Renowned Kean athlete Jodi Valenti reflects on college career and talks plans for future
By: Ray Gurbisz
At the beginning of the 2013 season, Kean record-holder and former star tennis player Jodi Valenti was named the new head coach of the Kean University women’s tennis team. A resident of Garfield, New Jersey, Valenti grew up and attended Garfield High School, located in Bergen County. It was there that she got her athletic career started. Valenti began playing tennis during her sophomore year in high school.
“Because I stunk at volleyball my physical education teacher told me to go out for tennis,” Valenti said.
Valenti then came to Kean in 1999 where she would become one of the best tennis players in Kean history. During her playing career from 1999-2003, Valenti was a standout player, capturing the Kean single-season record for most victories in a season with 20, which she set in 2001. She also won 13 matches in 2002 and 12 in 2000, which are the sixth and 10th best totals, respectively, in Kean history.
“I’m proud, I never thought I would be a record holder at the college level,” Valenti said. “I’m
shocked and proud because I worked hard to get that.”
When thinking about some of the most memorable moments from her playing career at Kean, Valenti said the one that stood out the most was when the Cougars had one of their best seasons ever in 1999, only dropping a single match.
“We were 11-1 and we only lost to The College of New Jersey.” Valenti said.
During the match against TCNJ, Valenti went up against Katie D’Amato, a tough player who would eventually go on to win an NJAC Rookie of the Year award.
“No one beats [TCNJ] and I took like 4 games from her,” Valenti said. “I came close to beating her, but we were 11-1 that year. It was a good memory because that was the best record we’d had.”
With Valenti recently accepting the head coaching job of the women’s tennis team prior to the season, she’s had to adjust to her new duties rather quickly.
“There’s more responsibility, but I feel like I can take the lead more which is nice.” Valenti explained. “From being an assistant coach, it made me a little more confident to become the head coach.”
Valenti served as an assistant coach for eight years of the Kean tennis team prior to becoming head coach. She said that her assistant job at Kean “made her more confident and made the transition easier.”
During her eight years as an assistant, she served under former head coach Evelyn Alfaro, who had served since 2004. This season the Kean tennis squad finished up the 2013 campaign on Oct. 19 with a tough loss to Rutgers-Camden.
“We were 6-8 and I wanted to be .500,” said Valenti. “We lost our last match which would have made us 7-7.”
Although the team’s record of 6-8 wasn’t terrible, Valenti said she would like to do more in her second season as head coach, and plans to do more for the program in seasons to come.
“I definitely want to have a winning season and I want to just fuel the program to become better and better each year as I’m here by bringing in new players,” Valenti said. “And keep bringing in more players just to make the program better.”
Aside from coaching at Kean, Valenti also serves as a physical education teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in her hometown, instructing grades kindergarten through fifth. Valenti said that she’s always wanted to be a teacher since she was little and that she was either going to be a kindergarten teacher or a physical education teacher growing up, “but picked physical education because she was good at sports.”
Valenti received her Bachelor of Arts degree in health and physical education in 2003 from Kean, and also received her Master of Arts degree in Educational Administration from Kean in 2009.