Citizen Spotlight: Julie Johnson

We caught up with Julie at Excelsior Springs Community Center where she first started playing pickleball (photo S Jason Cole).

Not only is Julie Johnson a positive role model for the entire community of Excelsior Springs, she’s also a rising star in the world of professional pickleball. When you meet Julie she’s got a bright personality and exudes positivity.  Last week she and her partner Cristie Sharpsteen took silver in the Pro Pickleball Association National Tournament, 5.0 level. (The 5.0 level is the highest level of amateur play before moving up to the professional level). Julie is doing so well that she has secured several sponsorships. Diadem provides her paddles while Chicken ‘n’ Pickle and IXT, a women-owned freight company, are working toward providing general sponsorship to help cover tournament fees and travel costs.

Julie and her partner, Cristie Sharpsteen took silver at the PPA Nationals last week (submitted photo).

Julie has her sights set on going pro but she says getting to this point has already been a fun challenge. She began playing pickleball at the Excelsior Springs Community Center with her friend Steve Cohoon who told her “I think you might be good at this game, you should give it a try.” After playing for a short time she and Steve entered a tournament in Kansas City with no expectations. They ended up winning first place, much to the chagrin of the more seasoned players. “Whenever I win, it’s like a huge rush. After we won that one, I was like, ‘okay, now I’m gonna go all the way to the top. Now, I know I can’t stop.’” She met her pickleball partner Cristie, at Chicken and Pickle and they immediately hit it off. “Magic in Motion” is what they call us laughed Julie, “everybody likes to watch us play because we communicate well, we move well, we know where the other is gonna be, and we get into a good flow.”

Growing up in a home with two sisters and three brothers, Julie says they were all very competitive. “We all played sports. They weren’t as good as me, but they tried hard,” Julie laughed. She was also a standout athlete in high school and college. She played basketball at Northwest Missouri State where she still holds several records on the court. Her parents were, and remain quite active as well. Her dad runs the pickleball leagues for the Castle Rock, Colorado Parks, and Rec and her mom runs all of the badminton.

Julie with her kids, Anne, Nicole, Gabe, Abby, and granddaughter Everly (submitted photo).

Julie’s biggest fans are her four children. Gabe is in the Army and stationed in Kuwait but he still sends his support. Daughters Abby, Anne, and Nicole all try to make it to matches when they can. “They think it’s awesome, they’re 100% behind me, all four of them.” she beamed.

Julie is continuing to practice, exercising 6 to 7 times a week, and gearing all of her workouts towards improving her pickleball game. She actually only plays pickleball once per week and she and her partner Cristie practice drills 4 times a week. “One day we work with a pro and the other 3 we just drill,” said Julie. For now, she’s just enjoying the ride and seeing how far she can go. The pickleball community has made the ride even more enjoyable, “It’s a lot of fun, [pickleballers] don’t really care if you’re rich or poor, on or off the court, it doesn’t matter everyone is so nice and supportive of each another.”

A sample of Johnson and Sharpsteen, aka “magic in motion” was posted on the Pickleball Librarian’s Facebook Page.

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