‘There’s good talent here’: PickleBowl tournament underway at new facility

PickleBowl underway at new pickleball facility in Fairport

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HENRIETTA, N.Y. — You’ve obviously heard of the Super Bowl. But have you heard of the PickleBowl?

This weekend, dozens of local pickleball players are competing in a tournament of their own!

The PickleBowl tournament has been an annual tradition for a while now. This year, players are donating funds to the Pluta Cancer Center in Henrietta, run by the University of Rochester.

Paul Valenti with Valenti Pickleball said the sport took off during the pandemic. Over the past few years, it’s brought out younger ages, too. It’s social, and it gets you out of the house.

“There’s good talent here, so we’ll give it our best,” said 11-year-old Ryland Mehta. He’s competing this weekend, with hopes to win gold.

Valenti said the games are sorted by age and skill level. Friday was for singles, Saturday for gender doubles and Sunday for mixed doubles. And, it all wraps up in time for the Super Bowl.

“It makes me happy,” said Ryland, who discovered the sport almost two years ago.

Ryland competes against players in his age group, like Alix Ivy.

“At first, it’s kind of frustrating, but then I got the hang of it and started really enjoying it,” said Ivy.

You may be seeing and hearing about it more. But here in Rochester, it’s nothing new.

“My dad brought pickleball to us in 2010, before anyone was playing,” said Valenti. “Had our first Pickle Bowl in 2012, at the Main Street Armory.”

While this weekend will be very competitive, it’s also about giving back to the Pluta Cancer Center. Valenti said both of his parents were treated there.

He thought, what better way to give back, than by turning to his very own pickleball community?

The Fairport Pickleball Club opened last year, with ten new courts. Many other courts have opened in the region in the past few months.

“I got my neighbors interested, and they started hitting back and forth a little bit,” said Jane Grace Taylor, who said she started playing to improve her health. “And it was just instant, they’re hooked. You hit that thing over and you’re like, oh wait, I can do better.”

“I’m hoping I’ll do pretty good,” said Alix. “I want to get, like hopefully first or second maybe.”

Grace Taylor’s recommendation for any newbies is to check out an app called TeamReach. There, you can connect with local players to meet up for a game.