RICHMOND VALLEY -- For those who are of a certain age where life is in descending mode and the days of innocence look better the farther you travel from it, there are those moments of lucidity in which we ask: How did we ever do that?!
Now that we can peer back at some of life’s experiences with an ascetic kind of sagacity, the wonderment of completing said tasks under adverse conditions seems nearly miraculous today.
Sort of what Joe Motta Jr., who is just this side of adolescence, will ask himself down the road.
The 18-year-old Richmond Valley resident, to use a hackneyed cliché, is well beyond his years. And it’s mostly his doing.
Three years ago, after playing in the Staten Island Interscholastics Tennis Tournament final as a Monsignor Farrell High School freshman, Motta took his coltish form to Nick Bollettieri and his 450-acre Bradenton, Fla., outpost where tomorrow’s stars are shaped and packaged.
Most certainly with a daily rigorous regimen to construct body and mind, Motta’s game took off to uncharted places. But along the way, he latched on to something else, maybe a tad more important — a self-disciplined maturity.
His dad, Dr. Joe Sr. who came to America alone as a child from Italy and rose to become director of Urology and Minimally Invasive Urologic Surgery at both Richmond University Medical Center and Staten Island Physician Practice, knows about taking chances.
“It’s a critical time in a child’s growth, but we thought it was a good opportunity for Joe to be somewhat independent and to be able to handle school and (tennis) training,” the elder Motta said at the time.
“The goal was to get a good education and maintain his appreciation and respect for the game. He’s managed to keep his feet on the ground and he’s going to be a better person because of these experiences.”
“Mature?” the pause from Joe Jr. said yes. “Let’s say I’ve picked up a few life skills in the interim. I was never homesick. I was always busy with school, friends or (tennis) tournaments.
“I had no regrets going there. I needed the tennis structure and exposure. Believe it or not, I missed the winters.”
Having graduated last June, Motta, without provocation or prodding, ambitiously made it a daily ritual of sending e-mails to college coaches while taking on-line college courses such as human anatomy and macro/micro economics.
The long tango of trepidation and immolation which involved rear-enders Penn State, Maryland and Delaware ended recently with his decision to play at Marist, which has been to the NCAA by virtue of winning the last four Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) titles.
Motta visited the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., school in October and was impressed with its business program. Fifteen-year coach Tim Smith — and a couple of his current roster — was impressed by his “big” game on the Red Foxes’ new Deco II surface.
“I guess I can look back now and laugh and just be happy it’s over, the process was a bit nerve wracking,” admitted the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder. “Now I can concentrate on my training and preparation and be ready for August.
“My goal was to go to a good Division I school with good academics. It’s close enough to home (and S.I. pizza, he says). Everything, eventually, fell into place.”