They call her the “Pickleball Queen.”
Anna-Maria Joseph’s love affair with the game began during the pandemic, when hotels in Antigua were closed.
At the time, the tourism executive was living at Elite Island Resorts’ St James’s Club, and Elite Chairman Robert Barrett suggested she go and learn pickleball to fill the time.
The all-inclusive St James’s Club and Villas is arguably the Caribbean capital of pickleball, with three different courts — a vibrant home for a sport that continues to surge in popularity, particularly in the United States, Antigua’s top source market.
Indeed, Elite has placed a premium on the game, which combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong and is played with a rectangular, round-edged paddle.
“I decided to learn, and I and my daughter and other friends started playing,” Joseph says. “That’s how I became a pickleball queen.”
Joseph, who has a mask adorned with Pickleball Queen to prove it, leads the sport’s programming at St James’s Club and the nearby Hammock Cove resort, which also has two courts of its own.
She’s also available to all guests that are looking for a game, or if their traveling partners aren’t players themselves.
More and more guests are seeking out both resorts for their pickleball offerings.
Pineapple Beach Club, an adults-only Elite Island Resorts property on nearby Long Bay in Antigua, is also planning to add four more courts.
“It started with just a few guests. Over time, it started to pick up, and now a lot more people are getting involved with playing the game,” she says. “There are so many enthusiastic people.”
There are even plans to create a tournament or start a local professional league on the island, in an effort to get the community in Antigua to try out the sport.
“I play every day if I can,” Joseph says. “It’s a very addictive sport.”