Pickleball History: Origins & Name Explained

Imagine a game that mixes the quick reflexes of ping pong with the deep strategy of chess. It also has the lively movement of tennis. All this happens on a court made for accessibility and fun. Welcome to pickleball, a sport that not only captivates but also connects players of all ages. Join us as we explore the fascinating origins of America’s fastest-growing sport. Then, we’ll look at its explosive growth.

What is pickleball?

Pickleball is a blend of ping pong, badminton, and tennis. It is a paddle sport for two or four players. They play on a court like a badminton court. The net is set lower than a tennis net. It is at waist height. This makes the game fun and open to players of all ages and skill levels. Pickleball is known for its simple setup and easy rules. It is an introductory sport. It is also challenging, fast-paced, and competitive for the more experienced.

Why Pickleball is Growing Rapidly

Pickleball has become very popular in recent years. The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) has led in promoting the sport. It is appealing because its play style is highly contagious and community-oriented. It is suitable for all ages and skill levels. You might play for fun, fitness, or fierce competition. Pickleball has something for everyone. It’s a staple in community centres and a favourite among families. They seek a fun and active way to connect.

Who invented pickleball? What year was pickleball invented?

Pickleball was born in 1965. Joel Pritchard was a congressman from Washington. Bill Bell was a successful businessman. They returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, Washington. They faced the challenge of entertaining their bored children. They couldn’t find the right equipment to play badminton on an old court.

They improvised innovatively. They started playing with table tennis paddles and a plastic ball with holes. Initially, they set the net at badminton net height, about 60 inches high, and volleyed the ball over it. As the play progressed over the weekend, they noticed the ball bounced well on the asphalt.

They lowered the net to 36 inches high. The next weekend, Barney McCallum joined. The three men created the rules of pickleball. They aimed to make a game for the whole family to play when bored.

By 1967, the first pickleball court was built. It was in the backyard of Pritchard’s friend and neighbour, Bob O’Brian. In 1972, a group formed a corporation to protect the sport. By 1975, the National Observer wrote about pickleball for the first time. Tennis magazine also highlighted it as “America’s newest racquet sport” in 1976.

The spring of 1976 marked the first known tournament. It was held at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. Team ONIX’s Steve Paranto placed second, and David Lester won the Men’s Singles. This was a time when new sport players knew little about the game. They practised with large wood paddles and a softball-sized whiffle ball.

In 1984, the United States Amateur Pickleball Association published the first pickleball rulebook. This showed a strong commitment to the sport’s growth and progress. Sid Williams was the first executive director and president from 1984 to 1998. Frank Candelario followed him until 2004. Meanwhile, Steve Paranto’s father is Arlen Paranto. He is a Boeing engineer. He made the first composite pickleball paddle using fiberglass and nomex honeycomb. These are materials used in aeroplanes for floors and structure.

By 1990, pickleball was being played in all 50 states. Pickle-Ball, Inc. began manufacturing pickleball in-house with a custom drilling machine by 1992. The first pickleball website, Pickleball Stuff, was launched in 1999. This marked a big milestone in the sport’s digital presence.

In 2001, the sport was in the Arizona Senior Olympics. It drew 100 players, the most yet. The USA Pickleball Association was established in 2005. It was to further the sport’s growth. By 2008, the USAPA Rules Committee published an official rulebook. Pickleball was included for the first time in the National Senior Games Association. A major boost in visibility came when Good Morning America aired a live segment on pickleball. This was its first mass media exposure.

The first USAPA National Tournament was held in November 2009. It drew nearly 400 players from 26 states and some Canadian provinces. Since then, the sport has exploded in popularity. Millions play in tournaments. They range from the young to the old all over the world. Today, the USAPA has more than 40,000 members. Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. It has about 3.3 million participants.

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How did pickleball get its name? Why is it called pickleball?


While many enjoy pickleball, its name often brings a laugh. This is mostly because pickles are not involved. So, where did this peculiar name come from? There’s a bit of a debate regarding how the name originated. According to one of the two accounts, Joan Pritchard and Joel Pritchard coined the name. They likened the game to a pickle boat in crew. In a pickle boat, oarsmen are chosen from the leftovers of other boats.

The second account adds a twist, involving Barney McCallum and a dog named Pickles. It’s said that Pritchard’s dog, Pickles, would often chase the ball and run off with it. This led some to believe the game was named after the dog. But, the plot thickens. Pickles didn’t join the family until a couple of years after the game was created. This casts doubt on the charming story.

I have delved deep into the sport’s history. I did this through my own game experiences and talks with fellow players. These stories resonate differently each time they’re told. On ESPN and at local Washington meetups, the story varies. But, the shared laughter and camaraderie stay the same.

Final Thoughts

Pickleball has risen from a backyard pastime to a nationally recognized sport. This rise reflects its universal appeal and simple joy. Each game brings together diverse communities, echoing laughter and spirited competition. The story of pickleball is for both seasoned players and newcomers. It offers a unique blend of history and fun. It shows that the best innovations come from simple ideas. As it continues to grow, pickleball is a testament to community power. It also shows the lasting appeal of a good game.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is pickleball? 

Pickleball is a paddle sport. It combines elements of ping pong, badminton, and tennis. It is played on a court like a badminton court with a lower net.

Who invented pickleball and when? 

Pickleball was invented in 1965. Joel Pritchard, a congressman, and Bill Bell, a businessman, invented it. They invented it on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, Washington.

Why is pickleball growing rapidly?

 Pickleball is growing because it’s easy for all ages and skill levels. It has a simple setup and a community focus. These traits make it popular in community centres and among families.

How did pickleball get its name?

 The name “pickleball” might come from a comparison to a pickle boat in crew. In crew, oarsmen are chosen from the leftovers of other boats. But, a popular but wrong story credits it to a dog named Pickles.

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