Pickleball is the fun sport with the weird name. But where did it come from? Here’s what we know about how the fastest growing sport come to be.
Neighbors Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum created the sport of Pickleball with their kids during the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island. While it was originally thrown thrown together to entertain their bored kids, the game caught on and the kids loved playing. Though Joel Pritchard was a 6-term Washington congressman and former 2-term lieutenant governor for the state of Washington, he considered Pickleball to be his greatest accomplishment
The Pritchard family property had a badminton court, but no badminton equipment, so using ping pong paddles and a plastic ball, the families made a new simple game they could all play together. Over the next few weeks the game was refined as the badminton nets were lowered, new paddles were created and the rules were solidified as Pickleball became the sport we currently know and love.
There’s some controversy over the how the sport got its name. Some claim the game is named after the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles, who used to chase after the ball. Others say the name is a reference to the game’s cobbled together equipment — similar to pickle boat in crew where a team is assembled from various other boats. Over time, the mystery of the name has been embraced and both stories have and become a popular part of Pickleball Lore.
Over the next several years, Pickleball began to grow. By the 80s, Pickleball tournaments were being held in Washington state, and by the 1990s Pickleball had expanded from Bainbridge Island to all 50 states. Since then the sport has flourished thanks to the internet, tournaments, grassroot efforts and its fun, accessible gameplay.
As courts continue to pop up in cities around the world and popularity surges, who knows where the game will go. While it might not be in the Olympics or on ESPN quite yet, it’s amazing to see how far the game has come since it was first dreamed up the back yard of some bored, yet inventive friends.