The APP Player Spotlight Series: Yates Johnson 

The APP Player Spotlight Series: Yates Johnson 

Get to know Yates Johnson.

APP
|
August 2, 2023
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The APP is home to incredible pickleball players, of all ages and performance levels, who come with a rich range of stories that brought them to the sport we love. In our APP Player Spotlight series, we shine the light on the vast range of pickleball players and give them a platform to tell their own stories. Up next is Yates Johnson – country music enthusiast, and twin brother of Hunter.  To read Hunter Johnson's APP Player Spotlight Series, please click here.

APP: When and how did you come into the world of pickleball?  

Yates Johnson: I was a professional tennis player for five years after college. Late in 2022, a sponsor reached out to my twin brother and I to play pickleball. At first we thought, “No way, there’s zero chance we're going to leave our dreams of professional tennis.” We sat on it for about a month and weighed the pros and cons, and we saw the huge opportunity that pickleball presented with sponsors and prize money, so we decided to take the leap and jump in. We practiced for about two weeks and then went and played our first tournament at the beginning of last year and haven't looked back since.    

APP: So you had literally never played pickleball before?  

Johnson: Hunter and I played pickleball once when we were 12 years old in Flagstaff, Arizona. Our friends had an airplane hangar at their cabin, and we played a little bit there and had no idea what this sport was. Fast forward until now when pickleball came back on our radar, we looked into it and started playing again, saw how fun it was, and decided to jump on it.  

APP: What's been your career highlight to this point?  

Johnson: I'd say my career highlight so far in pickleball was getting my first medal, in Cincinnati last year. I got third place there and Hunter lost in the finals. For both of us to get medals there was really exciting.

APP: What are your goals for 2023?  

Johnson: My goal for 2023 is to be the best in the world in pickleball. To be number one on the APP Tour, and to try to beat out my twin brother. We'll see how that goes. I’d love to get as many medals as I can all year long.  

APP: There's more than 48 million people who have played pickleball to this point. How far do you think this sport can go?  

Johnson: I think there's really no cap in this sport for how far it can go. Once everyone plays it, they’ll get the bug and just keep wanting to play it. It's almost unlimited. Millions and millions of people have already played and will continue to play, the pro side and the viewership side will continue to grow, and this sport can just keep expanding.  

APP: What would it mean to see pickleball in the Olympics and to potentially represent the United States as an Olympic athlete?  

Johnson: That would be amazing. We might have a couple more years until we get there – it's said to be a demonstration sport in 2028 as long as more countries start picking pickleball up. The world will fall in love with pickleball.  To represent the United States in pickleball in the Olympics would be truly incredible. You grow up watching the Olympics as a kid, and I think it doesn't matter what sport you play – to be in the Olympics is a huge achievement, it's a lifelong dream of mine and that would be really cool to reach.

APP: How did you first get involved with the APP?  

Johnson: The 2022 APP tournament in Punta Gorda, Florida was the first pro tournament we've ever played. We played doubles and we got killed. We got hit in the mouth a little bit. That was our first APP tournament on this journey, and they do such a good job of treating people so well. They're treating their players well, giving the fans an awesome experience, and really putting on a good tournament – it’s exciting to be able to play all the APP events.  

APP: If you could describe the APP in one word, what would it be?  

Johnson: One word to describe the APP is community. I feel like it's very lighthearted when we're all out at tournaments. Everyone is super friendly and welcoming, and really it's all about getting out there and playing pickleball and having some fun – and I think APP is perfect for that.  

APP: What does pickleball mean to you?  

Johnson: What pickleball as a sport means to me, is that community, that family – getting out there and just having fun. I mean, there's so many people who are staying active because of pickleball – all ages, genders, doesn't even matter. It's such a welcoming sport and that's why it's one of the fastest growing sports in the country.  

APP: What's been your biggest challenge or roadblock as part of this journey?  

Johnson: The biggest challenge of being an APP pro pickleball player is the amount of work that you have to put in. It's not like you just show up to these tournaments and play and then go home and sit on the couch. You have to train, you have to work hard, you have to hit the gym, and hit the practice courts. There are really long days in pickleball. That was the biggest shocker coming from tennis tournaments – you play one match a day, you go home, and recover, but in pickleball, you play three events back to back for three or four days, and it's all day long. The biggest struggle is staying healthy and staying energized.    

APP: What's some advice that you would give to a young athlete who's trying to make their way into the pro ranks of pickleball?  

Johnson: Some advice I'd give would be just to work hard. I think people underestimate pickleball as being this easy sport that your grandma plays. It's becoming the opposite. It's becoming very physical, very hard, and kind of brutal. It's a grind out there. Just work hard – nothing's going to be given to you – but another thing is just have fun. It's pickleball – you’ve got to enjoy yourself out there.  

APP: Time for some rapid-fire questions. Outside of the world of pickleball, who is your dream pickleball partner? 

Johnson: Roger Federer.  

APP: Who is your favorite person in pickleball to play against?  

Johnson: My twin brother Hunter.  

APP: What pre-match song or music hypes you up or gets you in the right headspace? 

Johnson: Country music – Jason Aldean, Cody Johnson, and Morgan Wallen. 

APP: Favorite pre-match snack?  

Johnson: A banana and oatmeal.

APP: Favorite post-match meal? 

Johnson: Protein, chicken, rice, steak. Maybe some sushi.

APP: Any hidden talents?  

Johnson: I’m not a bad singer.

APP: Any guilty pleasures?  

Johnson: Chocolate and cookies.  

APP: Lastly, what motivates you?  

Johnson: What motivates me is winning. I love to win, try to make a living and just enjoy it along the way.  

Yates Johnson and the rest of the APP pros return to action at the 2023 APP Sunmed St. Louis Open, August 9-13 at the Dwight Davis Tennis Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Get your tickets now for the 2023 APP Sunmed St. Louis Open.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Player Spotlight series. 

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