The Surprising Origins Of Pickleball: From Dog Chew Toys To Olympic Dreams

Pickleball is a sport that originates in Bainbridge Island, Washington, United States, and has seen an incredible surge in popularity over the past few decades.

This article seeks to explore the surprising history of pickleball: from its humble beginnings as a backyard game with dog chew toys to its potential inclusion in the upcoming Olympic Games.

The pickleball story starts in 1965 when three fathers on Bainbridge Island, Washington, invented this game while they were looking for something fun to do with their families.

They used ping pong paddles and wooden wiffle balls; later, these items were swapped out for custom-made perforated plastic balls and lightweight pickleball rackets on an official pickleball court.

Throughout the years, modifications have been made so that all ages can enjoy this growing popular game. Let’s dive a bit deeper into how this game went from a backyard pastime to the USA Pickleball Association, pickleball tournaments, and a fun and inclusive game being played in all 50 states and around the world.

Bainbridge Island is where pickleball was invented.

The Inventors Of Pickleball

Perhaps unbeknownst to many, pickleball started as a game played by three people in the summer of 1965 – Congressman Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and Bill Bell. What began as an entertaining way for two families with young children to pass the time on Bainbridge Island, Washington, quickly evolved into a sport enjoyed across North America and beyond. How did this happen?

These three gentlemen (with help from their wives and a dog) created a game called pickleball (and the first permanent pickleball court) to keep their kids occupied during the long summer months at the cottage they shared near Seattle, Washington, at a place called Bainbridge Island. Drawing inspiration from badminton and tennis, they improvised with whatever was available. The first pickleball paddles were made of wood planks and resembled table tennis paddles. The first pickleball balls were procured from the local hardware store, originally intended as dog chew toys! 

There are a few legends about pickleball’s name origins. Some say that the family dog who chewed the balls was named “Pickles.” Others say that Joan Pritchard, Joel’s wife, used to race pickle boats in college and used that for the name. Either way, the name stuck and is fun to say for people worldwide today.

Although created solely for entertainment purposes, when word spread about this new game, it soon caught on with other families in the area leading to its rapid growth over the decades. The motivations behind inventors Pritchard and Bell have inspired millions worldwide to adopt pickleball today – a far cry from its humble beginnings!

Origins of pickleball

The Equipment For Pickleball

Pickleball is an increasingly popular sport around the world, and its equipment consists of items such as rackets, balls, nets, shoes, clothes, gloves, goggles, court markings, paddles, bags, strings, grips, court surfaces, court accessories, and court lights.

All of these items are necessary for athletes to perform at their best in the sport, and their use has evolved over the years since the game’s surprising beginnings as a game played with a dog chew toy.

As its popularity has grown, so has the quality and range of equipment available to pickleball players, allowing them to pursue their Olympic dreams. With the right equipment, pickleball players can get the most out of their game.

Pickleball paddles and balls come in a pickleball set.


The unconventional design of the paddle is one of Pickleball’s most recognizable features. The original paddles were handmade from wood and featured a short handle with an oblong-shaped body, similar to what today’s rackets look like. This unique shape was derived from Ping Pong paddles used in badminton, which had been modified for use as dog chew toys.

Over time, racket technology and designs have evolved to include materials such as aluminum and graphite composite; however, they still retain their iconic form. Today, players can choose from a variety of styles based on weight preferences or skill levels that accommodate different shot techniques and spin control.

As popularity continues to increase across multiple countries worldwide, it has become clear that pickleball has come far since its days as a makeshift game created by bored kids using objects found at hand – including dog chew toys! Despite this humble beginning, hopes remain high that pickleball will eventually be included in future Olympic Games.

pickleball paddles and ball


The ball selection for pickleball is as important to master the game as the paddle.

When it all began, balls used were plastic whiffle balls or perforated balls similar to those found in badminton.

However, today’s players have a wider variety of options, including high-density foam and polymer-based balls specifically designed for pickleball larger than traditional tennis balls.

This type of ball has been proven to be more durable when playing on courts with varying sizes from 36 feet long to 18 feet wide (regulation court size).

By making this tweak in equipment choice, pickleball now offers an even greater range of play styles and techniques for athletes at every level of experience looking to get involved in the sport – taking their skills beyond what was originally possible with dog chew toys.

With its growing popularity worldwide, there remains plenty of room for growth and expansion – both on and off the court – as we look forward to seeing where this unique sport will take us next!

The origins of pickleball

The Popularity Of Pickleball

Pickleball has come a long way since its humble beginnings as an improvised game involving dog chew toys.

In the modern era, it’s become increasingly popular among players of all ages and levels worldwide.

This surge in popularity can be attributed to the rise of local clubs promoting pickleball play and increased recognition for tournament-level competition.

The easy-to-learn ruleset and basic equipment requirements make it accessible for any player wanting to join the fun.

The atmosphere at these events is often one of camaraderie and sportsmanship, where everyone from beginners to experienced competitors is welcomed into the fold.

With such a thriving community behind it, pickleball looks poised for further growth in years ahead—perhaps even achieving Olympic status someday.

rules for pickleball

The Rules Of Pickleball

Serving in pickleball begins with the player from the right side of the court, as the ball must be served diagonally over the net and into the opponent’s court.

Scoring occurs when the ball is served, and the player cannot return it over the net or if it goes into the net or outside the court boundaries.

The boundaries of the court are marked by two lines that extend both side-to-side and back-to-front, creating a rectangle with a net placed in the middle.

This unique history has led to pickleball becoming an Olympic sport, with the first Olympic games featuring pickleball being held in Tokyo in 2020.

Your serve needs to land in the diagonally opposite service court to yours.



Serving is an important element of pickleball that requires strategic selection and volley technique. Players must serve the ball diagonally over the net, starting from behind the baseline on one side of the court. As per regulations, a low-arc shot should land within the diagonal boundary of both service courts.

The server has two attempts to get their serve in; if they fail twice consecutively, then their opponent can score a point. If successful, players alternate turns serving throughout each game until a player wins by two points or more.

To gain an advantage during play, many players opt for different types of serves, such as spin for accuracy or flat for power. With its origins stemming from dog chew toys used on badminton courts, this popular sport has grown into something much bigger than expected, now with Olympic dreams set in sight.

pickleball tips Spin and placement


Scoring in pickleball is an integral part of the game, as it determines who wins a match. In tournament play, players must score 11 points to win, and whoever earns two more points than their opponent will be declared victorious. The winner is the first team or individual to reach 11 points with at least a two-point lead over their adversary.

When scoring, before each serve, call out the score so there is no confusion. Call out your score first, then your opponent’s score, then which service position is service (one or two). For example, “two, five, one!”

If both teams are tied at 10, they must keep playing until one side reaches a two-point advantage; this process continues until someone emerges triumphant. Additionally, when each point is earned, that player/team serves for the next point.

Pickleball has come quite far since its roots as dog chew toys used on badminton courts. Many have dreams of competing in the Olympics and proving themselves amongst other athletes worldwide. Though scoring systems may differ depending on levels of competition, tournaments still require 11 points for victory, offering intense rivalries and thrilling matches to viewers everywhere.

From humble beginnings springs forth an Olympic dream for those passionate about pickleball.

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.


When playing pickleball, boundaries are a key component in the game. Players must remain within court dimensions that vary between skill levels. For recreational and lower-level competition, the courts measure 20 feet by 44 feet with a 7-foot non-volley zone near each end of the net. 

This is called the “kitchen, ” where you cannot stand if you want to volley the ball.

Each boundary is marked on the floor and indicates which direction balls can be hit during rallies; if it goes out of bounds or hits someone outside of these lines, then points are awarded accordingly. The size and placement of boundaries change depending on the level at which one plays but remains essential regardless.

Boundaries are just one part of this dynamic equation that helps make pickleball so enjoyable despite varying court dimensions according to skill levels. With proper knowledge of these parameters and their importance in helping define who wins a match, anyone can join in on this fast pace game!

The origins of pickleball

The Future Of Pickleball

Ironically, a game as simple as pickleball, with its humble beginnings from unused dog chew toys, has an ambitious goal of becoming part of the Olympic Games.

Pickleball has quickly become the fastest growing sport in North America three years in a row and beyond and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Its popularity as a fun sport in America is growing daily.

The strategic appeal to winning at pickleball lies in mastering the team dynamics between two or four players working together towards a common victory.

With millions of people playing around the world, it’s not hard to imagine why this sport has taken off like wildfire.

It’s easy to learn but takes time to perfect – making it accessible yet challenging for all ages and skill levels.

As more clubs form worldwide, introducing new generations to the game, there is a shared optimism that pickleball could very well be on its way to being represented at future Olympics.

Singles pickleball rules and regulations.


The sport of pickleball has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a backyard game using household items.

What started out as an activity for children to play with their dog’s old chew toys soon evolved into an organized sport with precise rules and regulations.

Its popularity is growing exponentially as more people discover this low-impact sport’s benefits.

As the game continues gaining attention from international organizations and athletes alike, it seems natural that many dream about seeing it one day in the Olympics.

The future looks bright for pickleball, and everyone who has played a part in getting it where it is today can be proud of what they’ve achieved.

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