One of 10 Siblings, Johnson Knows The Value of Teamwork

July 1, 2009

Teamwork does not necessarily come naturally to many athletes. Some athletes struggle to find a group mentality or to mold their own role in a team. For Estelle Johnson, a senior defender on the University of Kansas’ women’s soccer team, teamwork has always been a part of her life. Johnson comes from a large family, which required teamwork to make it through everyday life. That undoubtedly attributed to some of her sharing team successes on the field.

Johnson is the eighth-born in a family of 10 children, so family life in her hometown of Fort Collins, Colo. was undoubtedly chaotic. Between hand-me-down clothes and sharing toys, it was hard to find a moment alone, but that’s the way Johnson liked it. Luckily, getting ready for school was not nearly as hectic as one would imagine in a household of 10 children.

“We’re all pretty evenly spaced, so there would be four going to high school, four going to junior high and so on,” Johnson said. “We had four bathrooms, so it wasn’t bad. We would just get mad at each other if someone would use the hot water for too long.”

One thing they could always agree on was sports. They worked as a team not only just to get through everyday life, but also to practice and play the sports they love.

“Everyday after school we would go home and play soccer in the backyard,” Johnson said.”Actually, our neighbors tried to talk to our parents and get us to stop playing because we broke the fence so frequently. We used the fence as a goal, so we ended up having to replace that fence a lot.”

That was not the only time someone would comment on the impact a family that size makes. When the family of 12 went grocery shopping, they were bound to turn a few heads.

“My mom did all of the grocery shopping, but we would always be so embarrassed to go with her because she always bought in bulk,” Johnson said. “If it was buy-one milk get-one free, she would buy 20. People would ask if we were having a party, and we would say, ‘nope, we’re just shopping.'”

Although having that many brothers and sisters helped the siblings learn the value of teamwork, many have gone on to athletic success individually. The oldest brother, Decos, played basketball at Trinidad State in Colo., two brothers played football at Ft. Lewis College, and Johnson’s next-older sister, Esther, went to Morgan State to play volleyball.

Johnson’s individual accomplishments have been noticed as well. She has earned all-region honors twice in her KU career for her physical style of defense. Only one other sibling so far is following in Johnson’s footsteps and choosing a path as a collegiate soccer player.

“My little sister Jenny is going to play soccer at Wyoming next year,” Johnson said. “I wish she was coming to Kansas, but it’s pretty cool. I’m happy for her.”

Despite being spread out for college athletics, most of the Johnson family is making its way back to Ft. Collins after graduating from their respective schools. Now that these siblings have had time apart to grow and mature, their relationships with each other have changed from bickering brothers and sisters to close friends.

“We get along a lot better now,” Johnson said. “We actually realized we are all cool and we actually like hanging out with each other now. We’re not just forced to. It’s a lot more fun now and it’s just getting more and more fun as we grow up and start to appreciate each other.”