Jorja Johnson on the Chicken N Pickle Pro Team
March 7, 2023
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March 7, 2023
Jorja Johnson is on the Chicken N Pickle Pro Team
Jorja Johnson started playing Pickleball as a fun family activity during the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020. Her family had moved the previous year from Pittsburgh, Kansas to Naples, Florida in order for her older brother, J.W., to train for tennis year-round. At the time the family couldn’t have imagined what the Pickleball experiment would turn into for them.
Unlike her brother, Jorja didn’t have a tennis background, so Pickleball was her first foray into a sport with a paddle. As 2020 progressed, it became clear the whole family was hooked. In addition to Jorja and JW, their mother Julie, whose idea it was to try the sport out, was starting to play at a high level. The natural next step for this competitive family was to try out the burgeoning professional Pickleball tours that were popping up as the sport became the fastest growing game in America.
During the transformation to Pickleball, the family relocated to the Boynton Beach area. It quickly became a haven for many of the top players in the sport. Weekly practice sessions began to take place between the best players in the game when they were not playing tournaments on the APP and PPA Tour. In just two short years each member of the Johnson family was ranked number one on the APP Tour for cumulative season long combined points, which is the aggregate of the points earned from singles, gender doubles and mixed doubles.
While her mother and brother quickly rose in the APP Professional rankings, Jorja was still finding her way. At 15, she first found out about Chicken N Pickle through the companies sponsorship of the Next Gen Series, which was created to provide junior players the opportunity to compete with and against peers. Jorja took advantage of the Chicken N Pickle NextGen platform and used the tournaments to gain much needed match experience before jumping to the professional events later in the year.
Like a pitcher being called up to the majors in September, Jorja began playing APP Tour events late in 2021. It didn’t take long for her to make it to the podium, garnering a bronze medal in singles at the APP Atlanta Metro Open. By the end of the year, Jorja had reached two single’s finals, just coming up short against Irina Tereschenko (APP Casa Grande Open) and Milan Rane (APP World Pickleball Open). It was clear she would be playing with the pros going forward, despite be the youngest player on tour.
The previous years late season success was a precursor to the break out year Jorja would have in 2022. After losing in the singles finals of years first APP Tour event in Mesa, Johnson would turn the tables and captured four singles titles during the year. The titles included the APP Boca Raton (Andrea Koop), APP Plantation Open (Parris Todd), APP Philadelphia Open (Megan Fudge) and APP Mesa Open (Mary Brascia). She was also having success in doubles and getting better partners as her ranking improved.
By the end of 2022, Jorja accumulated a total of 42 medals (16-14-12), which included 16 titles. Of the eight gold medals that she won in women’s doubles, seven of them were with different partners, included the final five tournaments of the year. Her results in all disciplines put her at the top of the APP Tour combined rankings list by a considerable margin. Her performance let to her being awarded the SHEFIT Rising Star Award for 2022 at the Consumer Cellular USA Pickleball tournament in Newport Beach, California.
In addition to her APP Tour exploits, Jorja has excelled in the newly formed team competition, known as MLP. Drafted in the second round by the Hard Eights, Jorja proved to be a steal. Playing the final event of the 2022 season in Columbus, Ohio, the Hard Eights surprised everyone in Professional Pickleball by reaching the final, before losing to perennial champions BLQK in a tight 3-1 final.
The 2023 season will be another year of firsts for Jorja as she takes her talents to the PPA Tour. She plans to play mixed doubles full time with her brother, which should make them one of the most feared teams on tour. In addition, she will once again participate in the MLP team events, this year as a member of the Florida Smash.