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TOCA Naperville Spreads Football Love One Player at a Time Using 90,000-Square-Foot Facility – Chicago Tribune

Business: TOKA Naperville

Address: 1740 Quincy Avenue, Naperville

Phone/website: 630-470-6400, www.tocafootball.com

The president: Hammond Moore, 38, TOCA Performance spokesperson for TOCA Football

Years in business? Opened February 2021 in Naperville.

What is your business doing? “We spread the love of football to anyone who wants to experience it,” Moore said.

Do you teach children to play? “We do a little bit of everything. We want to welcome our guests where they are. If it’s a 2 year old who is learning football, we have introductory classes so they can come and experience football for the first time.”

What else do you offer? “We also have programs that include a variety of technologies for elementary school, college and professional athletes. … We understand that there are people who used to take football very seriously, but now they see it as a fun way to build a community with other people doing what they love. So, we offer leagues for adults and youth. We also run tournaments.”

So your place must be huge? “It’s 90,000 square feet. We have three large indoor football fields, one small football field. … We purchased it from Players Indoor, which has been around for many years. We were happy to take what they did, add something and hopefully help serve the community better.”

Why Naperville? “We look at a lot of different aspects when looking for (to relocate) a community. Two of the biggest: “Is this in the MLS (Major League Soccer) market with a women’s and men’s professional team?” The Chicago market has a huge and rich history of football, which attracted us. As an added bonus, the owner/operator who was there previously did an amazing job. … We are excited.”

Where are you located? “I’m in Atlanta. Our headquarters is in Costa Mesa, California, but we have offices in Dallas and Atlanta. … Our founder, Eddie Lewis, was an amazing footballer.”

Are you a footballer? “In fact, when I was growing up, I played all kinds of sports except football. I started a small baseball/softball business in Atlanta. We had several places. Once in California we had a great conversation with (TOCA officials). We took them to practice at our baseball and softball courts and built relationships. We decided we were better together.”

How many people come to Naperville? “In winter, you will see thousands of children walking through our doors. Everyone, from 2-year-olds to adults, wants to hang out and watch football.”

How about employees? “We have about 50 of them (in Naperville). … All members of our team have played football, are passionate about football and ultimately know how to teach it.”

Is there a busy time of the year? “Every market and facility is different. After all, everyone needs training. … In summer we offer camps. But when you can’t go out in Chicago for six months, everyone goes inside. But we have a program for the whole year.”

What problems are you facing? “The main thing is to continue to build deep and long-term relationships. This is part of what we look at when we acquire a business. Do they have a deep relationship in the community, and can we expand on that? But this is a trust business. It’s someone’s child. Someone can enjoy football one evening a week. So the question is, do they trust you? We want to build that trust.”

How do you do this? “It does what you say you are going to do. It’s Trust 101. But really, it’s respect for every partner we have. It is understanding their needs, not our needs. … We don’t think that everything fits the same brush.’

Do you have connections with youth football leagues? “Absolutely. With everyone who eats and breathes football, we want to have a relationship in one form or another.”

What do you love the most? “Every day is your chance to make a huge impact on your community. … That’s what worries me.”

Are there any downsides? “No. I love it. My wife thinks I’m crazy. She’s like, ‘I’ve never seen anyone so excited to go to work.’ There are hard days. It’s like a football game. From time to time you have some losses, but by the end of the day, (that’s) who you’re working with and what you’re trying to achieve.”

How has the pandemic affected your business? “The parents were looking for a place for their children. We were able to enforce social distancing. We were trusted. We saw an increase in the number of participants.”

Any plans? “We now have 25 (locations). … Our goal is to open 300 offices in the US and Canada.”

What advice would you give to those who are starting their own business? “Hire great people. The second is to invest in relationships, the only thing that can protect against a recession.”

Steve Metch is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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