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New MCC soccer coach navigating uncharted waters during pandemic

T-R FILE PHOTO - Then-freshman Raphael Nascimento looks to pass for the Marshalltown Community College men’s soccer team during a match against Iowa Central on Sept. 4, 2010, in Marshalltown. Ten years later, Nascimento’s head coaching debut with his alma mater has been put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic.

First-year Marshalltown Community College head men’s soccer coach Raphael Nascimento has been hard at work during the COVID-19 pandemic — playing and learning the coaching ropes in a truly unprecedented summer for college athletics.

Normally, Nascimento and his MCC team would be prepping in August for the start of the regular season. But in July the NJCAA announced that fall sports were not taking place in their regularly-scheduled slots given the pandemic’s ongoing nature. So, Nascimento’s plans for how to navigate his first season at the helm of one of the NJCAA’s better soccer programs was thrown into flux.

It’s been a learning process for the MCC alum as he’s had to make adjustments in his recruiting process not just due to players opting to not play, but because of the U.S.’s restrictions on travel from certain countries causing international players and recruits issues.

“It has been unusual getting going, but as the time goes I see myself getting the hang of it,” Nascimento said. “Right now it’s about our international students who are on travel bans at the moment and trying to get them back to campus.”

Nascimento said he completely understands players who decide to stay home and not play this year, saying that their safety comes first and he’s fully in support of them. But it has forced a change in recruiting tactic, as he said he’s going after some athletes from area high schools as well as international talents.

He said some of the local players “have been looking for a chance and deserve a chance,” but also made it clear he wasn’t putting too much emphasis on recruiting over tactics.

“When I started there were more countries on the travel [restrictions],” Nascimento said. “I’m trying not to overfocus on recruiting.”

The former semi-professional indoor soccer player also broke out his playing boots again this summer for newly-created United Soccer League League Two team Iowa Raptors FC in Cedar Rapids in their first tournament as an organization. Nascimento said he had the chance to play and was able to help coach the youth team, giving him more experience to prep himself for the college environment.

He was also able to do some opposition research.

“They had players there we’ll be playing against,” Nascimento said. “So I got to study them without going anywhere.”

Nascimento said the pandemic has been a big learning experience for him. And with extra time to put his methods into practice and learn what he has to work with on the roster in the fall, he expects to not be behind the curve like some first-year coaches are.

In fact, he said he’s looking forward to having the “spring season” in the fall before real matches get underway.

“It has been beneficial to me as a first-time coach,” Nascimento said. “I will have more time to implement my ideas. I can test out ideas before the real season starts.”

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