Defending the Goal

Maximiliano Rocco began playing soccer when he was 12 years old, but preparing for life after soccer is what brought him to America from Argentina. After 23 years in Buenos Aires, Rocco had offers to play professionally in Italy and Australia. Instead, he took a huge leap and moved to Miami, Fla. to play soccer at ASA College.

Thanks to the move, he’s able to pursue a degree that he felt was critical to securing his future.

“It’s the roll of the die,” Rocco said. “I know so many stories about players who fall out of professional play and struggle to work to earn their life. So having a backup plan is amazing. You never know what life will bring. So I wanted to have a plan A, a plan B, and a plan C, D and E.”

When he arrived in the U.S., Rocco didn’t know a word of English and slept on a couch for six months as he learned the culture. 

Rocco kicks the soccer ball back into the game.

Maximilliano Rocco finds his passion on the field as the men's soccer goalkeeper.

After two years at ASA College, Rocco transferred to Francis Marion University in South Carolina and earned his bachelor’s degree in human resources and sport management. Thanks to the extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rocco investigated graduate school opportunities, choosing Gannon University to play for Head Men’s Soccer Coach Billy Colton.

“I talked to a lot of schools, and they would talk about great facilities or other bonuses, but the only coach that spoke about the team was Billy,” Rocco said. “He saw what kind of person I am and if I was going to be a good fit. I felt it was right.”

Colton said he spoke to Rocco and really liked the person behind the player.

“With our backline being very young, we felt his experience could be a big benefit, and it has been,” Colton said. “He listens, he wants to learn, he always wants feedback, and he wants to know what he can do better.”

Maximiliano Rocco wraps his arms around his teammates' shoulders as they pose for a picture of the soccer field.

Maximiliano Rocco keeps up the energy on the field and with teammates after the whistle blows.

Now, Rocco is pursuing his graduate degree in strategic communication from Gannon to prepare for a potential future in coaching if playing soccer professionally is not an option. Facilitating relationships between the coaching staff and the players on the soccer pitch is something he feels is critical.

“There are a lot of good coaches, but if they have an idea and don’t know how to connect to the player on the field, it’s going to be hard to succeed,” Rocco said. “I picked strategic communication to learn how to help players reach their full potential.”

It's easy to see that Rocco practices what he preaches when watching him during a soccer match. The goalkeeper position is one that requires constant communication. His ability to relay information and encouragement to his teammates in both English and Spanish is a huge bonus, and his positive attitude is infectious.

"I don't know what it’s about half the time, but Max is always talking or joking with someone,” Colton said. “He’s good to have in the locker room because he’s been in a lot of them with a lot of different teams and knows when to stop the joke and when to get the team into practice or game mode.”

Rocco practices mindfulness and gratefulness in the mornings and visualization at night before matches. When he’s not on the pitch, he enjoys reading, fishing and spending time with his wife Andrea, whom he met in their now hometown in South Carolina.

Statistically, Rocco has been ranked among the leaders in the PSAC as well as all of Division II in goalkeeping metrics including save percentage and goals-against-average all season long. His steady performance is sure to aid the Golden Knights as they prepare for what could be an exciting postseason run. 

“I got my goals set, and nothing's going to take me down,” Rocco said. “There are thousands of people who have it even worse, so that’s why I always keep pushing and pushing.” 

By Bryan Kast, assistant director of athletics media relations

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