History of Pickleball

​​pickleball history

Pickleball began with humble origins on an island in Washington but has grown to become an extremely popular sport amongst older residents and is beginning to gain popularity amongst high school and college students. However, the history of pickleball does not lack controversy, as there is debate over how the name originated.


Pickleball History

Pickleball was first invented in 1965 by three friends near Seattle, Washington. The game came about because Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell were on a family vacation and wanted to find a way to entertain their children. The original plan was to play badminton with the kids, but they did not have enough equipment. Instead, they improvised by using ping pong paddles and a plastic ball. Pickleball began as a sport initially played only by the family and friends of the founders within the state of Washington but eventually became incorporated and spread beyond Washington.

The third inventor, Barney McCallum, invented the pickleball paddle and eventually ran a company that sold pickleball equipment. The pickleball company, Pickle-ball Inc., initially sold a set of four paddles along with a net and plastic ball for $30. However, prices for pickleball equipment have increased over time, with most sets of paddles and balls being sold for close to $100 currently.

The first official pickleball tournament was played eleven years after Pritchard and Bell invented the sport at their vacation home in 1965, and regular tournaments across the United States began as early as 1982. By 1990, pickleball was played in all fifty states, and the first national pickleball tournament occurred in Arizona in 2009. This tournament drew more than 400 players from across the United States and Canada.

Pickleball has gained popularity across the United States and throughout the world, and, in 2019, there were reported to have been 2.6 million pickleball players in the United States alone. Despite this, pickleball will still not become an Olympic sport in the near future. One of the main reasons for this is that pickleball has a unique court setup, and there are areas with no courts available for pickleball across the world. Demographics is also an issue that keeps pickleball from gaining Olympic glory, as the age of the average pickleball player is over forty years old. However, this is adjusting, as many colleges and universities provide pickleball as a physical education or intramural option.

Name Origin of Pickleball

There is debate over how the name “pickleball” originated. The two main debated stories are a story about a dog named Pickles and a pickle boat.

In the dog story, Joel Pritchard had a dog named Pickles while pickleball was in its infancy stages. According to the Pritchard family and other people who were around when the game was invented, pickles would often run around the yard while the new racquet sport was being played. Whenever the ball went out of bounds and into the bushes surrounding the court, pickles would run away with the ball and temporarily halt the game until the ball was returned. As the story goes, the founders decided to name the new sport after pickles.

In a contradicting story, Joel Pritchard’s wife claims that she thought of the name pickleball because the game reminded her of a pickle boat. Pritchard’s wife, Joan, was a competitive rower in college and a pickle boat refers to a boat in rowing that often finishes in last place with a mismatched and randomly strung-together crew. Joan claims that the new sport reminded her of a pickle boat and claims that Pickles the dog was named after the sport and not vice versa. Chronologically speaking, this story makes more sense as it has been proven that Pickles was not adopted until after the sport was invented.

Key Dates And Facts Timeline

  • 1965: Pickleball began in Bainbridge Island, Washington, by Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell while on a family vacation
  • 1972: Pickleball Inc. was created to incorporate the sport officially and in order for the founders to keep up with the constant demand for equipment and supplies
  • 1976: The first known pickleball tournament was played at a clubhouse in Tukwila, Washington, and many of the participants were tennis players who did not understand the rules of pickleball
  • 1982: Pickleball pioneer, Sid Williams, began organizing regular tournaments in the state of Washington
  • 1984: The first pickleball rule book was established by the United States Amateur Pickleball Association (USAPA)
  • 1990: Pickleball was being played in all 50 states and became more popular, as the founders would go to different high schools throughout the country to promote the game to different P.E. classes
  • 1997: Pickleball co-founder, Joel Pritchard, passed away
  • 1998: Sid Williams stepped down as the President of the USAPA
  • 2009: The first national Pickleball tournament was held in Arizona and drew more than 400 competitors from across the United States and Canada
  • 2019: The last of the three co-founders, Barney McCallum, passed away at the age of 93
  • 2019: There were reported to be 2.6 million Pickleball players in the United States, and the game had expanded across the world

FAQ

What is the history of pickleball?

Pickleball began in 1965 as an alternative to Badminton and Ping Pong. The sport adopted many rules from other racquet sports such as Tennis and Badminton and began to expand over its first 20 to 30 years of existence. By 1990, pickleball was played in all 50 states, and there were local tournaments all over. The first national Pickleball tournament was played in 2009 in Arizona.

Who invented pickleball?

Pickleball was invented by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. Pritchard and Bell were bored while on a family vacation and thought of pickleball as an alternative to badminton that they could play on asphalt. Pritchard was a U.S. Representative from the state of Washington, and Bell was a successful businessman. McCallum was a handyman and friend of Pritchard and Bell who invented the pickleball paddle and ran a company that sold pickleball equipment.

Where did pickleball start?

Pickleball began in Bainbridge Island, Washington, while Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell were on a family vacation. Both Pritchard and Bell lived in Washington at the time, and the first permanent pickleball court was installed in their friends’ backyard two years after this family vacation. The court where the duo invented pickleball is still standing in its original spot. Word spread of the new game through relatives and friends of Pritchard and Bell.