What is Pickleball and its History?

Last Updated on January 30, 2023

Pickleball is a sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. It is typically played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court with a net similar to a tennis net, but lower, and a perforated plastic ball similar to a wiffle ball.

The game can be played with two or four players and the objective is to hit the ball over the net and into the opponent’s court, with the opponent being unable to return the ball.

Pickleball is widely played in the USA and Canada, but it is increasing in popularity in other countries as well. The sport has grown significantly in recent years, and many communities have built dedicated pickleball courts to accommodate the growing number of players.

Pickleball founder playing pickleball sport

The Story Behind Pickleball

Photo of Pickleball game inventors.
Photo of Pickleball game inventors.

Pickleball was invented in 1965 by three dads – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum – who were looking for a new game to play with their families on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

The story goes that the dads were inspired to create pickleball after they found a badminton net and ball, but no rackets. They improvised by using ping pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball, and pickleball was born.

Why is it Called Pickleball?

The name “Pickleball” is said to have originated from the Pritchard family’s dog, Pickles, who would chase after the ball and get it stuck in the bushes, or “pickle patch.” However, some sources say that the name “pickleball” was chosen simply because it was a fun and unique name for a new game.

Was Pickleball Named After a Dog?

The origin of the name “pickleball” is somewhat disputed, with some sources saying that it was named after the Pritchard family’s dog, Pickles, and others saying that it was simply a fun and unique name for a new game. Regardless of the true origin of the name, pickleball has become a beloved and popular sport among players of all ages.

When did Pickleball Become Popular?

Pickleball began to gain wider recognition and popularity in the 1970s, when it was introduced to other parts of the United States and Canada. It has continued to grow in popularity in the decades since, with many communities building dedicated pickleball courts and hosting local, regional, and national tournaments.
In recent years, pickleball has seen a particularly strong surge in popularity, with more and more people of all ages discovering and falling in love with the sport. This has been fueled in part by the pandemic, as pickleball is a socially-distant outdoor activity that can be played safely while following public health guidelines. As a result, the sport has experienced a significant increase in participation and interest in recent months.

Pickleball History Timeline

Here is a timeline of key events in the history of pickleball:

1965Pickleball is invented on Bainbridge Island, Washington by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum.
1967The first official rules of pickleball are written.
1970Pickleball begins to gain wider recognition and popularity, with the sport being introduced to other parts of the United States and Canada.
1972The first set of official Pickleball rules was established, and the game began to be organized into tournaments and leagues.
1976The first Pickleball club was formed and the first National tournament held in the same year.
1984The first USAPA (USA Pickleball Association) National Championship is held in Tucson, Arizona.
2005The first International Pickleball Federation (IPF) World Championship is held in Canada.
2010USAPA becomes the governing body for pickleball in the United States.
2020Pickleball experiences a surge in popularity due to the pandemic, with more people discovering and playing the sport as a socially-distant outdoor activity.
2021Pickleball is recognized as a medal event at the World Games, and the first World Pickleball Championship is held.
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