(If You Build It They Will Come) – by Fred Amman

Fred’s article about PB in St. James was published this month in St. James Living.

  Most are familiar with Kevin Costner’s Iowa cornfield conversation from the movie Field of Dreams. In actuality, the line was, “If you build it, he will come,” referring to his father, or perhaps, Shoeless Joe Jackson. But what does this have to do with pickleball?

          In the fall of 2015, the POA was approached with a proposal to build pickleball courts in St. James. After all, it was the fastest-growing sport for the AARP crowd. Thousands were already playing in places like The Villages and other senior communities throughout the country.

          After careful consideration, the POA rejected the plan, citing, among other reasons, the noise issue. Pickleball is indeed a loud sport. However, a second factor was noted, the lack of players in St. James. At that time, there were about 20 who traveled over to Oak Island to play. It was at this point the movie line was quoted.    

          The idea was then pitched to Troon in the spring of 2016. They responded by converting the tennis hitting wall at Seaside into two makeshift courts with portable nets. Overnight, the number of players began to grow, and the courts saw a lot of action.

          In 2018, an introduction to pickleball clinic drew standing-room crowds. The new Troon general manager became a regular in the guys’ Tuesday night group, and permanent nets replaced the rolling ones. Competition on the courts improved, as did skill levels, but so did the rush to book court time. If you did not secure a reservation for your preferred time, when booking opened online at 7:00 AM, you were out of luck.

          It was evident that more courts were needed. Troon stepped up, and discussions began on building a new court complex. After a site was located, players were consulted, plans were drawn, bids were taken, and eventually, construction began. Slowed by weather and the permitting process, the courts finally became ready for play in the fall of 2020.

          Today, over 400 St. James Pickleball Association (SJPA) members play on the eight courts at the Greg Rymer Memorial Pickleball Courts. The SJPA does a tremendous job of organization, from setting up competitive leagues to fun team tournaments. There are also daily open times and weekly round-robin groups. (stjamespickleball.com)

For the uninitiated, pickleball is a racquet sport played with a paddle and wiffleball. It requires agility, hand-eye coordination, and a developed skill set of shots. Pickleball is played as a doubles game. Since the court is 1/3 the tennis court size, it’s much easier to cover the area. Just stay out of “the kitchen.”

          As for rules, you learn them pretty quickly. Games to 11, points scored only on your serve. The scoring can be confusing, considering seniors often forget what they had for breakfast, so the score is called at the beginning of each point. If you have not already given pickleball a try, now that they’re built, come out and play.