The History of Pickleball

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the United States, but it’s important to know where the sport came from before moving forward. We’ll share a brief history of the sport, how it received its famous name, and what the current popularity looks like.

Pickleball was born in 1965. After playing golf during the summer, Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington, and Bill Bell, a successful businessman, returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, not far from Seattle, Washington. With bored children at home, they sought to play badminton on an old badminton court but couldn’t find the proper equipment. They improvised and played with table tennis paddles and a perforated plastic ball. The following weekend, Barney McCallum joined and began playing and the three men created rules.

By 1967, the first permanent pickleball court was constructed in the backyard of Pritchard’s friend and neighbor Bob O’Brian and by 1990 pickleball was being played in all 50 states. Since then, pickleball has been exploding in growth and popularity with tournaments played by millions ranging from young to old all over the world.

When you first learn about the sport, the name “pickleball” often produces a laugh, especially since no pickles are involved. But there is some debate on how the name was originated. There are two different accounts. The first account is according to Joan Pritchard, Joel Pritchard, she started calling the game pickleball because the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of the other boats. The second account from Barney McCallum says pickleball was named after Pritchard’s dog Pickles, who would chase the ball and run with it. Some believe Pickles was named after the game because he didn’t join the family until a couple of years after the game was created.

To learn more about the history of pickleball and for a complete timeline, visit usapickleball.org.