The History of Pickleball, the game with the funny name - is both interesting and fascinating. Fascinating because of its humble beginnings and interesting because of the phenomenon that it has become. According to those in the know, it has been reported as having rooted its origins in Bainbridge Island, WA (near Seattle) by a man named Joel Pritchard and two of his friends.
How and why pickleball the game as we know it was invented is simply because Joel Pritchard and his good friends and neighbors Bill Bell and Barney McCallum couldn’t find ‘the badminton gear' to play badminton.
And that is the anti-climax ‘why bit’ of pickleball history all summed up! There was no sitting down planning a new game, no focus, research or playing group to test the waters or marketability of the game, no logo design, nothing.
It was simply because they couldn't find the gear to play a game that has been around for more than 2000 years and that they had played for most of their living years, badmington.
The ‘how bit’ in The History of Pickleball is a slightly longer story but not much longer. As a result of wanting to play a game of Badminton and presumably to get a bit of exercise but not finding the gear to be able to play with; improvisation and some creativity took over.
At first it was played with ping pong paddles, a perforated plastic ball and a net placed at 60 inches high. Soon the net was lowered to the now standard of 36 inches at the sides (and 34 inches in the centre) – and then came court dimensions and the making up of the rules.
And while the rules have invariably changed and adapted to the game, the original purpose of what we now know as pickleball was to invent a game that all the family could play and have a lot of fun playing. - 'Fun' as it has turned out seems to be the default setting!
There are noted milestones of the games development over the years with some of the popular ones being the introduction of the first composite paddle in 1984. This was a technological improvement over the original ping pong paddle obviously and huge advancement in design and use of material from that of the much used wooden paddle up until that time.
Quite a stunning milestone in terms of pickleball growth was made in the 1990’s where pickleball was then able to be played in 50 states of the USA.
It was then in 2005 when the USAPA – the governing body of pickleball named its first president – Mark Friedenberg. The USAPA also became a Non-Profit Corporation in July 1 of that same year.
It wasn’t until 2008 that another significant milestone in the History of Pickleball was made when the Rules Committee headed by Dennis Duey, published the USA Pickleball Association Official Tournament Rulebook – Revision: May 1, 2008.
A most asked question by many is how pickleball got its name. There are a couple of popular answers to this with the most affectionate and adhoc answer being that a dog was responsible for what is now a game that represents fun, fitness, friendship and challenge.
Barney McCallum, one of the games founders would have us believe that the game was officially named after the Pritchards’ dog Pickles. Apparently Pickles would chase the ball and run off with it during games.
McCallum reports that it was in the fun of the game when this event happened (suggestive that Pickles had run off with the ball again) and the naming question popped up.
Reflective in the ‘moment’, words were said to the effect of: " You’re having fun at a party (and presumably the game was a part of the party) so what the hell, let’s just call it pickleball".
NOTE: The dog photo (aptly named Pickles) - is a stand-in animal actor depicting Pickles) ;) Photo courtesy Wikipedia - Pickles (Dog).
And so it is – the game of Pickleball is justly named and is now in the History of Pickleball!
You could of course believe as a dog lover, the not so endearing alternative story in the naming of the game where the apparent truth would have us believe that it was not named after the dog because the Pritchards didn’t get the dog until years after the game started. The dog was in-fact (reportedly) named after the game. Not the other way around.
And who wants to believe that Pickleball’s name was (or could have been) derived from the Pritchard family’s maritime pursuits rather than its canine pets. It is said that the name may have come from Joel Pritchard’s mother Joan, who was a competitive rower on the island of Bainbridge. She sometimes referred to the ‘pickle boat,’ the slowest vessel in a race.
The truth might be that no one really knows how it came to be named – but the dog story sounds good.
The History of Pickleball has seen some significant changes and has developed into what is now Pickleball today and is remarkably being played all over the world. It still has introductory humble beginnings through community groups, PE classes, YMCA, retirement communities, overseas expat clubs and schools and in-fact anywhere there is interest.
The official statistics now report that more than 2,000,000 people are playing Pickle-ball in the US alone, and the game is growing exponentially around the world. Chart courtesy USAPA.
Is there any wonder why the name of this website and tag line is: YesPickleball.com - the answer is YES!
Just of note - Ex tennis players are now taking to the game in droves for any number of reasons. For those players looking for an alternative to the game of tennis, they often discover pickleball by accident including some pretty odd google search terms.
Pickle Tennis is one such Google search term used by many to discover pickleball, report-ably the fastest growing sport in the USA and rapidly attracting new players around the world .
To learn more check out: Pickle Tennis – a Search Term Used for Pickleball
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