Why Is It Called Pickleball? Here's What I Found Out!

Image Credits: Pixabay.com

Sometimes, the story behind picking up names are worth mentioning. In this case, I bet you can’t tell what’s behind the name of the fastest growing sport in the USA: Pickleball.

Why is it called Pickleball? The most accepted version that explains the origin of the word “Pickleball” says that one of the founders named the sport after his dog “Pickles”, as it used to catch the ball while they were playing.

Interesting, right?

If you are as intrigued as I was the first time I heard about Pickleball, keep reading and learn much more about this up and coming exciting sport.

The Story Behind the Name

Former representative of the Washington State Legislature Joel Pritchard, along with his neighbors, Bill Bell and Barnley Mc Callum invented the game of Pickleball in 1965.

In the early years, no official name was assigned to the game, and as the game progressed, an official name was needed, so the founders had to come up with something.

The name Pickleball might sound a bit random at first, especially since no pickles are used for its practice. The origin of the name may differ from source to source. 

However, there are two theories that are widely accepted to explain the origin of the name:

  • According to Barney McCallum, the game was officially named after the Pritchards dog “Pickles”. Every time it could, the dog would chase off the balls, catching them and running off with them.
  • According to other sources, the group of friends started calling the game Pickleball because of “the combination of different sports remind of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats”.

What is Pickleball?

  • Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements from tennis, paddle, badminton and ping pong, and it is played using a special perforated ball.
  • It is easy to learn, fast-paced, and fun to play due to long rallies during the games.
  • Pickleball is played in a court the same size as a doubles badminton court. The same court is used for both singles and doubles play.
  • The court is striped similar to a tennis court with right and left service courts and a non-volley zone in front of the net -also known as “the kitchen”.
  • The court is divided transversally by a net, which measures 36 inches - 0,914 m- at the sidelines and 34 inches -0,86m- in the middle.
  • Courts can be constructed specifically for the sport or converted using existing tennis or badminton courts.
  • It can be played by any type of player, no matter the age, condition, skills or shape.
  • Pickleball is mostly played in doubles, although playing individually is also very popular and fun, especially for those who like to be challenged at a higher level.
  • Pickleball can be played both indoors and outdoors.

When was Pickleball invented?

Pickleball was created in the USA in the summer of 1965 in Brainbridge Island, nearby Seattle, state of Washington. It was developed by three neighbors - the former American congressman Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barnley Mc Callum- whose sons complained because they had nothing to do.

Their goal when creating the Pickleball was to design a new sport that was fun, challenging and easy to play for everybody. Little did they know that their backyard game would develop into the popular sport of pickleball that is now played by more than 3 million players in the USA only.

In the beginning, pickleball was played in Joel Pritchard’s badminton court, which was placed on his backyard. For the equipment, they created wooden paddles that were slightly bigger than those of ping pong and they opted to use a wiffle ball borrowed from a neighbor.

Facts About Pickleball History

1965Pickleball is invented
1967First known court specifically built for playing pickleball
1976First known pickleball tournament held in Tukwila, Washington
1984The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was founded
2008USAPA publishes the Official Tournament Rulebook
2009First USAPA National Tournament for players of all ages held in Arizona
2015Pickleball recognized by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association as the fastest growing sport in the USA


The founders created the rules that were based somehow from badminton but bearing in mind the main purpose, which was offering a game so the whole family could practice it.

At first, the net was at the same height as the one used for badminton (5 feet or 152,4cm) and they played to throw the ball over the net. As the game evolved, the players discovered that the ball bounced enough, so they reduced the net to a height of 36 inches -91,5cm-.

As they continued developing the rules of that game, they were setting the rules for what today we know as Official Rules of Pickleball.

In its early years, pickleball was played by families on their backyards in a stiff surface, on the streets or any flat surface available. As the sport was growing in the 70s, it went from an activity purely familiar to a racquet sport with formal rules.

Now, the pickleball is played in schools, clubs all along the USA, Canada, and many other countries. In the USA has been the fastest growing sport in recent years.

Why is Pickleball Becoming so Popular?

  • Beginners can enjoy the discipline from the very beginning, feeling confident with the game and experimenting long and high-quality interchanges in less than 30 minutes.
  • Any person with experience in any sort of racquet sports will be able to transfer their skills immediately to the sport.
  • For the most advanced players, pickleball can be challenging due to his fast pace flow, competitiveness, and strategics.

Nowadays, the USA is the country where pickleball has shown the highest development and popularity. Lately, it is experiencing significant growth and its international expansion covers 35 countries in Europe, America, Asia, and Oceania.

  • More than 3 million players in the USA only
  • 1/100 Americans play pickleball.
  • More than 5000 facilities with 4-12 courts in the USA. The number has been multiplied by 5 since 2010.
  • Great coverage in the media: ESPN, CBS, NBC. Exclusive content in some platforms.
  • The International Federation of Pickleball has 19 associated countries.

LIST OF ASSOCIATED COUNTRIES (2019):

  • USA
  • CANADA
  • SPAIN
  • INDIA
  • FRANCE
  • ENGLAND
  • NETHERLANDS
  • ITALY
  • GERMANY
  • CHINA -SHENZEN-
  • CHINA -TAIPEI-
  • HONG KONG
  • KOREA
  • AUSTRALIA
  • SCOTLAND
  • PAKISTAN
  • SINGAPORE
  • PHILIPPINES
  • POLAND

In early 2010, a committee was formed to advance the concept of an International Federation of Pickleball (IFP). The IFP officially established its Constitution, Bylaws, and Officers in 2015 with the following inaugural members: USA Canada and Spain. The IFP has since expanded its membership.

Is Pickleball the Sport of the Future?

There are many reasons that support that pickleball will keep growing in the forthcoming years:

  • Easy to learn: the dimensions of the court and the equipment allow basic control of the game from the very beginning for the majority of the players, reducing the level of frustration.
  • Inclusive: from its creation, the sport has been conceived so people from different ages and conditions can practice it and enjoy the experience. Pickleball is the best sport for inclusion, wellness, and personal development.
  • Social and fun: it is an extremely exciting and addictive sport, that facilitates and promotes socialization with the rest of the players.
  • Competitive: its tactic complexity and fast pace bring competitiveness to those that are thirsty for competition and bigger challenges, as it can be seen in tournaments organized for all levels and ages.
  • Good for your health: like any other sport, pickleball has numerous positive effects on your health, and also, due to its characteristics, the risk to get injured is lower than other sports.

The Biggest Pickleball’s Tournament: THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

After launching the USA Pickleball Association in 2005, in late 2007 the Board of Directors voted to establish its first National Tournament. The purpose was to showcase the best pickleball talent in both Open Division categories and age groups.

The National Championship is the biggest pickleball tournament in the number of participants and popularity in the USA, as well as in the rest of the world. While the number of participants nearly reached 400 in its origins. In 2017 the venue hosted in Casa Grande, Arizona, hosted more than 1300 players, being the largest tournament to date.

In 2018 began a new exciting chapter for the sports premier event as USA Pickleball and Desert Champions, LLC partnered on a multi-year agreement to host the tournament at the world-renowned Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The 2018 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships featured 45 championship-caliber pickleball courts and the world’s largest pickleball championship court. The event also set a new player registration record with over 2000 players.

The National Championship

YearLocation
2009Buckeye, Arizona
2010Buckeye, Arizona
2011Buckeye, Arizona
2012Buckeye, Arizona
2013Buckeye, Arizona
2014Buckeye, Arizona
2015Casa Grande, Arizona
2016Casa Grande, Arizona
2017Casa Grande, Arizona
2018Indian Wells, California
2019Indian Wells, California

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