How did pickleball get its name?

Why Is It Called Pickleball? Here’s How Pickleball Got Its Name and the History of Pickleball

Pickleball is a sport that has grown in popularity for the past few decades. It combines badminton, tennis and table tennis elements to create an exciting competitive game with unique rules and strategies.

However, many people do not know where the name “pickleball” comes from or why it was chosen as the title of this popular activity. This article will discuss how pickleball got its name and provide insight into what inspired its creator to choose this specific moniker.

Understanding why such an unusual name called pickleball requires delving into the history of this beloved sport. The inventor of pickleball, Joel Pritchard, created the game in 1965 on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, Washington. He derived the rules from his own experience playing similar sports combined with ideas developed alongside Bill Bell and Barney McCallum, who were also present during its initial conception.

With all three men working together to help craft the game’s formation, they eventually called it “pickleball” after much deliberation over potential names.

This blog will dive into the origins of the game, the three stories (so far) that have come out of how pickleball got its name, and the history of pickleball.

Grab a chair and get ready to be schooled in how pickleball got its funny name!

People everywhere (even in my home gym!) love pickleball!
People everywhere (even in my home gym!) love pickleball!

What Is The Pickleball Game That We Know Today?

Pickleball is a popular paddle sport combining badminton, table tennis and tennis elements.

It was invented in 1965 by three fathers – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum – who were looking for a new game to play with their families.

The name pickleball came from the combination of two things: ‘pickles,’ the family dog of one of the co-inventors, and “ball,” which was used in all these sports being combined into one.

The history of pickleball dates back even further than its invention, however.

While no one knows exactly where it originated from or when it first appeared as an organized game, some believe that pickleball may have been derived from other activities like lawn tennis and deck tennis dating back to the early 20th century.

In any case, what we know today as modern-day Pickleball has evolved from those original ideas created by the trio of inventors more than half a century ago.

The first story is that Pickles the dog is the inspiration for pickleball getting its name.
The first story is that Pickles the dog is the inspiration for pickleball getting its name.

Story #1 Of How Pickleball Got Its Name: The Dog

Pickleball is a beloved sport with an interesting history. The story of how pickleball got its name has been the subject of much discussion and speculation, but one popular version is that it was named after a family dog.

As the saying goes, ‘A picture says a thousand words’ – so to does this charming tale about Pickles the Cockapoo puppy. The story goes that in 1965 Joel Pritchard’s daughter and a neighbour, Jim Brown, adopted a Cockapoo from another neighbour who was giving them away for free. They named the pup ‘Pickles,’ which would become synonymous with pickleball when they started playing the new racquet game shortly thereafter.

It is said that Pickles would often grab the plastic Wiffle ball in his mouth and run off the court with it. This served as an inspiration to officially name this exciting new game after him. His owners fondly remembered cheering joyfully upon deciding on ‘pickleball’ as its moniker. And despite some confusion over whether he inspired the name or if it was coined first and then used to christen him, there is no denying that Pickles played an important role in making pickleball what it is today!

This delightful anecdote explains why we play pickleball today and where the name originated from. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until two years later that Pickles himself entered onto the center stage – after the game had already been formed!

So, is the dog story actually where the pickleball name came from? Was pickleball named after the dog? No one really knows… Leading to the next story of how the fastest-growing sport in America got its name.

The "pickle boat" story is another version of how pickleball got its moniker.
The “pickle boat” story is another version of how pickleball got its moniker.

Story #2 Of How Pickleball Got Its Name: The Boats

The Pickle Boat story is a popular origin for pickleball’s name. According to the Joel and Joan Pritchard family, Bill Bell’s wife Joan had been a competitive rower and came up with the idea of calling it Pickleball because of her familiarity with pickle boats.

A pickle boat was used in rowing to refer to mismatched weaker teams. Therefore, when it comes to the history of how pickleball began, this could be where the name came from.

Joan shared her thoughts in an article published by The Parkersburg News and Sentinel; however, historians still debate the origins.

Nevertheless, there has never been any concrete evidence definitively declaring either one as truth.

A jar of pickles being the first-place prize for a tournament after the game was invented might be the inspiration of how pickleball got its name.
A jar of pickles being the first-place prize for a tournament after the game was invented might be the inspiration for how pickleball got its name.

Story #3 Of How Pickleball Got Its Name: The Trophy

The third story on how pickleball really got its name is about the trophy. It all started when a group of friends and family in Seattle, Washington, invented pickleball back in 1965. After inventing the sport, they organized a tournament for it and awarded a first-place prize. They wanted something special that would be remembered, so they came up with an idea:

  • To honour their invention they decided to make up a new name – “pickle ball”—a reference to one of their favorite foods – pickles!
  • This also served as an homage to the cucumber farmers who grew them locally, who had contributed so much to the game’s development over time.
  • Finally, they offered a beautiful hand-crafted wooden trophy shaped like a giant pickle for the grand prize!

Many players highly sought this unique trophy, but ultimately only one team could win it yearly. The winners proudly displayed this prestigious prize in their homes or offices; soon enough, everyone knew what ‘pickleball’ meant! As such, today, we know this wonderful sport by its now iconic name – Pickleball!

Is One Actually True?

The first pickleball story about how the Pritchards named the game after Pickles, the dog, seems to be the most true, but there is still not enough concrete evidence to say for sure. However, pickleball players agree, it doesn’t really matter what or who the game was named after as long as they get to play it!

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America, and whether it has a funny name from the dog Pickles or a boat or a trophy, the game of pickleball will continue to be part of our vocabulary for years to come.

The History Of Pickleball

Pickleball was created in the summer of 1965 by Joel Pritchard, a Congressman from Washington State, and Bill Bell, a successful businessman.

The two men found themselves without any activity on one Saturday night at Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island near Seattle when they couldn’t find badminton equipment. They improvised by using table tennis paddles and a perforated plastic ball which they volleyed over a net placed initially at a badminton height of 60 inches. Eventually, it was lowered to 36 inches as they discovered that the ball bounced well off an asphalt surface.

The following weekend, Barney McCallum introduced this new game, and then rules were written heavily inspired by badminton with the purpose of facilitating play for all family members.

  • In 1967, Bob O’Brian was the first to construct a permanent pickleball court in his backyard.
  • 1972 saw a corporation forming to protect this newly invented sport.
  • 1976 marked another milestone when South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila held its first-ever tournament, with David Lester winning Men’s Singles and Steve Paranto placing second. Participants included college tennis players with little knowledge about pickleball but practiced with large wood paddles and softball-sized plastic balls.
  • Arlen Paranto, an industrial engineer from Boeing, created composite paddles made up of fiberglass/nomex honeycomb panels used commercially in airplanes until he sold his business in 2004.
  • Pickleball Stuff was launched as the world’s first website dedicated to pickleball in 1999, completing its journey so far as one of America’s most popular sports today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Ideal Court Size For Pickleball?

The ideal court size for pickleball is a square area measuring 20 feet by 44 feet.

This standard was established in 1984 when the United States of America Pickleball Association (USAPA) published its official rules and regulations for the game.

The official pickleball court size and dimensions.
The official pickleball court size and dimensions.

This court’s dimensions allow two to four players to enjoy an efficient and challenging match. It also allows players to move around more freely than on a larger or smaller court, enhancing the game’s overall enjoyment.

What Is The Best Way To Serve In Pickleball?

The best way to serve in pickleball is by using an underhand toss.

This technique, which was popularized during the sport’s inception in 1965, involves a player throwing the ball up with one hand while hitting it diagonally across the net with their paddle.

By keeping the ball low and close to the net, players are able to maximize their chances of making an effective return shot from their opponent.

Additionally, serving this way allows for more control over where the ball lands on your opponent’s court.

As such, many experienced pickleballers tend to prefer utilizing this approach when serving as opposed to other methods like forehand or backhand serves.

What Is The Official Scoring System For Pickleball?

Pickleball’s official scoring system is simple yet effective. It allows for a competitive and exciting match between two opponents. Much like the game itself, the scoring system is unique; it has been compared to tennis in its implementation but serves an entirely different purpose.

During a typical pickleball match, players compete until one side reaches 11 points or whichever score was agreed upon beforehand. Points are awarded when one of the teams fails to return the ball before it bounces twice on their side of the court. This can create intense rallies as both sides battle for each point!

What Type Of Equipment Do I Need To Play Pickleball?

Pickleball is a popular recreational sport that requires minimal equipment to play.

The primary piece of equipment used in this game is a pickleball paddle, which can be made out of wood or composite materials and typically has an oval shape with rounded edges.

Pickleball requires paddles, a ball, a net, and a court.
Pickleball requires paddles, a ball, a net, and a court.

Additionally, players need one pickleball ball per court—it must be hollow and have holes on the surface for optimal aerodynamics when it’s served.

Lastly, courts are marked using two lines set apart by 20 feet (6 meters)—the net should stretch across those lines at 36 inches (91 cm) high from the center.

With the necessary equipment and court markings, players are ready to enjoy their next pickleball round!

How Is The Pickleball Net Set Up?

Pickleball’s net is a cornerstone of the game, and it has been since its inception.

A pickleball historian might describe the net as an intricate web whose threads draw players together in a harmonious balance.

Set up like traditional badminton, with two poles rising from each end of the court and connected by a corded top band across their center, this net measures 20 feet long by 34 inches high for singles play and 22 feet long by 36 inches high for doubles play.

It heightens competition, acting as a barrier between opponents and an invitation to battle on either side.


Pickleball has become an increasingly popular sport in recent years. It is a fun activity for both adults and children alike, with its fast-paced nature providing ample entertainment.

But why is it called pickleball? This article seeks to answer that question by exploring the history of this unique racquet sport.

The game was invented by Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell in 1965 when they were looking for something new to do on their property in Washington State. They noticed that some of their badminton equipment had been left out in the rain and began hitting around a makeshift ball using paddles from their table tennis set. Thus, pickleball was born!

The origin story behind the name remains somewhat mysterious but likely comes from Joel’s wife Joan, who said, “It looks like a combination of ping pong, badminton and whiffle ball; it must be a Pickleball!” From then on, the game started gaining popularity among families all over America as more people heard about the exciting new pastime.

Today, almost everyone knows what pickleball is due to its steadily increasing presence worldwide. With rules easy enough for beginners to understand yet still challenging enough for experienced players, anyone can join in anytime and enjoy this captivating game.

So whether you are just learning how to play or already consider yourself an expert pickler, let us remember those original inventors whenever we participate in this beloved pastime – thank you, Joel & Bill!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *