Pickleball is a sport that transcends the boundaries of age and skill. This paddle sport is not only easy to learn and play but can also be enjoyed by adults and kids alike. 

The rules are simple – nothing fancy and complicated. But this doesn’t mean that pickleball is not a competitive sport. In fact, its ease of play makes it more competitive because a lot of people can play and excel in it. 

With the right skill set, however, you can transform yourself into a master paddle wizard and compete in professional tournaments.

The game combines various elements of ping pong, tennis, and badminton. It’s played on a court the size of badminton court with a somewhat adjusted tennis net. Pickleball can be enjoyed both indoors and outdoors in doubles and singles matches.

Over the years, pickleball has developed into a genuine sport with international recognition, all thanks to the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP). Despite its popularity, few know the origin of pickleball.

So what’s the history of pickleball?

Who Created Pickleball?

Pickleball was created by congressmen Barney McCallum, Joel Pritchard, and William Bell in 1965. 

The then Bainbridge Island residents came home after a day of golfing to find their kids restless and bored. Baffled by the inactivity of their kids on a beautiful summer day, they came up with a game that would keep their families active and entertained all summer long. 

Trying to come up with a game that was both challenging and easy to learn, they handed a whiffle ball and table tennis paddles to their kids and lowered the badminton net in their backyard and let them play. After a few days of play, more neighbors took interest in the game, and the rules began to slowly evolve. The non-volley zone was among the earliest rules developed.

In 1967, Barney, Joel, and William constructed the first ever pickleball court in Bob O’Brien’s backyard. O’Brien was a close friend and a neighbor to Pritchard.

Pickleball History Origin: How Did the Game Get its Name?

Pickleball is an interesting name for a game that doesn’t involve pickles, isn’t it? There are two theories about the pickleball name.  

The first account holds that Joan Pritchard, Joel Pritchard’s wife, came up with the name because the combination of various elements of different sports brought back memories of the Pickle Boat crew, whose oarsmen were selected from leftovers of other main boats.

On the other hand, Barney McCallum believes that pickleball was named after Pritchard’s household dog, Pickles. He is adamant that people picked up the name after Pickles developed a habit of running off with the ball during games.

Some people believe that both accounts are coincidentally true. 

How Has the Game Evolved Over the Years?

Ever since the game was invented, it has evolved massively. Changes have cut across the game’s spectrum, from the rules and popularity to the court and equipment. 

Initially, the game relied on badminton rules. However, these rules proved unsuitable and the founders were forced to revise some rules to make the game enjoyable for all. 

One such adjustment was the net height. The net was initially set 5 feet high, with players returning the ball on the volley. Later on, it was realized that the ball had a significant bounce on the Asphalt surface. As a result, they adjusted the net height to about 3 feet to allow bouncing shots.

With formalized rules in play, the game continued to gain popularity throughout the 70s. In 1975, the National Observer published the first ever article about the new racquet sport. This was followed by a Tennis Magazine article a year later. This kind of popularity propelled the game from an ordinary family sport to a nationally recognized racquet game.

In 1976, the first-ever pickleball tournament was hosted at South Center Athletic Club in Washington. From this event, David Lester became the first pickleball champion in the Singles category. Since pickleball equipment was rare then, most participants practiced with wooden paddles and a whiffle ball the size of a softball.

In 1984, USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was formed and tasked with perpetuating the growth of pickleball in the country. Among the first direct duties of USAPA was to draft the pickleball rulebook. This was done and released in the same year. 

Meanwhile, Arlen Paranto created the first ever composite pickleball paddle using fiberglass honeycomb panels. By 1990, pickleball was being played all over the country. In 2001, pickleball was inaugurated into the Arizona Senior Olympics. The game drew 100 players, a number that would double and triple in the next few years.

Pickleball Today and the Future

Pickleball has come a long way since it was invented. Today, it is a paddle sport that boasts of international recognition and millions of fans. In Spain, U.S., and Canada, the game is a staple racquet sport in schools, recreation centers, and sports clubs.

Joel Pritchard may have been an outstanding congressman, but his legacy shall forever be in pickleball. Long live pickleball!

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