By Holly, Marketing Coordinator
Gripmaster Chuck. Tennis guru. Pickleball coach. Lover of salmon. Mentor. Friend.
These are just some of the things that come to mind when we think of Chuck Vietmeier. As one of the long-time employees of GAMMA Sports, Chuck is a cornerstone of the GAMMA family and has played a large part in spreading the GAMMA love around the world. We are so excited to sit down and talk with him to learn about his history with GAMMA!
Alright, Chuck – where did you grow up?
Like most of the company, Chuck is a native Pittsburgher. Born and raised in Whitehall (a suburb about 20 minutes outside of the city), Chuck went to Baldwin High School with his two brothers and sister.
How did you get into tennis and pickleball?
One day, when Chuck was about 16 years old, he was playing football on the street in front of his house when his neighbor interrupted him. It turned out that they needed a fourth player for their tennis match and they decided to ask Chuck. From there, it’s history! Chuck was instantly hooked on
tennis and jumped at the opportunity whenever his neighbor needed a fourth player. Chuck continued to teach himself how to play tennis, eventually choosing it over baseball in his senior year of high school.
For pickleball, when GAMMA eventually moved into the pickleball industry in 2015, Chuck became the resident pickleball pro and continues to teach individuals in the company to this day! (He’s also our resident tennis pro.)
Where did you go to college and what was your major?
Staying close to his Pittsburgh roots, Chuck attended Slippery Rock State College (now named Slippery Rock University) in Slippery Rock, PA. He majored in Recreation and Resource Management, aiming to be an architect and develop recreational facilities.
While at Slippery Rock, he competed on the college’s tennis team (shocker!). The team trips down South (where they would travel to nine schools in 10 days) were some of his favorite college tennis memories. His extremely successful collegiate tennis career landed him in the Slippery Rock Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009 (his picture is still on the wall…we checked!).
So you previously owned your own company…tell us a little about that.
After deciding not to attend graduate school to get his Master’s degree, Chuck returned to his love of tennis. He was initially hired as an Assistant Tennis Pro at the Golden Racquet tennis club in Edgewood, PA, then became the Director of Tennis and eventually part-owner.
Fun fact: The Golden Racquet is also where Chuck met Dr. Harry Ferrari (*cough cough the founder of GAMMA Sports cough cough*) and where his GAMMA story began! Chuck taught Matt Ferrari (GAMMA’s CEO/President and the previous employee blog feature) and Matt’s brother, Alex, how to play tennis as well.
When Dr. Ferrari first started working on tennis string or grips for GAMMA, he would bring them in for Chuck to test out and provide feedback on. From there, the friendship between the two led to an eventual job offer at GAMMA, and the rest is history!
Let’s get into your GAMMA experience – over the years, what have been some of the different job titles you’ve held? Which one was your favorite?
Throughout Chuck’s 31 years with GAMMA, he’s held eight different positions, including:
- Inside Sales Account Representative
- Product Development
- International Sales Manager
- Product Development
- Nationals Sales Manager
- Key Account Representative
- Product Development
- Director of Product Marketing (current)
As a die-hard tennis player, his favorite job duties have revolved around product development. Being able to develop and test out different tennis and pickleball products such as strings, stringing machines, paddles, balls, grips, etc. and provide feedback was something he truly cherished. His knowledge of the industry, various companies and product offerings gave him remarkable knowledge to propel GAMMA into the future.
What’s your favorite part of working with GAMMA?
Out of all these different titles and experiences, Chuck’s favorite part was the travel. Representing GAMMA at all major tennis tournaments, including the U.S. Open, Miami Open and BNP Paribas Open, and pickleball tournaments are absolute highlights of his time with GAMMA.
Through these tennis experiences, he was invited to sit courtside in Vera Zvonareva’s (former GAMMA Tennis sponsored player) box to watch her match against Kim Clijsters in the 2010 U.S. Open women’s final. Chuck was also able to meet some of the top-ranked tennis players in the world, as well as travel to China, Germany, Austria and Japan.
You still represent GAMMA at tournaments today – do you have any travel routines that have stuck with you throughout your time at GAMMA?
When travelling to pickleball tournaments, Chuck always tries to compete in the event. As a way to represent GAMMA out on the courts , as well as hone his own technique and skill, it was a perfect opportunity. Right now, he’s entered in four different events for the 2019 U.S. Open Pickleball Championships in April!
What other paddle/racquet sports do you play? Which one is your favorite?
Chuck is a master of many sports, and he’s normally participating in some tournament or open play every weekend. If you ask him about his favorite sport, it’s a tug-o-war between tennis and golf. Whether it’s pickleball, tennis, platform tennis or golf, Chuck is always on the go.
What’s the best part of the tennis industry? The pickleball industry?
For the tennis industry, the best part in Chuck’s opinion was the fact that he was extremely passionate about the sport itself. Not only was he able to make his own impact in the sport he loved, but he was also able to pass it down to his son as something they could do together.
As for pickleball, the best part of the industry is the growth – there’s really no ceiling or stopping point for how far the sport can go. As the fastest-growing sport in the U.S., it’s going to be amazing to see what’s in store for the future of the sport. The other nice thing about pickleball is that it’s constantly changing, and there’s something new every day. New companies, new products, new players, new tournaments – the list just keeps going and growing!
Family time! Did tennis or pickleball have a hand in how you met your wife?
Yes! One day, Chuck was asked by a friend to play in a mixed doubles match because one of the players needed a partner. Guess who happened to be that partner…. 😊 Today, his wife is just as competitive and involved in pickleball, tennis and platform tennis as Chuck is!
You have a new member of your family – tell us about Kobe!
Oh Kobe – he’s the Vietmeier’s new 11-month-old Golden Retriever! Kobe also happens to LOVE pickleballs and will play catch with you for as long as you’ll throw the ball!
Last question – what’s one piece of advice you wish someone had shared with you when you were younger?
For Chuck, he had one main answer – don’t be afraid to try new things. In a very competitive world, you can’t be afraid to take chances!
FUN QUESTION TIME!
This is our rapid fire round of questions…GO!
Summer or winter: Summer.
Chocolate or vanilla: Black raspberry – Chuck isn’t a big sweets guy, so we let him slide on this one.
Beach or mountains: Beach!
Favorite food: Grilled salmon (normally served with a wedge salad…it’s his go-to dinner order that most of our GAMMA team has now adopted as well!).
Favorite athletic brand (outside of GAMMA!): Nike – Chuck has the best shoe variety of ANYONE we’ve ever met…seriously, it’s impressive!
Favorite city (besides Pittsburgh!): New York City, New York.
Favorite band/singer: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.