No ordinary Joe
Joe Pagnotta is a big believer in giving back.
The 45-year-old Virgil resident volunteered at the 2022 Niagara Summer Games where he was part of the mission staff responsible for men’s and women’s soccer and has now taken on another daunting task.
The social sciences teacher at Blessed Trinity in Grimsby is off to Prince Edward Island for the 2023 Canadian Winter Games where he will be part of the mission staff for men’s hockey.
The Games run Feb. 19 to March 5 but Pagnotta will be there only for one week while the men’s hockey team plays.
“I just had a conversation with my class about how important it is to give back, even as an adult,” Pagnotta said. “It’s a great experience, even for me as a mid-40s adult.”
Pagnotta enjoyed his experience last summer, despite the enormous workload.
“It’s a boatload of work. I’m a teacher myself and it’s balancing the two. The summer was OK because I was off. Doing this now is a bit overwhelming but at least I had that to go by.”
Pagnotta is eager to see the athletes in action.
“I’m an athlete and have been around sports my whole life,” he said. “Just to be around and see it. It’s not the Olympics but it’s the stepping stone for a lot of these kids.
“These are the next up-and-coming athletes. I wish they made a bigger deal of it nationally. I wish they broadcast it more because they’re so good. They’re elite athletes. I’m glad to be part of it. It’s a pretty wild experience, even as an adult.”
Pagnotta said it’s important the players and staff are treated well and given a chance to focus on their jobs.
“Kids play, coaches coach, manager’s manage and I take care of everything else,” he said. “They don’t know why a bus is waiting for them when they walk out, they don’t know why there’s food prepared for them or why everything is so structured. It’s a pretty cool thing to be part of and obviously men’s hockey is a pretty prestigious sport. It’s a national event and I’m looking forward to seeing the best of the best. These guys are going to be scouted — they have no idea the amount of scouts.”
Pagnotta is the father of three boys (Nello, 10, Dean, eight, Landon, seven) and also involves himself in both coaching and administration for both soccer and hockey in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“I’m heavily involved. People think I’m nuts because I’m doing this,” he said.
He admits it can be a bit much at times but knows he is putting in his time for a good cause.
“I call it good busy,” he said. “I know you do it because your kids are involved but there are hundreds of other kids I’m overseeing as well to make sure they have a great experience.
“When nine (o’clock) rolls around and I’m done but you try and give back. These kids grow up quickly. As long as they are involved and they enjoy being out there. My kids love going to the rink or the field. Do as much as you can because it goes quickly and you’ll miss it.”
Pagnotta, who graduated from Niagara District Secondary School before going on to Brock where he also played soccer, isn’t sure if this will be his swan song.
“I don’t know if I’m going to continue on at future Games. I’d like to, but we’ll see how it plays out,” he said.
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