Know The History of Pickleball: From 1965 Till Present

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Pickleball Radar Team

Pickleball, currently experiencing the fastest growth rate of any sport in the US, has a story as attractive as its gameplay. However, to truly understand it, we must first look at where it all began. In this article, we’ll take a journey through the brief history of pickleball, explore how it acquired its unique name, and consider its popularity.

Pickleball is known for being easy to pick up and play, focusing on sharp reflexes, precise shots, and strategic gameplay that keeps the competition lively.

Starting from humble roots on an island in Washington, this sport has become a favored pastime amongst older residents. Its appeal has also begun to permeate the younger demographic, gaining traction among high school and college students.

Yet, the history of pickleball is not without controversy. A spirited debate continues to swirl around the origin of its name.

Buckle up and get ready, as we’re about to dive into the captivating universe of this sport and explore its intriguing origins. Keep reading to uncover more.

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What is Pickleball?

An image of a player on court holding a pickleball paddle and a pickleball.

Pickleball, a sport that equips each player with a paddle, is all about hitting the ball into your opponent’s net. This game cleverly fuses tennis, badminton, and ping-pong elements, uniquely blending these classic sports.

As a newcomer to this dynamic game, getting a firm grip on pickleball rules is crucial. One rule that confuses is the ‘double bounce rule.’ It’s essential to clear up any uncertainties about this and other rules before stepping onto the court.

It’s common to confuse pickleball with wiffleball, but make no mistake, they are distinctly separate games with their own unique rules and play styles. Stay tuned for a detailed comparison coming up in an upcoming article.

At its core, pickleball is a straightforward game involving paddles and a ball. However, to truly excel, one must adhere to the rules and understand the various types of shots that can be executed. By mastering these techniques, you’ll boost your gameplay and become an opponent to be reckoned with.

History of Pickleball

A black and white photo of two pickleball players possibly around 1970's.

Like all intriguing tales, the story of Pickleball began on a sunny day when there was nothing else to do. Although the hype around pickleball has only surged recently, its history dates back to 1965. Let’s explore the key milestones that have shaped the history of pickleball.


Pickleball was born on Bainbridge Island, Washington, thanks to Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell, who invented the game during a family vacation.


In Bob O’Brien’s backyard, a friend and neighbor of Joel Pritchard the first dedicated pickleball court was constructed.


A formal entity for pickleball was created to keep up with the increasing demand for equipment and supplies from the founders.


The National Observer featured an article on pickleball that raised awareness about the sport and sparked a surge in product orders.


In the spring of 1976, pickleball enthusiasts gathered at the South Center Athletic Club in Tucville, Washington, for the first-ever pickleball tournament. David Lester triumphed in the men’s singles category, with Steve Paranto clinching second place.


The publication of “The Other Racket Sports” introduced readers to pickleball, among other racquet sports, providing valuable information about the game.


As a pioneer of pickleball, Sid Williams was instrumental in popularizing the sport, actively participating and setting up tournaments throughout Washington state.


The United States Amateur Pickleball Association (USAPA) was responsible for crafting the first official rulebook for the sport.


Pickleball had spread across the country, with people playing in all 50 states.


Joel Pritchard, one of the co-founders of pickleball, sadly passed away.


With the debut of Pickleball Staff, the first website dedicated to the sport, players gained access to a wealth of resources, including information, gear, and various pickleball products.


Due to Earl Hill’s initiative, pickleball debuted at the Arizona Senior Olympics.


The Pickleball Staff website featured a list of 39 known locations across North America where people could go to play pickleball.


The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) transitioned into a nonprofit corporation, solidifying its commitment to the sport.


One of the founders of pickleball, Bill Bell, passed away at 83.


Arizona hosted the first-ever national pickleball tournament, marking a significant milestone in the sport’s history.


The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) was founded to govern the sport globally.


Justin Maloof commenced as the first full-time executive director of the USAPA in January, signaling a new era of professional leadership within the association.


The introduction of the Pickleball Channel website represented creating the first professional media group focused exclusively on pickleball coverage and promotion.


The USAPA hosted its first Ambassador Retreat, and concurrently, the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA) was established to professionalize pickleball instruction further.


At 93, Barney McCallum, one of the three co-founders of pickleball, passed away.


COVID-19 impacted the sport, and play was suspended in mid-March.


USA Pickleball experienced a remarkable surge in popularity, reaching a membership milestone of 50,000 and closing the year with a membership exceeding 53,000. This growth represented a significant 43% increase within the year, marking the most prominent annual expansion in the organization’s history.

The Origins of Pickleball: How It All Began

Why Is It Called Pickleball?

An image featuring several players playing on a pickleball court.

The origin of the name “pickleball” often raises eyebrows and elicits chuckles, especially given the absence of any pickles in the game! The debate surrounding its genesis offers two differing accounts, each as interesting as the other.

One narrative credits Joel Pritchard, one of the game’s inventors, for christening the sport ‘pickleball.’ According to this version, Pritchard drew inspiration from his boating experiences.

The analogy drawn by Joel Pritchard, connecting the eclectic mix of sports that compose pickleball to the ‘pickle boat’ in a crew, serves as one possible explanation for the sport’s unique name. It symbolizes the sport’s nature of combining elements to create something new, much like a ‘pickle boat’ is composed of rowers from different teams.

The second account comes from Barney McCallum, another co-founder of the game. He suggested that ‘pickleball’ was named after ‘Pickles,’ the Pritchards’ canine companion who had a penchant for chasing and running off with the ball during their games.

However, there’s an intriguing twist in this tale. Many think the sport inspired the dog’s name rather than vice versa. ‘Pickles’ didn’t join the Pritchard family until several years after the game’s inception, leading some to question the sequence of events.

Regardless of which account you believe, the name ‘pickleball’ certainly adds a dash of fun and intrigue to this rapidly growing sport.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Where did pickleball initially come from?

The origins of pickleball can be traced back to Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, where it was created by three men, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, in 1965. They are often called the “Founding Fathers” of the sport.

What are three facts about the history of pickleball?

Fun Facts:

  • In 1965, for a bit of fun, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, known as the “Founding Fathers,” created the game of pickleball.
  • Contrary to what the name might suggest, pickles have no actual connection to the sport of pickleball.
  • The popularity of pickleball is almost evenly split between the genders, with men making up 53% and women accounting for 47% of the 36.5 million players.

Where is pickleball the most popular sport in the world?

Due to the game’s widespread popularity, Naples, Florida, has earned the title “The Pickleball Capital of the World.” Additionally, the Naples Pickleball Center has trademarked this phrase.

Bottom Line

Pickleball, once relatively obscure, has experienced a rapid surge in popularity. According to the Pickleball Annual Growth Report, the sport grew by 14.8% from 2020 to 2021, following a 21.3% growth the previous year. This trend reflects an impressive average annual growth rate of 11.5% over the past five years.

According to the 2023 APP Pickleball Participation Report, approximately 36.5 million people tried their hand at pickleball at least once in the past year. The Association of Pickleball Professionals confirms this figure for the United States alone.

Interestingly, the SFIA noted that the fastest growth rate is among players under 24, with a 21% increase from 2020 to 2021. Meanwhile, USA Pickleball reported a 30% increase in its membership in 2022, reaching 70,000 players by February 2023.

With such rapid and sustained growth, it’s clear that pickleball’s popularity isn’t waning anytime soon. But what do you think? Will these numbers continue to soar? Would you like to discover the rules and techniques of playing pickleball?

Pickleball Radar is your ultimate destination for everything related to pickleball. From racquets to court nets and posts, storage supplies, and accessories, we’ve got everything you need to enjoy a great game. We trust you will find the history of pickleball just as captivating as we do.

Should you have any inquiries or require additional details, please get in touch with us. Be sure to check back for more updates, and thank you for reading.

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