We recently heard about Tiny Troops soccer from a neighbor living on base. I was asking around for recommendations of organized activities for my two year old. He is incredibly active but too young for most organized sports. My neighbor mentioned Tiny Troops, a developmental program for 2-4 year olds offered at our local base (and currently on 31 bases throughout the United States and abroad). I looked it up that evening and signed us up at the first available opportunity. We did not have to wait long. There are sessions every month. Sign ups open in the middle of the month for the following month, every month. The cost is $35 for one month of three practice session. We found all the information we needed about bases and sign up times from their Facebook page.
Milmom tip: they recently started a $5 referral discount! If you sign up and love it, share it with a friend and bring down your registration cost for your next session. It is a win-win scenario.
We ordered a team shirt and packed up in the car for my family’s first ever organized sports weekend. We were thrilled to pieces. When we arrived we saw the grinning faces of the other two year old parents -equally thrilled to have found an organized sport for our tiny bundles of energy. For 20 minutes we ran around and watched our little one have his first organized sport experience. The coach was patient and knowledgable about instructing such a young set of aspiring athletes. Our experience was overwhelmingly positive.
My son loved it. My family loved it. We signed up for the following month. And the following month. We told everyone we know with kids about it. More friends signed up. They had a great time. They told friends. We were thinking about writing a Milmomadventures article about our amazing experience when serendipitously Amy Schweizer -the owner and director of Tiny Troops Soccer and fellow milspouse- reached out to us at the blog and asked if we were interested in sharing the word about her amazing business. We were more than happy and willing. It was a perfect match for our small business feature.
We asked Amy a few questions we really wanted to know
Tell us a little bit about you – where you were from, what you may have studied in college, interests outside of creating a soccer league for littles?
I am from Danville, Illinois, a town of about 35,000 (that my brother is currently the Mayor of!). I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance, and a Master’s Degree in Sport Management. During that time, I interned with the Philadelphia 76ers professional basketball team and Philadelphia KiXX professional indoor soccer team. I am a fitness fanatic, play piano to relax, and love hanging out with friends and family!
Tell us a little bit about the start of Tiny Troops? How did you pick the name?
I had the idea for a soccer program to reach children who there weren’t many programs for near military bases. I met up with my good friend Michelle and asked her if she was interested in being our first coach. When discussing creating the program, my husband Brandun actually came up with the name! It was a perfect representation of our resilient kiddos, so we went with it. The rest is history!
What made you start your own business? Did you have to apply for any licenses in regards to your business?
After being married 9+ years ago, I left my position as an Instructor at the local college. Upon arriving at Camp Pendleton, CA, I was unable to locate a job that used my education, work experience, or passions. There were no positions that fully utilized my background, nor offered compensation that was even close to my prior salary. I ended up applying for unemployment benefits due to the drastic cut in income. Being a career-driven woman, it was only natural to turn a coaching idea into a full-fledged business.
I did not have to have any licenses to operate my business; however, I am a certified Group Fitness Instructor, Behavior Change Specialist, Sports Nutrition, and Youth Sports Specialist through the American Council on Exercise.
Do you find that it is manageable to continue the business whilst navigating the other duties of marriage and/or parenting?
If I am completely honest, it has been a bumpy road. Starting out I had many late nights and early mornings, sometimes sacrificing family time in order to complete necessary business tasks. As the company has grown, I have been able to take a step back from the day-to-day operations and fulfill
more of a director role in which I can focus on marketing, partnerships, and growth. My husband has been a huge support throughout the journey because he recognizes the inner desire for me to feel accomplished in my career (even if it doesn’t look exactly as I had planned).
Favorite motivational quote?
I have so many! A few that come to mind are: “What if I fail? But oh my darling, what if you fly?” (Erin Hanson), “The vision of a champion is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is looking.” (Mia Hamm), and “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take. The time will pass anyway.” (Earl Nightingale)
Favorite thing to do?
Play outdoors with my three boys or watch Jeopardy with my husband (to see how much we DON’T know!).
Favorite place you have PCS’d to?
Hands down Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua, HI. The scenery, atmosphere, and aloha spirit is unmatched!
Favorite thing to do at your current duty station?
Soak in the water at Secret Beach.
Best perk of military life for you/ Favorite adventure you have been on thanks to the military?
I love the free events they put on for families. I was able to work out with fitness trainers Jillian and Bob from the Biggest Loser at Camp Pendleton, and saw John Legend in concert in Okinawa!
How do people find out about which bases you are at or expanding to? When sessions are?
Our Facebook page is updated daily and you can find the same information on our website, including session days and times, coach information, and FAQs. We advertise the locations in each area’s military and local Facebook groups to get the word out, but word of mouth is huge for us (go tell your friends now!).
We love that you hire military spouses in an environment that can make it difficulty to find consistent work – how do you find the coaches, or how do they find you? Who are looking for as a coach?
Military spouses are the heart and soul of our company, starting with myself as the Owner/Director, all the way through to our coaches and administrative personnel. These spouses share a passion for soccer
and children, and are looking for a way to earn income in a flexible position, all while being able to be the primary caretaker of their family (due to the service member’s inconsistent schedule). They range from people with Masters Degrees, to the newly-married young spouse, and even the high school dependent.
We put out feelers for new locations which include information to contact us if someone is interested in coaching. Once they have reached out, we get the paperwork/interview process rolling. We look for individuals who are passionate, energetic, inviting, able to create relationships with both the players and the parents, knowledgeable, and empathetic. All of our coaches must have playing experience, and any leadership or experience working with children is a plus.
What do you think young children, especially military children, get from participating in Tiny Troops?
Gross motor skill development. An introduction to soccer. Physical movement and exercise. Consistency. Something to look forward to. A way to pass time through separations. A physical and mental outlet for emotions. Social interaction. (to name a few!)
Although some may just see soccer, I see an opportunity to not only get children outside and playing, but to also provide a small, yet constant experience in their ever-changing worlds. I love to hear stories of our players moving from base to base and how they light up seeing a coach in a Tiny Troops shirt playing on Soccer Island! And better yet, their excitement when they find out that we coaches all know each other, and are friends – priceless! Kids aren’t always able to verbalize their feelings, and being out in an open space having fun is sometimes just the mental and physical therapy they don’t know that they need. Participating in our sessions also eases the transition for families, as sometimes other Tiny Troops parents are the first friends they make at a new duty station!
Number one tip to give to fellow military spouses who want to start their own business?
Network! Reach out to people who you have come across at a prior duty station, put a feeler out with the type of work you are looking for/to create, and search for business-related spouse groups on social media. Since there are only about three steps of separation in the military, you are bound to know someone who knows someone involved with what you are interested in or has ties to the field. Also, do your best to work within the limitations you are presented with, but don’t be afraid to create your own opportunities. You have a right to thrive within your career while supporting your servicemember, so if that means questioning policies and presenting your information and interests to base officials, then go for it!
Please add anything else you would like to include/talk about.
Our mission is, “To serve military children, while teaching them the great game of soccer”. We take the “serve” aspect very personally, as we feel it is our way of giving back to the littlest members of the military tribe.
We can’t help but feel inspired and motivated by this unique business that is bringing joy and community to young families in the military community. Amy is the kind of leader in the military spouse community that reminds us we can thrive and achieve outstanding goals (Goooooooooooooal!! We could not help but work this pun into the mix). If you have young children look to see if there is a Tiny Troops practice established at your nearest base and consider signing up or telling a friend.