One of the great things about being a pber, is making friends in different pickleball communities. Many of us paddle-packing Canucks get to know our American pickle pals when we’ve migrated south to those amazing vacation resorts in California and Arizona.
In this week’s player interview we will get to know someone from a different part of the US. I think by the time you finish hearing from him, and, seeing his videos, you will feel as I do….that you’ve made a new friend…..Someone you would like to ”hit with”.
Normally when I introduce a player on my blog, I list a few of their attributes and accomplishments. I like to tease my readers a bit before I reveal who the person is I am profiling. I don’t want to do that this week. I don’t want to single this man out as an individual. Even though he has remarkable achievements, I would like my readers to think of this edition as the story of a family. His family and our extended pickleball family…..You’ll see what I mean in a moment when you hear from:
Joe Valenti In His Own Words
1. Let’s get to the basics first, Joe–How old are you, where did you grow up, and what is your sports background?
JV – I am 37 (38 on March 26th). I grew up in Pittsford, NY–a suburb of Rochester, NY– which is the home of Kodak, Xerox, Bosch & Lomb, Wegmans and of course Valenti Sports. I grew up playing tennis, soccer, baseball and basketball with my 3 brothers. John is 39 and has been playing on the satellite tennis tour for 20 years. Paul is 36 and played college soccer. Phil, 34, played professional basketball in Spain and Ireland. That is 4 boys born within 5 years, and our parents Joanie and John are both very athletic–with my Dad being in the Local College Hall Of Fame for basketball.
2. When did you first pick up a pb paddle?
JV – On June 2011, Elvis Dengler from the JCC came to Valenti Sports to do a quick clinic in the parking lot after my father saw PickleFEST II at Charlotte Beach and was immediately hooked. My father played tennis 3 times a week, but after that meeting with Elvis he hasn’t picked up a tennis racquet since. By the end of that year we had installed 2 pickleball courts at Valenti Sports. As you know, pickleball is such a social sport–the fact that I can play with my 63 year old mother, or my athletic brothers, is the reason we are all hooked. We love being together and playing together….That is what family is about. The courts keep multiplying and now Paulie has a court in his 80′ X 30′ barn. He also has one in his driveway and my parents have one in their driveway and my Aunt Val is painting one on the basketball court in her backyard. We setup a temporary court in Phillips driveway and even painted lines in the grass in my backyard.
3. Okay, …how about the ”nitty-gritty”–what is Valenti Sports and why is it the best place to buy pickleball, and other sports gear and clothing?
JV – First off, we sell USAPA approved Pickleball Nets for $149 with Free Shipping–so call me if you need a net!! Valenti Sports is our family owned sporting goods store which opened in 1993. My youngest brother Phil, my Dad John, and our cousin Jeff all work here. We are the largest ADIDAS team dealer in NY State. We outfit Colleges, High Schools and youth organizations with uniforms, footwear and custom apparel. We have a 9000 sq foot retail store with 2 pickleball courts and over 90 different pickleball paddles, which makes Valenti Sports the largest pickleball sporting goods store in the world! We also have nationally ranked pickleball players working there–which sets us apart from your big box store that might sell a few paddles. Every day we introduce Athletic Directors, soccer moms, coaches and all types of athletes to pickleball. They see all the paddles on the wall and ask ”what’s that?”….Or are there to pick up tennis balls or buy platform tennis sneakers and we ask ”have you played pickleball yet?”…Then we show them the Taj Mahal courts out back.
4. Tell me, Joe…Who’s in charge of doing all the great Valenti pb videos?
JV – Thanks for the kind words…. That would be me. I have over 170 videos of 5.0 singles, doubles and mixed doubles, on YouTube, as another way to promote pickleball to the masses. We have 500 subscribers to the channel:
When my brother Paul and I, with my beautiful wife Jessica (pregnant with our first child Lucy) flew out to Surprise, AZ for the weekend to play in the 2011 Nationals, It was almost impossible to find any pickleball videos….Not like today where you have those pros like Rusty at:
Growing up we always had a video camera rolling–and it was natural for me–so I brought my tripod and camera and I haven’t stopped uploading videos since then. I was lucky to capture the following on camera…
”The Joe” shot, which is named for me, and is the 2012 Shot of the Year. This is the best way to defend the ”around the post shot”. What you do is hit the ball right back where it came from–at your opponent standing out of bounds. They never expect it and you win the point. I was able to do this against one of the top players–Timothy Nelson–in the 2012 Nationals: https://youtu.be/UXu6-3GpKvk
Superman JOJO shot…Here you jump in front of your opponent over the kitchen to hit a winner: https://youtu.be/mJ4kriI_H4A
2015 Shot of the Year….From the Canadian Nationals: https://youtu.be/mc4kDwmNOp8
5. What’s the story about the Taj Mahal courts and the court inside the barn?
JV – Yes, my Dad says, ”the Taj Majal courts are at Valenti Sports,” and he is right. We have 2 of the nicest courts anywhere in the world and it took a lot of luck to make that happen. The property of Valenti Sports is partially zoned residential toward the back of the property making it possible to have the courts. You see the town of Brighton, NY, has very strict rules and regulations about zoning. We paid over $6,000 in legal fees–as well as $12,000 to make the pickleball courts–$8,000 for the rain gardens, and spent about 15 nights at planning and zoning board meetings over the course of 3 years. It was a nightmare, but in the end it was all worth it!…Before you leave the store to go to the courts, there is a signed letter from the town–allowing us to have the 2 courts–taped to the wall. We had to get approved for a variance to have 60% asphalt and 40% grass–instead of the zoning rules of 70% grass, 30% asphalt. It was of course,”pickleball luck”, that one of our 5.0 pickleball player’s fathers was the neighbouring town’s attorney and the ONLY attorney that would help us get these courts approved–not only due to the noise complaints, but the grass asphalt zoning issue….He came through big time! I was actually pictured on the courts for an article in the local legal newspaper about the zoning issue. Jennifer Lucore, Steve Wong, Chris Miller, Billy Jacobsen, Tyler Wren, Jonathan Blake, Bill Ritchie, John Gullo, Jay Readinger and Greg Thompson have all been to the courts.
Yes, the PickleBARN is home to the Valenti Farm owned by Paul and Amanda Valenti. Since we get 100 inches of snow annually, having an indoor court is a must. This barn was built in 1831 and sits on 3 acres of land. New zoning laws (here we go again) state that you must have 5+ acres to have livestock on a farm–so who else is going to want a huge barn on their property except the Valenti’s….Paulie bought the barn in July 2015, raised the floor 3.25 inches, levelled the floor, installed LED lighting, put down tongue and groove footing, and painted and lined the courts! We play there about 3 times a week. Here is a video: https://youtu.be/bHoR7zX2YGI
6. Your brother Paul, Eric Kennedy, and you are on many of your videos…Are there other 5.0 players in you playing crew?
JV – We are lucky to have 130 pickleball courts in Rochester, NY (second only to the Villages in FL). You see, many of the residents of Rochester are snowbirds that go to AZ and FL for the winter after they retire from Kodak, Xerox, Baush & Lomb, etc., and when they come back they want to PLAY PICKLEBALL. Dave Thomas and John Gardner along with Valenti Sports have been instrumental in making Rochester, NY a ”hot bed” of pickleball. We have 700 players on the email list thanks to John Gardner’s hours of grass roots volunteer work where he emails ALL the places to play–updated every month–and Dave Thomas’ hard work getting pickleball courts lined at ALL the Monroe Country public tennis court facilities. We also have some of the best Platform Tennis players in the country–if you are not familiar, platform tennis is played on the same size court as pickleball, so these top players are instant 5.0 pickleballers….We have about 15 or so 5.0 pickleball players, and with access to so many courts, and Valenti Sports and the Barn, we are lucky to get in some great games anytime we want.
7. I have to ask you about a certain ”4-pete” women’s doubles gold medalist…How much fun was it for you and the guys to play with Jennifer Lucore at the Taj?
She is also one of the nicest players I know–she is so kind, funny and energetic. She is so full of life and positive energy which makes her the ideal ambassador and player of the game. Her parents, Bob and Bev, are really proud of the woman she has become, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…If you get a chance to chat up her parents, don’t miss the opportunity as they are a real hoot.
I was lucky enough to partner up with Jennifer at the Canadian National Championships at Toronto in 2015 where we got silver in Mixed Open Doubles–Rob and Jody Elliott took gold–but believe it or not, that wasn’t the best pickleball I got to play with Jennifer–either was playing at Valenti Sports the day before the tourney with Paulie and Eric. The most fun I had with Jennifer was playing MIXED SINGLES at the FIRST EVER PICKLEBALL COURT in Bainbridge Island, WA….Yes, Jennifer and I were invited to play at the first ever pickleball court 50 years after the game was invented there. That thing they say about the social aspect of pickleball welcoming every one into your home and circle of friends is TRUE–and especially on Bainbridge Island. We were welcomed with open arms by Carol Stover and her parents Bob and Jane Smith. Here is the video: https://youtu.be/ClL_cKSjm9E
8. Are you coming to play in the Canada East Nationals this summer?
JV – I look forward to defending my Mixed Open Doubles silver medal and Mens Open Doubles bronze medal in Canada this year….Canadians are so polite and it was a great week–we met so many great players like Bee, Barb, Looey, Paul and Patricia.
9. You mentioned to me before that, when you’re at a tournament, you tap your wedding ring on your paddle after a good point. Does your wife play pickleball?
JV – Does she…sadly no. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful, supportive, loving and caring wife and mother of my children. Jessica allows me to play all this pickleball as she does the ”heavy lifting” of raising our kids. To put it into perspective, Lucy was 8 weeks old and Jessica was starting up her teaching year, she encouraged me to ”go play pickleball”, so I left Rochester to go to Seattle, WA and play in the SeaTac…What a great wife. We are a young family and hopefully she will get to play more as the kids get older. Lucy is 3 and isn’t a big fan of the ball machine, but here is a video of that:
10. Last question Joe….it’s about your personal philosophy…Do you believe in business before pleasure, or is your job just another fun part of your day?
JV – My Dad say, ”we work hard, and we play hard.” Being able to work with my Dad, brother and cousin is a real blessing. So was installing that shower at work so that after playing pickleball for a few hours, I can clean up and get back to work! Valenti Sports has allowed me to put on many tournaments with Valenti Sports as the main sponsor for these events held in Rochester, NY…3 NY State Championships, 1 National Indoor Championship, 3 PickleBOWL’s, 3 PickleMADNESS and now 2 PickleFESTs–as well as time to travel the country playing pickleball. I am truly blessed with Family, Love, Work, Pickleball and God.
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One thing you realize when you watch Paul, Eric, Joe and the rest of the rocking’ Rochester crew on the Valenti Sports videos, is that they play an exciting pb style. They put a ”lotta pepper” in their volleys and drive shots….”It’s a somma spicy pickleball!”…It’s also fun to watch, and don’t forget to subscribe–you wouldn’t want to miss the action if Joe invents a new pickleball shot:-)
It’s been fun taking this virtual trip with you, Joe. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve got to see how the game is played on the East Coast….Thanks pickleball brother!
*Please send me any comments you have for Joe Valenti…. I will forward them on to him:
Comments – firstname.lastname@example.org
*Coming soon in Challenge Court I will have something about the exciting opportunity for Victoria players to have some new designated outdoor pb courts! Also,… I’m doing research on the history of a ”Surprise Party” event down in Arizona….. Until then,
Thanks for the game,