Pickleball had been rising quickly in popularity. Incorporating fun elements from tennis, ping-pong, and badminton, it is a highly addictive game that is perfect for everyone, no matter what age or skill level. Rules and regulations are pretty basic, and the gameplay enables players to be a lot more engaged compared to other sports.
It’s a healthy social and physical activity you can spend with your family or friends. But, before you do so, it is best to know first how this sports craze came to life. Despite its popularity, few know the origin of Pickleball. Not to worry, we’ll tackle the history of Pickleball, and so you have something to share with your colleagues the next time you play around.
Who Created Pickleball and How It All Started
One Saturday morning on Bainbridge Island in Washington, during the hot summer of 1965, Washington State Congressman, Joel Pritchard, and his businessman friend, Bill Bell returned home after playing golf.
Bemused by the inactivity of their kids on that fantastic summer day, they went out to find something that would make their families entertained and active throughout the season. They aimed to create a game that would be challenging for kids, but still highly accessible.
There they have found some ping-pong paddles and a plastic Whiffle ball and began passing the ball back and forth across the adjusted badminton net. As the days went by, both toddlers and adults, fell in love with the game. Pritchard and Bell’s friend Barney Callum soon came to play, and the three started establishing some rules and regulation, with the primary intention of making it easy and fun enough for everyone to play. The more games played, the more the game evolved up to its current state today.
How Pickleball Got Its Name
Pickleball has an unusual name, especially that we are not tossing any pickles here. If you ever wondered how this sport got its quirky name, there are two theories about its origin.
It Was Named After The Family Dog
Some people believed that the sport was named after Pritchard’s lovely dog, Pickles. Whenever the ball would pass by the household dog’s direction, Pickle’s would run off with the ball thus, getting the name “Pickle’s ball.” Other believed that Pritchard named his dog, Pickles, because it was fun and creative, like the game.
The Name Has Maritime Roots
In an interview with Joan, Pritchard’s wife, she said that the sports’ name had maritime origins. She noted that the name came up due to the combination of different elements from different sports that brought back memories of the Pickle Boat crew, whose oarsmen were chosen from the “leftover” of other main boats.
How Pickleball Evolved
Now, that we know that the intelligent minds of few dads invented the sport on one hot summer afternoon in 1965, it’s time to how did the game evolve to one that is so famous today.
Dubbed as the fastest growing sport in the United States, the initial measurement of 100,000 players were made in 2010. In 5 years, the number of players skyrocketed to 2,500,000 in 2015.
Let’s take a look at how the sport transformed massively since the first day it was brought to existence:
Pritchard’s neighbor Bob O’ Brian, construct the first permanent pickleball court at Joel and Joan Pritchard’s home in Magnolia Bluff, Seattle. It was the first official court in Pickleball history explicitly built for the sport and not badminton or any temporary court they used to play in. In the same year, Pritchard presented to Washington Governor Dan Evans and Slade Gorton of Olympia. The latter ended up building his own court in his backyard, too.
1972 to ‘76
In 1972, a corporation was created ‒Pickle-Ball Inc. ‒to protect the creation of this new and growing sport and its name. With the establishment of the corporation, the young game has not only gained backing but also earned recognition.
In 1975, the National Observer released the first ever article about Pickleball. This article is one of the first and most significant journals about the sport, which helped increase awareness of the game and brought it further into public attention.
This was followed by another article from the Tennis Magazine in 1976 and dubbed the game as “America’s newest racquet sport.” This propelled the game from a typical family game to a nationally-recognized racquet sport.
Also in 1976, the first-ever tournament for the sport took place at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. In this event, David Lester became the first pickleball champion in the Singles division followed by Steve Paranto who placed second. Pickleball has become the freshest competitive sport then.
Majority of the participants were college tennis players who have little knowledge or minimal knowledge about Pickleball. Since pickleball equipment was not abundant yet then, most of the players used wooden paddles and a whiffle ball the size of a softball for practice.
In 1984, the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was established with the responsibility of sustaining the growth of the sport in the whole country. The first pickleball rulebook was drafted and printed shortly after. This was published to make sure that Pickleball would remain as originally intended when it was invented: a sport for the whole family to adore and play.
That same year in Pickleball’s rich history, the first paddles made of Nomex honeycomb panels and fiberglass were created and distributed. The game which has been far played using ping-pong paddles had its first standard for pickleball paddle materials. This advancement initiated later progress on other pickleball equipment.
1990 – Present
In 1990, Pickleball had reached and is now being played in all 50 states in the country. This displayed a huge amount of growth the sport has gained in such a small amount of time.
In 1997, Joel Pritchard, the creator of Pickleball, passed away at age 72. While he served as Washington State’s Lieutenant governor for quite a while, he is probably more famous for his connection to the birth of the sport.
In the early 2000s, the majority of tournaments were held further solidifying the sport. The first Thousand Trails tournament was conducted at Pio Pico RV Resort, CA in 2000. Two years after, the first National Championship Tournament was held at The Villages, FL. Significantly, a year after, Pickleball was included for the first time in the annual Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, UT.
In 2008, the official rulebook got a few revisions for the improvement of the sport. In the same year, 420 “Places to Play in North America” was published on the USAPA website. This included 43 states, 4 Canadian provinces, and around 1,500 individual courts (not including numerous courts at private homes.)
In 2015, Pickleball was 50 years since it was invented – the first notable time marking since the game was brought to existence.
Today and the Future
Pickleball has come a long way since it was created. Now, it is a sport that brags international praises and a million number of fans. In the U.S, Canada, and Spain, it has become a staple game in sports clubs, recreation centers, and schools. Community Education programs included Pickleball on their Physical Education course. The sport is also now a well-loved activity in most retirement communities.
The sport of Pickleball is never ceasing in terms of growing popularity. The number of places where you can play the game skyrocketed since 2010. As of the moment, there are now around 4,000 locations on the USAPA’s Places to Play map. Pickleball continues to spread worldwide and bringing life to many new international clubs and national governing bodies now being established in India and Canada.
With the rising number of pickleball courts, as well as, leagues, tournaments, and sports organizations, we can expect the sport to continue evolving for the better and see more and more people get bitten by Pickleball bug.