The sport of pickleball was founded on Bainbridge Island, Washington, in the summer of 1965 by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. A few days later, Joan Pritchard coined the name “pickleball” -a reference to crew races’ leftover non-starters known as pickle boats. A few years later, when the sport grew, a controversy erupted after a neighbor said he was there when Joan named the game Pickles after her dog.
It is undisputed that pickleball was first played, and that it was given its name, in the summer of 1965 by Joan Pritchard. The dog story may be true if Pickles were alive at the time. Pritchard later confessed that if Pickles didn’t exist until after 1965, the dog story would only be a funny interview hoax.
The question of when Pickles was born might help resolve the two-story name debate. We decided to dig up the pickleball history and report the truth, regardless of whether it ruffled the feathers of the venerable pickleball community. From 1965-1970, we searched for dog records, discovered photos, and interviewed several people who were there at the time.
The Origins Of Pickleball
It is thought that Pickleball originated on an island just outside of Seattle. A new sport was invented on Bainbridge Island in 1965 by three dads looking for an entertaining activity for their children. Today, Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and Bill Bell are still playing their invention half a century later.
The three dads were trying to when did pickleball start a badminton game when pickleball invented the sport. When they could not find shuttlecocks, they improvised by lowering the net to resemble a tennis court. Currently, the sport is played on 20 by 44-foot specialized courts, roughly the same size as a regulation double badminton court.
A paddle sport similar to badminton, tennis, and ping pong (or table tennis), pickleball combines badminton, tennis, and ping pong. Played like tennis but with a perforated plastic ball, pickleball can be played either singles or doubles.
It is determined that the ball must weigh between .78 and .935 ounces and be 2.874 to 2.972 inches in diameter by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). There are different types of paddles that have been approved for official use, and many companies release new ones every month.
The Continued Growth Of Pickleball
In order to help the sport continue to grow, the USAPA offers a number of outreach programs. Pickleball equipment can be purchased through these programs, including the community grant program and the high school grant program.
Over 1,600 volunteers participate in the USAPA Ambassador Program, which promotes the program’s popularity. Organization and oversight of tournaments are some of the activities that volunteers undertake, as well as representing USAPA in their communities.
Why Pickleball Is Becoming An Even More Popular Sport
Pandemic Pastime: Pickleball began soaring in popularity in recent years; the search for new activities during the coronavirus pandemic turned many people into “picklers.”
There was a 21.3% growth in the number of pickleball players in 2020, showing just how popular the sport is! There is no stopping it, not even the pandemic. It was once again named the “fastest-growing sport in the US”.
Additionally, many players comment on the community’s openness and inclusivity, a characteristic which is well-known among new players. You can easily pick up the game in a casual environment by joining a local league or club and participating in national tournaments, brand sponsorships, and prize money. There are several health benefits to playing pickleball, as well as fewer injuries than in other sports.
Several major pickleball equipment manufacturers have begun sponsoring and offering prizes for professional pickleball players.
Why Is It Called Pickleball?
Now that you know where pickleball origin came from, we all have the same question: why is it called pickleball? Various sources give different accounts of the name to pickleball origin, according to the U.S.A. Pickleball Association.
Joan Pritchard, the wife of Joel Pritchard, nicknamed their game pickleball because the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat, where oarsmen were chosen from leftovers from other boats in the crew. According to Barney McCallum, the game was named after Pritchard’s dog, named Pickles (as you might’ve guessed). They had a dog that was sweet and would run off with the ball before the game was over, despite the sour taste of pickles!
You may find both versions of the game’s name to be true, depending on who you ask. In the beginning, pickleball had no name until an official title became necessary when it gained popularity. Considering pickleball’s laid-back nature, it’s only appropriate that the sport has been named accordingly.
In 1965, pickleball was developed as an alternative to badminton and ping pong. Over its first 20 to 30 years of existence, the sport adopted many rules from other racquet sports such as tennis and badminton. It was possible to play pickleball in all 50 states by the year 1990, and there were local tournaments all over the country. As part of the 2009 Arizona Pickleball Championship, the first national tournament was held.
Barney McCallum, Joel Pritchard, and Bill Bell invented pickleball. As a way to pass the time on a family vacation, Pritchard and Bell came up with pickleball as an alternative to badminton. The late Pritchard was a United States Member of Congress from the state of Washington, and the late Bell was a successful businessman. The pickleball paddle was invented by McCallum, a handyman, and friend of Pritchard and Bell.
Between 1969 and the early 1970s, Joel was interviewed by a reporter from a national publication for the purpose of gaining much-needed publicity for the game. In addition to Joan’s neighbours, a few others attended the event. During a conversation with Joel, the origins of the name “pickleball” were brought up. He told the reporter he inherited the game’s name from Joan who named it pickle boats. He then suggested writing a story about the game being named after his dog (by then a few years old).
To Wrap Up
Pickleball is a game that transcends borders and languages. There are a lot of welcoming players internationally that want to meet new players from around the world. They will help you with all your pickleball needs as you visit a new country.
The future of international pickleball is bright! More countries are joining the IFP and more international players are dominating professional tournaments. Players are transitioning from other racquets/paddle sports to pickleball and encouraging others to join them. Pickleball is not the only fire in America, it is on fire internationally.
Founder of BallSportsGear, Sports Enthusiast and Speaker.