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January 23, 2023

James Ignatowich-Main.jpg

Julie Johnson

By Alice Tym

Age:  51

Hometown:  Boynton Beach, Florida

Marital status:  Married to Jack Johnson

Children:  JW and Jorja

Skill level:  Senior Pro

Favorite tournament:  The one she wins.

What do you consider to be your biggest weapon?

My forehand drive.

Where did you acquire your skills?

I have a recreational tennis background. My husband was a college tennis player.

Are you a driller or a practice match player?

I love playing practice matches, but I do drill.

What do you consider the most important mental characteristic for pickleball?

To be able to focus. There is a lot going on in pickleball. There is a carnival atmosphere, just chaos.

What age do you suggest a person should start pickleball?

I started at 46. If you want to put in the time and are willing to get beat, you can get out there and learn the basics of court position and shot selection.

Your two children are outstanding players. What does a mom need to know to coach her kids?

When to back off. JW did the tennis grind. Now he is having fun playing pickleball. We are having a tremendous time as a family.

What would help the sport of pickleball?

It needs to be more cohesive at the top level.

What do you see on the pickleball horizon?

Lots of people have done a good job to try to get it into the Los Angeles Olympics. There needs to be an influx of talent; we need more pro players. Seymour Rifkind has been a real driving force. I don’t see an academy for another 5-10 years. We have not seen a pure pickleball kid yet.

Who is your favorite athlete to watch?

Patrick Mahomes. He is such a little spark plug and a team player. He got me when he brought his mom to an award ceremony.

How do you deal with pressure?

It is an ongoing day-to-day process. Signing with a paddle company helped.

Do you believe children follow what you say, or do they observe and follow what you do?

One hundred percent what you do. My kids watched what we did.

Who is your favorite role model mother?

Kevin Durant’s mom. He thanked her in his MVP acceptance speech and said that his mom is the real MVP. Also, Patty Jenee from Columbus, Kansas. She is a good friend from back home.

What do you cook for the family?

We don’t eat dairy, and we eat gluten free because of allergies. We eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. JW likes pasta. Jorja eats poke bowls with Hawaiian raw fish.

At what age did you recognize that your kids had athletic talent?

When JW was 6 months old, Jack gave him a helium balloon and a fly swatter. When JW was 10 months old, Jack hung a whiffle ball from a ceiling fan and gave him a table tennis paddle. Jack and I are athletes, so we expected it.

Do you believe in having an outside coach?

Absolutely. The most important thing is that I am their mother. They can come to me anytime, all the time. It is also good to have somebody care about them besides their parents.

What is your favorite aisle in the supermarket?

The coffee aisle.  •

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