History of Pickleball || How Did Pickleball Get Its Name

People all over the world are quickly becoming fans of Pickleball. It is a sport that combines parts of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. The background of Pickleball is just as interesting as the game itself because it is easy, fun, and open to everyone. Let’s explain where it came from, how it evolved, and the things that make it so popular. 

How pickleball came to be?

Pickleball was first played on Bainbridge Island, Washington, in 1965. Representative Joel Pritchard of Washington State and his friends Bill Bell and Barney McCallum were looking for something fun to do with their families one summer afternoon. Since they didn’t have any badminton gear, they made do with ping-pong sticks, a plastic ball with holes in it, and a badminton net that was too small. This made-up game was the start of what would become Pickleball.

The Name “Pickleball”

Some people are interested in and also some disagree with the name “pickleball”:

What Joan Pritchard Said: The game was like a “pickle boat” in crew racing, where oars from different teams are used to crew a boat. Joan, Joel Pritchard’s wife, said this was a metaphor for how the game mixed different sports.

The Story of Dog In the History Of Pickleball:

Some people think the game got its name from Pickles, the Pritchards’ dog, who was said to have chased lost balls. The Pritchard made it clear that their dog’s name came from the game, not the other way around. 

Early Development and Formalization

History of pickleball

1967: As interest in the game grew among friends and neighbors, the first official pickleball court was constructed on Bainbridge Island. The game’s low-impact nature and ease of play made it particularly popular in retirement communities.

1984: The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was established to deliver a unified set of regulations and promote the sport across the United States. Under the leadership of Sid Williams, the USAPA published the first official pickleball rulebook, standardizing court dimensions, paddle specifications, and scoring systems.

Expansion Beyond the U.S.

1990s: Pickleball began to spread beyond the United States, finding a foothold in Canada and gradually expanding into Europe and Asia. Its accessibility and simplicity contributed to its international appeal.

Pickleball in the 21st Century

The 21st Century marked a significant rise in pickleball’s popularity:

2003: Pickleball was included in the Huntsman World Senior Games in Utah, attracting senior athletes and boosting its profile in competitive sports.

2005: The USA Pickleball Association was reestablished, and in 2008, it published an updated official rulebook. That year, the sport was also included in the National Senior Games Association events, further promoting its growth.

2009: The first USAPA National Tournament took place, drawing nearly 400 participants from various states and Canadian provinces.

2016: The U.S. Open Pickleball Championships debuted in Naples, Florida, quickly becoming a premier event.

2018: The U.S. Pickleball National Championships found a new home at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California, co-hosted by Larry Ellison. This prestigious venue underscored pickleball’s growing status.

Modern-Day Surge and Global Reach

COVID-19 Pandemic (2020-2021): During the pandemic, pickleball saw a remarkable increase in participation due to its suitability for social distancing. By 2021, USA Pickleball membership had reached 50,000, with nearly 8,500 locations listed on the Places2Play map. The sport was named one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., with 4.8 million active players.

2021: The International Federation of Pickleball oversaw 58 member countries, showcasing the sport’s global presence.

2022: Reflecting its cultural significance, Washington State named pickleball its official state sport, signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on the original Pritchard family court.

Key Milestones in Pickleball’s History:

1965: Creation on Bainbridge Island by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum.

1967: Construction of the first official pickleball court.

1984: Formation of the USAPA and publication of the first rulebook.

1990s: Expansion into Canada, Europe, and Asia.

2003: Inclusion in the Huntsman World Senior Games.

2005-2008: Reformation of the USAPA and publication of updated rules.

2009: Inaugural USAPA National Tournament.

2016-2018: Major championships established in Naples, FL, and Indian Wells, CA.

2020-2021: Growth surge during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2022: Officially named the state sport of Washington.

Factors Behind Pickleball’s Success

Several key factors contribute to pickleball’s rapid rise and enduring appeal:

Inclusivity and Accessibility: Pickleball’s smaller court size and slower pace than tennis make it suitable for players of all ages and fitness levels. This broad appeal has made it popular in schools, community centers, and among families.

Social Aspect: Often played in doubles, pickleball fosters teamwork and communication. Many players value the social interactions and sense of community as much as the game.

Low-Impact Nature: As a low-impact sport, pickleball is more peaceful on the joints than tennis or basketball, attracting older players and those looking for a fun way to stay active without excessive strain.

Media Exposure: Upgrading digital media and streaming platforms has increased Pickleball’s visibility. Tournaments, highlights, and instructional videos are readily accessible online, helping to attract new players worldwide.

The Future of Pickleball

From its origins on Bainbridge Island to its current status as a global phenomenon, pickleball’s history is a testament to innovation, community, and the joy of play. The game continues to grow, with professional tournaments, advanced equipment, and a dedicated player base driving its evolution. As pickleball expands, it promises even more excitement and growth, uniting players of all ages and backgrounds in their love for the game.


Who invented pickleball and why is it called so?

Pickleball was founded by Joel Pritchard, Bill
Bell and Barney McCallum in 1965. Joel Pritchard came up with the name “Pickleball” drawing inspiration from the unused participants in the crew races known as “pickle boats”

What does pickle mean in pickleball?

Being “pickled” in pickleball doesn’t bode well – it signifies scoring zero points. Achieving just one point avoids being pickled, but a score of 11-0 indicates the losing side has indeed been pickled.

Why is pickleball so popular?

Pickleball is super popular because it’s not too expensive to get started. You can grab a paddle, some balls, and a pickleball-sized net for under 200 bucks. 

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