We can all agree it was tough for everyone during the early days of the pandemic. Everything was closed, people weren’t allowed to leave their homes, let alone meet up with other people. Here in Madrid, the lockdown lasted almost three months and I hardly saw anyone during that time. But while it was hard for many of us, it left me thinking that it must be especially difficult for parents.
Taking care of two or three children without being able to go out for extended periods of time must have been really challenging. So, I asked myself, “How can I bring some variety into people’s daily lives – especially for the kids?” And while physical spaces were in full lockdown, about the only thing that was still open for business was the internet.
Getting kids active during lockdowns
I know that social media can be a very powerful tool, so I started thinking about different possibilities of getting the kids away from the TV screen. Ultimately, I wanted to help everyone pass their time a bit quicker in a period during which every day felt like three. This is when I came up with the idea for ‘Toni’s Home Challenges.’
The response and engagement in the challenge was truly overwhelming. I never expected it to generate such a positive reaction. It was a really big success for me at the time, and it felt amazing to see how such a small idea can bring so much happiness to kids around the world.
I was astounded by the level of commitment and enthusiasm, not only from the kids but the parents as well. I had many parents thanking me because their children were suddenly excited for the day in anticipation of the next exercise.
In the beginning, the challenges were purely for entertainment purposes. A fun way to pass the time. But at the same time, I also wanted to make them better footballers from a distance.
I know from experience that parents are often very invested in the football development of their kids. Seeing the response made me think about taking the idea to the next level and expanding these amateurish videos into something more, which is exactly where the idea for the Toni Kroos Academy came from.
Through this training app and localized training camps, we are bringing an elaborate training package with a variety of exercises and drills, including some that have helped me develop my skills and become a better footballer. Moreover, kids also can upload their own training videos in the app and receive professional feedback on how they can improve their technique.
Through the app, we try to deliver the best training package possible. I believe that if you are going to do something, do it right or not at all. I try to apply this philosophy to every aspect of life.
Creating a holistic experience
I believe that the Toni Kroos Academy is not only for people who want to improve their football skills, but for everyone who loves the sport and wants to have fun. For many of the challenges, it doesn’t matter how experienced you are or what your professional ambitions might be – you can simply follow along for fun. Regardless, you will learn a lot of interesting and exclusive things that you might not find anywhere else.
There are also several theoretical lessons that discuss topics away from the football field. These include the values that have helped me throughout my career such as my mindset off the pitch.
I also try to show the app’s users a glimpse of what daily life at Real Madrid looks like. People usually have their own perceptions of how professional footballers live their lives, but from the inside, there is a lot more to it than you’d think. Especially around match day. What really happens when you turn off the TV at the end of the game? It is not like I go to bed once the TV has been turned off; I still need to travel, begin the regeneration process, and start preparing for the next game.
I think that all of these aspects of professional football are really interesting to see. Getting an inside look into the biggest football club in the world can be exciting for everyone, not just the ones that are looking to improve their football skills.
Preparing for the future
The Academy launched just over six months ago. I am extremely satisfied with the number of users and overall progress that we have made so far. Even though it is not finished yet, we are consistently looking to improve the app and are making steady development.
We introduced the ‘Ask Toni’ feature, through which you can ask me any questions which I then answer. We have also added a feedback feature, to ensure that everyone who submits a video receives high-quality feedback.
We have also hired coaches from Real Madrid’s football school to ensure that the feedback is of the highest quality. I personally reply to about 4-5 videos per month. I sit down, watch the videos, and provide in-depth, step-by-step analysis. My time is limited so I can’t answer all of them, but everyone who asks for feedback is guaranteed to receive professional recommendations.
In the future, there will also be a membership option, through which you can become a member of the Toni Kroos Academy and receive special benefits. Moreover, we are also planning on introducing special football camps. The concept is in the final stages of development, and we are looking to host the first ones in April, May, and June this year.
Bringing digital and physical together
These camps will also be connected to the app. Participants will be able to train on-site with the use of special ‘coaching cards’, through which they can receive personalized feedback from the coaches. The assessment can then be added to your profile in the app.
The exercises during the camp will also be based on the ones in the app. Of course, the fun factor will also still be there, but ultimately, we want the kids to learn something as well.
With the camps, we are targeting a lot of different cities, specifically in Germany and Spain. Some of our biggest markets are Germany, Spain, and the US. We first want to provide high-quality camps in these locations and then expand internationally, since our analytics show that we have users from all over the world.
Making a difference
Some of the revenue from the Toni Kroos Academy goes directly towards my charitable foundation – The Toni Kroos Foundation – which was founded in 2015. Our mission is to help sick children and put a smile on their faces. It’s all about fulfilling wishes, sometimes even last wishes. We are not doctors and sometimes there is little we can do to help, but we always try to assist families wherever possible.
I run it with my wife, but I also have a representative in Germany who engages with the families and then sends their contact details to us. The work that we do at the Foundation is truly amazing. It allows me to see the world from a different perspective.
When you are used to a certain standard of living, you start taking things for granted. You get upset over the smallest things. Helping sick children and their families has shown me that there are bigger problems to worry about in life. It has helped me evolve as an individual and truly see the bigger picture.
I’m extremely proud of how one way of helping kids feeds into another, and I look forward to seeing both the Academy and Foundation making a bigger impact in the years to come.