Capital Area Pickleball Association
Serving Dane County Wisconsin

The History of Pickleball

8 May 2024 12:55 PM | Abigail Darwin

Have you ever wondered how pickleball came to be a sport and why it has such a funny name? Well, if you have, you are not alone! Consider this your history lesson for today:

Pickleball was invented in the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, just off the coast of Seattle, Washington. It was invented by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum one day while sitting around at the Pritchards’ home with their families, while everyone was bored with nothing to do. The men wanted to create a fun activity with odds and ends laying around the Pritchards’ house and garage that they could use to play a game.

Pritchard had a badminton net set up on an asphalt court, but he did not have enough rackets for a full game. So, instead, they improvised using spare ping pong paddles and a wiffle ball. The group found that the wiffle ball bounced fairly well on the asphalt court, but they thought that the net seemed a bit high, being set up to the badminton regulation height of 60 inches. So, they decided to lower the net down to 36 inches.

Over time, the families introduced the sport to their friends and the game took off from there, becoming more formalized and regulated over time.

But how exactly did the sport get the name “Pickleball”? There are two different potential origin stories, depending on who you ask. According to Pritchard’s wife, Joan, the game was called pickleball, because the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats. However, according to Barney McCallum, the game was actually named after Pritchard’s dog, who was named Pickles! So, no one really knows for sure where the name came from, and both stories may actually be true!

For more information about the history of the sport, see USA Pickleball’s, History of the Game.

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