite athlete of all time?
[00:00:59] Speaker C: My favorite athlete? It probably ranges across a number of sports, but it'd be hard not to say given the time I grew up.
[00:01:07] Speaker B: Jordan, for sure, if not soccer. What?
[00:01:12] Speaker C: Well, my dad wanted me to be a professional tennis player or golfer, but I think whether it was soccer or tennis or golf, I've always just been a sports fanatic, so I'm sure I would have been playing some sport somewhere.
[00:01:29] Speaker B: Hopefully at a very high level growing up in California. Correct, correct. Did you play all those sports? A little bit sometimes I did.
[00:01:37] Speaker C: I was an all star baseball player. I played high school football.
Really did it all. And part of the whole story and the creation of Toka was based on the fact that I really concentrated my time on soccer very late in a traditional sense.
[00:01:54] Speaker B: Late as in what, high school?
[00:01:56] Speaker C: Yeah.
[00:01:56] Speaker B: Okay.
[00:01:57] Speaker C: About 13 years old. Really kind of started to get serious about soccer, which at that time was even still sort of sort of late to the game, but it was because I played so many sports and really enjoyed that experience.
[00:02:08] Speaker B: I love that, though. I'm a fan of that. I think later specialization is better for a couple of reasons, right. Physically and mentally, so that your whole identity is not in the one sport just yet. So if you had it to do all over again, would you have specialized earlier, or are you glad you were a more well rounded athlete?
[00:02:26] Speaker C: No, I'm with you. I think being a well rounded athlete not only is good for the fact that later on in life you can continue to play a lot of sports and have those disciplines. I feel like I learned a lot from those other sports that helped me in soccer and just the fact that there's different cultures in all the different sports and different types of camaraderie and all things and memories that I wouldn't trade for anything.
[00:02:54] Speaker B: Yeah. All right. So taking you back to age 13 or so, when you decide soccer is going to be your focus.
When did that so you were a forward originally? Yes.
[00:03:07] Speaker C: Left winger, left midfielder.
[00:03:08] Speaker B: You're left footed. So then I hear you shift your play and your position shifts a little bit as you grow and into maybe your pro career in soccer. Is this true?
[00:03:18] Speaker C: Yeah, I mean, I primarily played on the left as a midfielder as it became a pro and certainly later in my career. And as the legs started to go a little bit, like most players typically shifted back a little bit. So finished my career as a left back, but spent most of it as a left midfielder.
[00:03:37] Speaker B: Okay. Kind of everything on the left side, sounds like.
[00:03:40] Speaker C: Yeah, it was, for sure. And this was sort of prior to in today's world, you have these inverted wingers where the left footer will play on the right and the right footer will play on the left. But at those know, the left footed player was sort of wide on the left as much as possible.
[00:03:57] Speaker B: Yeah. So you say those times. So what are the timeframes that we're talking here? Because we're talking growing up playing in California and then college and UCLA also.
[00:04:07] Speaker C: Yeah.
[00:04:08] Speaker B: Stay in California. And then professionally, you were still in the States a little and also in London a little.
[00:04:15] Speaker C: Yeah. My senior year in college really coincided with the launch of the MLS. So I was actually lucky enough. I was drafted by San Jose and played in the inaugural MLS soccer team. So certainly from an MLS perspective, sort of day was involved and kind of.
[00:04:35] Speaker B: Like as a hometown home state player.
[00:04:38] Speaker C: That'S probably a lot of pride there. I feel very lucky to have been a part of that, for sure. It was very early on. I think even the league will admit they were still trying to figure a.
[00:04:49] Speaker B: Lot of things out.
[00:04:49] Speaker C: But yeah, a fantastic experience and a really great stepping stone to go from college right into the professional environment. And as you said, two and a half or three years later. Headed over to England, where I spent the next ten years before coming back home for a couple more.
[00:05:07] Speaker B: And in those ten years, you had a couple of World Cup experiences.
[00:05:11] Speaker C: That's right. I played in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups.
[00:05:15] Speaker B: So that's japan. Germany, yes.
[00:05:18] Speaker C: Okay. We were in Korea, 2002, Japan and Korea split the World Cup. But, yeah, we did very well. Got to the quarterfinals, which I think is still the furthest the US. Team has gone, which I'm not happy to be holding the record on, for sure.
[00:05:34] Speaker B: Right. You'd be happy for them to have advanced that by now, right.
[00:05:38] Speaker C: By a mile, hopefully. But anyway, that's for another.
[00:05:42] Speaker B: Yeah. Well, then just to touch on that World Cup, I mean, when we talk about now we're prepping know, US, canada, Mexico, World Cup, how excited are you about being involved on the other side of it instead of being a player and being still involved in this side of it development of soccer?
[00:05:59] Speaker C: It's fantastic. I can remember even as a kid the impact the 94 World Cup had on the states, and I think everyone's excited about that same sort of energy coming to the US. Again here in 2026, like you said, or across North America. But I think it's going to be a fantastic time. We have a really good, young, talented team that should be in their prime for that World Cup, and fingers crossed those boys can put on a good show.
[00:06:28] Speaker B: Yes, we're already excited. All right, behind you is the studio, and we're talking about Toca today. I want to hear a little on how it came to be in your world. So you were a player, and is it true? I mean, I've read that you saw some weakness in your playing style and were able to see how different training styles could improve that for yourself.
[00:06:50] Speaker C: Yeah, that's right. As you said, I was late to kind of the game in terms of my technical skills. I was always a very good athlete, but technically I was just sort of rough on the ball and I could see the game beginning to kind of pass me by as these higher levels and better players that were able to move and manipulate the ball in certain ways. And soccer just wasn't a sport that lended itself very easily to kind of individual training. You could go and kick a ball against a wall or juggle, but that didn't necessarily translate very well. So I became an outside sort of recruit, got myself to UCLA, and that's when I stumbled upon this idea of beginning to train with a tennis ball and ultimately with a tennis ball machine. And for me, that was just a transformative moment in my career. And I just caught everybody up very quickly. Went from a player who had never played, even on a state team onto what was then the full national team after a couple of years and all the while and throughout. My career continuing to kind of hone my skills on this concept, and then in the back of my head thinking, once I retired, I'd really love to take this concept, make it more soccer specific, and bring it to the rest of the soccer community.
[00:08:10] Speaker B: On that note, we're going to walk through physically what, experiencing it in a minute, but tell me how today, as we're sitting here, how are you bringing it to the soccer community? It's helping develop all genders, right, and all age groups of players and academy players. And tell me specifically, like, you're working with MLS and FC Dallas.
[00:08:34] Speaker C: Yeah, that's right. We're currently the largest operator of indoor soccer centers in North America. We're closing in on 40 centers and that ranges from programming of toddlers and youth classes all the way through to adult leagues with F and B experiences attached. But it all really revolves around our core product and kind of differentiator, which is toca training. And as you said, toca training itself is really about two fundamental areas of a player's game, really the most important areas, which is a player's technical ability and their awareness. So in any one of our sessions, a player of any level anywhere in their journey, from a young player just starting out all the way through to a professional player, they'll come in. It's an hour session guided by one of our Toca trainers. And they'll be in a pathway which is really a series of sessions designed to help them progress and focusing on their technical ability, whether it's turning ball control, how to bring a ball down out of the air volleys, finishing any technical element that you'd see in the game, combined with the fact that from an awareness standpoint, every time that ball is delivered, the player has to understand.
[00:09:54] Speaker B: You got to be watching, right, where.
[00:09:56] Speaker C: Are you going with the hit? And either where to go or where not to go. I believe that's a really powerful because a lot of players that's a very difficult thing to train. So we can do it objectively. We collect a bunch of results and data that we share with the players so that we can show them their progress in the journey. And for a lot of players we're making a big impact on their game and hope to continue to bring it to more and more players. Specifically here with FC Dallas, it's our first fully integrated partnership and for us it's a really exciting opportunity because we just did a deal with the MLS. That's a ten year relationship and partnership and specifically within the MLS. FC Dallas is a real leader when it comes to homegrown player development. The number of players that they've developed and then sold, the players that have gone through to their youth team, their investment in the academy, the leadership of Chris Hayden, and really the innovation behind a lot of the things they do is a perfect match for us and a partnership.
[00:11:02] Speaker B: I'm really excited about the controlling a ball out of the air, especially in the middle of the field and knowing where to go with your eyes up once you have received ball can be a very frustrating thing as a parent on the sideline. So I wish all of our players had more training in here because those are just big old gaps to fill those make or break. I'm talking 13 year old boy. So if the boys we're watching in the middle of the field have not mastered those skills yet, it makes or break the game. All those 50 50 balls in the air are lost in the middle of the field and we can't recover.
[00:11:42] Speaker C: It really does. And we're going to fix that because it's so important. Right. And once every player is able to kind of comfortably control the ball, knows where the other players are on the field, and you start to see this kind of rhythmic passing happening, it's a whole new game that you're playing.
[00:11:59] Speaker B: Rhythm. You're right. Yeah.
[00:12:02] Speaker C: It's something we can practice and get better at. And I think for a long time that was a very kind of subjective view that this player has a good touch or he doesn't, or she doesn't, or she has good vision and she doesn't. And no one really could quantify what that means and certainly didn't have a way to get better at it. And I think we've solved that problem. And it's going to be a lot of fun to see the results here in a few years.
[00:12:24] Speaker B: Great. I'm looking forward to checking it out myself. So we're going to walk through a few of these drills and go easy on me. I'm an old lady who doesn't play soccer anymore.
But thank you for your time explaining this to our audience and showing us what Toca training is all about.
[00:12:41] Speaker C: Absolutely.
[00:12:43] Speaker A: And now we move into the entertainment portion of this episode where you get to see me in the Toca training studio trying to play soccer. I don't play much soccer anymore. I grew up playing and I was never great.
I stopped playing when I got pregnant with Reese. And so it's been 17 years, but you'll see me in the studio here. There's four goals and there's a ball machine. The ball machine serves you up the ball, they are smaller balls than the size five s. And so that was a little bit of an adjustment for me as well. And they come at you either straight or off to the left or off to the right or up in the air. And so they gave you great instruction on what to expect each kind of round and how fast things were going to happen and what to do and what to look for. So you're looking for the blue lights on the goals. There's four goals and sometimes all four goals are lit up, sometimes only two, maybe one behind you, maybe one in front of you, sometimes only one. And so that is that part that comes into the play, the awareness, where you've got to really be paying attention to where you're going with the ball next. And to do that here, it's by keeping your eyes up and keeping an eye out for where that blue light is on which goal is lit up. So it is a constant workout. The ball is not waiting for you to get control and shoot. And so on this drill here, I'm moving left and right and having to turn and shoot to the goal behind me and this and that. So it was a workout. I got tired and we got to break between each round. And he reset and showed me my numbers. But it definitely keeps you moving. And, no, this is not in slow motion. I'm just that old and slow at playing soccer. So on this drill, the ball comes at me in the air and he said, all right, take a step back, let it bounce, control it and shoot it.
And that was hard for me, as you can see.
Got a little better as I went.
And then on the very end, the goals are movable. So they actually split all the goals to where they were all four in front. And we did a couple more iterations of drills, and I was, one, touching it from the air, which was really a challenge for me. It was hard for me to control the ball as it's coming out in the air and one, touch it. Even with all the four goals in front of me, it was crazy hard. But overall, it was a fantastic experience. I got like 40 to 50 touches on the ball in like a 15 minutes training session, which is unheard of for 1 hour practice. Kids probably don't get touches on the ball that much, so I love the experience. Anybody can go and register their kiddos and try this out over at the performance center.
Look for the resources in this episode at the bottom here and find out more. So that's it for today's episode. Thank you to my guest, Eddie, and thank you to SC Dallas for having us out. We will see you next time on ESL and Pro Eight.