Racquetball History

What is the history of Racquetball? What are its origins? Where did Racquetball come from? Who invented it? Here is the history of Racquetball.

Key Facts and Timeline

  • Joseph G. Sobek creates the earliest version of the game called “paddle rackets” in 1949
  • He soon after develops a new racket that combines other racket sports rackets into a smaller, more compact design
  • Sobek also founds the first governing body of the sport in 1952, the National Paddle Rackets Association
  • The first tournament in the sport of racquetball was played in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1968.
  • Robert Kendler, the head of the US Handball Association, founded the International Racquetball Association in 1969 as the sport grows
  • The name of the sport officially changes from paddle rackets to racquetball in 1969 as well
  • The first pro tour in racquetball begins play in 1972
  • The American Amateur Racquetball Association, formerly the IRA, was accepted as a member of the US Olympic Committee in 1982.
  • Racquetball was played in the Pan American Games in 1995, the first appearance in a major international event.
  • The main American governing body once again changed its name in 2003 to USA Racquetball.


Which Country Started Racquetball?

The sport of racquetball gains some of its roots from European nations as it draws on a combination of many racket sports. However, its official creation happened in the United States in the town of Greenwich, Connecticut. Racquetball draws on squash, handball, tennis, and other racket-related sports which were played around the time of its creation. These were morphed together inside of the YMCA in Greenwich where individuals were becoming bored of the games that were available to be played. The sport then grew out of its center in the eastern US spreading across the country over the years after its inception. Racquetball continued to grow somewhat rapidly eventually expanding overseas as well. The sport has grown to vary slightly depending on the place in which it is being played however its core developed in the United States.    

Who Invented Racquetball?

Although racquetball draws its roots from a few different sports invented in a few different areas, it was credited with being invented by a sole individual, Joseph G. Sobek. He was a rubber factory worker who regularly played racket sports games in tournaments across Greenwich. Sobek invented the rules and also tinkered with changing the ball and creating the best one for the game while at work in the factory. Joe is also given credit for starting the Paddle Racquet Association and developing an official set of rules for racquetball in the years after the initial creation of the game. All of the earliest and major developments within this racket sport were credited to Sobek making him the sole early pioneer of the game.    

When was Racquetball Established?

Joseph Sobek, the creator of the game of racquetball, first began to tinker with the sport in the late 1940s. Over the course of 1949 and 1950, he came up with the first set of rules for what was called “paddle rackets” at the time and developed a new racket much like those used in tennis but smaller in size. Sobek continued this earlier establishment of racquetball by creating the National Paddle Rackets Association in 1952 and creating official rulebooks to be passed out and used to spread the game. These were the main events in the beginning of the sport of racquetball with more taking place later on as the sport grew. Its name officially became racquetball in 1969 as well as some of the first tournaments taking place a year earlier in 1968. The first pro tour in the game of racquetball was established in 1972, another major step in the development and growth of the sport.    

Racquetball grew slowly in its humble beginning in Greenwich but took off around the mid to late 1950s when the sport had official rules published. Tournaments began to be played and the sport started to gain international popularity as its popularity in the United States was immensely high around the end of the 1960s. Racquetball spread quickly across the country into health clubs, fitness centers, etc. as thousands of new players started each and every year. Popularity began to peak during the 1980s, however and the number of players leveled off to around 10-15 million across the globe participating in the sport. Even though millions played and still play the sport, it is unlikely that the sport will reach the Olympic Games although the US Olympic Committee has had interests in the sport across multiple occasions.