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History Of Pickleball: Here’s How It All Got Started and Why It’s Called Pickleball

Pickle. Ball.

Weird two words to put together, right?

Pickleball is one of the most popular sports in the world today. Its history begins with a handful of friends who sought to create something unique and fun for themselves in 1965.

Since then, pickleball has seen remarkable growth and continues capturing players’ imaginations across generations.

This article provides an overview of the history of pickleball, beginning with its origins on Bainbridge Island and tracking its evolution over time.

It will explore how this simple pastime became such a passion for millions around the globe and examine key elements that have shaped the game into what it is today.

By learning more about the story of pickleball, readers can gain an appreciation for just how special this sport is and why it carries such a deep sense of belonging among those who know and love it best.

The history of pickleball.

The Beginnings Of Pickleball: Invented On Bainbridge Island

Pickleball is a family-friendly sport that was created in the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

It all began when three men, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum, were looking for an activity to play with their families during the long hot days of summer.

The court size they chose was 20 x 44 feet, allowing them to use a badminton net strung across two sides of their pickleball court. This became the foundation of the first permanent pickleball court (not to mention the first pickleball game and the first pickleball tournament).

The game itself combined elements from other popular sports, such as tennis and ping pong.

To make it more accessible to children and families, they used paddles made out of wooden table tennis paddles and plastic balls similar to those used in wiffleball.

Many local residents soon joined in on the fun, and pickleball quickly became an instant hit among islanders.

As word spread throughout the region, so did its popularity; by 1970, there were already nearly 1000 people playing pickleball nationwide.

The history of Pickleball. Pickleball may have been named after a dog.
The history of Pickleball. Pickleball may have been named after a dog.

Why Is It Called Pickleball?

Pritchard and Bell were the two that invented pickleball (and I guess they were the first pickleball players), but for some reason, they couldn’t agree on how the game got its name. Or maybe the story got lost in translation over the years.

One story is that the family dog, Pickles, loved chasing the whiffle balls… therefore, Pickleball.

Another story concerns Joan Pritchard and how she used to row crew in a pickle boat in college.

Either way, Pickleball is now one of the most famously named sports in the world.

Pickleball is getting very popular.

How The Game Evolved Over Time: The History of Pickleball

Pickleball was created in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum on the outdoor badminton court of the Pritchards’ home in Washington State. The trio originally started playing with a perforated plastic ball from a Whiffle Ball set, wooden paddles made out of plywood, and an improvised net lowered to 34 inches at the center.

As Pickleball gained popularity over time, different skill levels began to emerge. Additional variations also developed, such as court sizes that ranged from small courts for children up to full-sized courts measuring 20 feet wide by 44 feet long.

The dimensions of a pickleball court. The kitchen line is 7 feet from the net on both sides.
The dimensions of a pickleball court. The kitchen line is 7 feet from the net on both sides.

In addition, traditional pickleball lines were added along with a 7-foot non-volley zone line commonly referred to as “the kitchen,” which is located 21 feet from each end of the court. Other rules have been established through USAPA (USA Pickleball Association) tournaments and local leagues:

  • A singles match is played between two players using one paddle each
  • A doubles match involves four players divided into two teams; each team consists of two players who use one paddle each
  • The first player/team to score 11 points wins the game but must win by 2 points
  • It takes three successful touches (after the serve) before winning a point (the two-bounce rule)
  • Players may not touch any part of their body past the baseline when serving

Since its inception more than 50 years ago, Pickleball has grown exponentially worldwide, attracting millions of participants ranging from casual players to professional athletes. Its popularity continues to grow today due mainly to its accessibility among all ages and abilities – it can be enjoyed in backyards across America just like it did back in 1965!

Popularity And Expansion

Since its inception in 1965, pickleball has become increasingly popular over time due to its low skill level requirements and minimal equipment needs.

Initially, it was mainly a recreational sport for seniors living in the Pacific Northwest of North America, but its popularity quickly spread across the United States.

By 1976, organized Pickleball tournaments took place in many states and other countries worldwide. This trend continued into the 1980s when rules were formalized and associations were created to promote competitive play.

As word of this fun game spread, more people began playing it socially with friends and family members. In contrast, others became more serious about competing in tournaments or forming pickleball leagues.

The fact that anyone can learn how to play regardless of age or physical ability has contributed significantly to its growth worldwide. Equipment needed is minimal compared to other racket sports such as tennis – only two rackets (or paddles) and one ball are necessary – so accessibility is much higher than in most conventional sports.

The result has been an exponential increase in participation over the past few decades, making pickleball one of the fastest-growing activities today, both recreationally and professionally.

This surge in popularity shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon as more people discover what makes pickleball so special: fun easy-to-learn gameplay combined with healthy competition at all levels, from casual players to professionals alike.

There are lots of tennis courts around and it's not too difficult to change them into pickleball courts.

Rules And Regulations

Pickleball has become a popular sport in many countries, and as its popularity grows, so too do the rules and regulations that govern it.

The modern game of pickleball is governed by two primary documents: the Official Pickleball Rules and Regulations, published by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), and the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP)’s Rule Book.

According to these documents, pickleball consists of two or four players on either side of a net which hit a perforated plastic ball with wooden or composite paddles.

Scoring systems vary between tournaments but are typically based upon a best-of-three-games format played to 11 points.

A point is awarded when an opposing player fails to return the ball over the net within the designated court area.

Paddles used for playing have evolved significantly since their inception, from basic wooden designs to today’s advanced composites made from lightweight materials such as aluminum, carbon fibre and graphite.

These new paddle designs help players generate more power and greater accuracy while playing.

They also allow for easier maneuvering around opponents due to their lighter weight compared to traditional wood paddles.

The Future Of Pickleball

As pickleball continues to grow in popularity, the future of this beloved sport looks bright. The rules and regulations that have been developed over time will continue to guide players as they improve their technique and increase their skill levels. With advancements in equipment and technology, new opportunities for recreational fun or competitive tournaments are created daily.

The growth of any sport is dependent on its ability to attract a wide range of participants at all skill levels; pickleball has proved itself capable of doing just that. As more people discover the joys of pickleball, it stands to reason that the number of dedicated players and courts available may expand exponentially. What was once an unknown backyard game has become a vibrant community with numerous resources available to anyone interested in joining the ranks of pickleball enthusiasts.

Pickleball offers something unique — an opportunity for individuals from all walks of life to come together through the friendly competition without sacrificing enjoyable gameplay.

Pickleball’s growing presence in both urban and rural areas shows no signs of waning anytime soon, making it one of the most accessible sports around today. For those looking for a way to stay active while having fun, there is nothing quite like the experience offered by pickleball —and its legacy will certainly remain strong long into the future.

The history of Pickleball and the future of Pickleball.
The history of Pickleball and the future of Pickleball.


Pickleball has come a long way since its inception on Bainbridge Island, Washington. It is now one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, with over 3 million players annually and continues to gain popularity worldwide.

The game’s appeal lies in its accessibility; it can be played by people of any age or skill level and provides an excellent exercise source for all who participate. As pickleball grows, so do the rules and regulations that govern it, ensuring fairness and safety for everyone involved.

It is estimated that this beloved sport will continue to rise in prominence across generations for years to come, introducing new participants to its unique combination of strategy and athleticism daily.

Pickleball stands as a testament to ingenuity and perseverance: despite humble beginnings, it has grown into something enjoyed by millions around the globe – showing just how far dedication and hard work can take you.

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