If you haven’t gotten in on the pickleball craze, you should definitely check it out! While I am far from a great pickleball player, I enjoy getting out and playing with my family. Pickleball is a fast growing sport that is sweeping the nation. Recently I saw a news segment about contention between tennis players and pickleball players over which sport is better and who should be able to use shared courts.
Check out our recent podcast interview with Callie.
Callie’s Start with Pickleball
Callie Jo Smith started as one of those pickleball critics. She grew up playing tennis through high school and in Division I college at the University of Utah. When Callie first learned about pickleball, she was annoyed by players who were using the tennis courts she was playing on. Unlike tennis, which focuses on beautiful form, Callie found pickleball to be obnoxious.
Her husband’s grandfather (at 90 years old!) invited Callie to play in a pickleball tournament with him, and she couldn’t say no. While she was resistant to play pickleball even for fun at first, she finally agreed to give it a try. After pairing with her husband and losing to some older players, Callie was fired up to get better. And now she’s a professional. And yes, she loves pickleball now, thanks in part to Grandpa George Snell getting her started!
Callie Smith’s Professional Accomplishments
Callie first started playing pickleball in 2018 and went pro the next year! Recognized for her signature long hair, Callie is known in the pickleball world as “Rapunzel”. She travels all over the world competing. Here are some of her amazing professional accomplishments:
- 10 time Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) tour champion
- 2021 US Open Champion
- Rated as top 5 women’s player in the world every year since going pro in 2019
- Winning the 2021 USA Pickleball National Championships in Women’s Doubles
- Securing the Women’s Doubles Gold at the PPA Masters Tournament in 2021
- Winning the 2019 and 2020 PPA World Championships in Women’s Doubles
- Winning the 2019 US Open Pickleball Championships in Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles
- Earning multiple regional titles in both singles and doubles play
- Winning the 2018 International Indoor Pickleball Championships in Women’s Singles
As she travels, Callie enjoys networking, making connections, and experiencing different cultures.
The Smith Family
Before they were married, Callie told her then boyfriend, Kyle, that she wanted to pursue her dream of being a professional tennis player. He was very supportive of Callie playing tennis. However, after becoming a mom, Callie felt focusing on being a mom was the right choice for the time being. She started playing pickleball when she was pregnant with her second child and hasn’t looked back. Although it’s different than the path she first envisioned, she says she is loving it!
Making Time for Family
Callie and her husband Kyle are the parents to two children, a daughter and a son. Family time is very important to them and they prioritize family time whenever possible. During our interview, Callie was riding along in the car for her daughter’s school drop off. It was fun to hear little voices from the backseat as we talked.
Callie said she has to schedule in family time to make sure it happens. She said she plans a year at a time. Not only is she competing, she also participates in clinics and does some coaching. Callie says planning in advance helps to ensure time for her family. One thing I loved was that she said they put away their phones and focus on their kids during family time. I think a lot of us would do well to follow that example!
Callie is showing her kids that it’s always important to make time for things you love. And she’s also teaching them to follow their dreams. To her children she says, “Make the goals and live up to your dreams. Whatever you dream you can succeed at if you want to work hard for it.” I love this focus on working hard. Sometimes people assume following a dream means it falls into your lap. Callie emphasized that it definitely takes a lot of work.
From my experience, it’s easy as a mom to allow our own ambitions and dreams to take a backseat or even disappear as we raise our children. We often tell our kids to follow their desires and chase their dreams, but we don’t do it ourselves. It’s important for our kids to realize life should always include improving ourselves and learning more about the things we love.
Callie said she has enjoyed involving her kids in her dreams. Sometimes she takes her family with her when she travels. Callie’s husband Kyle is a huge support to Callie and her dreams and goals. He helps take care of the kids when she is traveling and helps keep things organized as they plan scheduling together.
Again, this thought of moms involving kids in the mom’s dreams is such a valuable piece of advice. When kids see us achieving our goals they realize they can make and achieve goals themselves. Callie says, “Dreams don’t just come to you. You have to set goals and work for it. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it.”
In talking about her family, Callie said, “They have become the dream that I work for. They are my real dream.”
How Motherhood Has Changed Callie’s Outlook on Life
When I asked Callie about how her outlook on life changed after becoming a mom, she was very vulnerable in telling me that she wasn’t ready to be a mom when she learned she was pregnant with her first child. She had been used to working out about 5 hours a day, and pregnancy made her tired so her regular routine wasn’t possible.
After a C-section and 6 months of baby blues, Callie finally felt like she was meant to be a mother and things changed. Talking about her kids, she said, “They are my life. Pickleball is great, but if I had to choose between one or the other, it’s my family.”
I love that she was willing to talk about how hard it was at first and how she didn’t feel ready. Sometimes we tend to sweep those feelings under the rug instead of admitting that those feelings are real for many women. I am grateful that Callie brought this to light. Motherhood is so rewarding and fulfilling, but there are times when it’s scary, challenging, exhausting, and underappreciated or even unappreciated.
What Callie Has Learned through Her Journey
When I asked Callie what she has learned about herself through her journey, she had some great responses. First she said, “I can do hard things.” This is something we would all do well to remind ourselves and our children of. Doing hard things makes us better and makes it easier for us to do even harder things.
Another thing Callie said she has learned is that she is human and can’t do everything herself; she’s learned it’s ok to ask for help. As women, we often think it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. However, when we decide to ask for and accept help, we realize we can be even more when someone else is on our team.
Callie emphasized that she uses goals to help motivate her and measure her progress. As moms, sometimes we focus on our kids making goals, but Callie reminded me that moms should be making goals too. When our kids see us making and achieving our goals, they realize the importance of self improvement and progress.
Who Has Influenced Callie Smith’s Life?
When I asked Callie which women had influenced her most, she immediately mentioned her mom. Callie said her mom has been her coach and biggest supporter from the beginning. I usually ask women I interview who they find inspiring. A lot of the time it’s a mentor or someone else who has paved the way in a certain field. I was so happy to hear Callie say her mom is a huge inspiration to her. I think as moms that’s something we hope to be to our children–a support and an inspiration!
Callie also mentioned the church leaders who helped shape her as she was growing up as well as women who have shared their stories and experiences with her.
In addition to a busy pickleball competition schedule, Callie also coaches tennis and pickleball and runs clinics. I love watching Callie’s videos on social media. She posts clips from her matches as well as instructional videos on pickleball techniques. Her workout and nutrition videos are also very informative and well done. I have tried some of the specific exercise tips she has given and have been pleased with the results.
I have been so impressed with my experience with Callie. She is so down to earth and easy to talk to. Her love for her family is very evident above everything else. It’s been a pleasure learning about Callie and being inspired by her story of hard work, perseverance, self improvement, and love for life. Thanks to Callie and her team for giving us a glimpse into her life! We look forward to following her progress both on and off the court!