Pickleball has been around for decades, but where did this sport get its start? Click here to learn more about the history of pickleball.

Pickleball is exploding in popularity with over 4.8 million Americans picking up a pickleball racquet last year. But do you know the origins of pickleball?

We've got the scoop on the history of pickleball, where it got its name, and how it's evolved since the very beginning. Read along below to find out!

History of Pickleball: The Invention

Pickleball was created in 1965 by three neighbors, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum who were living on Bainbridge Island near Washington. They noticed their families sitting around bored with nothing to do, so they invented a new game.

The origination of the name of the game is a little cloudy because there are two accounts. One account is by Joan Pritchard, Joel's wife, and the other by Barney McCallum.

Joan remembered calling the game pickleball because of the assortment of sports the game encompassed and how it reminded her of the pickle boat in crew formed from the leftovers. Barney believed it got the name because of the Pritchard's dog Pickles that would run off with the ball. However, it's on pretty good authority that Pickles came after Pickball and that's how the dog got his name.

The first pickleball court was actually a badminton court on Joel Pritchard's property using a badminton net that Joel and Bill placed at 60 inches high. However, very soon after they started playing, they lowered it to the current playing height of 36 inches.

When they couldn't find badminton equipment, the guys improvised by grabbing ping pong paddles and a wiffle ball. It was the next weekend that they introduced Barney to the game, and the three of them created the official pickleball rules.

McCallum used the band saw he owned at the time to cut the first-ever pickleball paddles into two different shapes. He lovingly called these prototypes "M1" and "M2."

McCallum didn't approve of or like the M2, but the M1 is the shape that is still used today! He then set up a small factory in Bainbridge, or "the rock" as it's known by residents, where the first wood paddles would be created.

Barney McCallum was quoted as saying that they were never in it for the money. In fact, the people showcased on the first box were mostly family members who offered their pictures for free!

History of Pickleball: The Players

The founders invented Pickleball to be a game and sport that people of all ages could easily understand and play. The three neighbors wanted something that was challenging enough for adults, but simple enough for children to join in on.

A wonderful hand-eye coordination racket sport, pickleball is played throughout schools, YMCA's, and camps for children to begin learning and developing skills for sports and life. It's also seen its biggest boom in senior adult programs and retirement communities.

Pickleball has players in prisons, and its courts have even taken over some malls! Because of this wide age range, there are millions of pickleball players today.

It's now a worldwide sport as well! Pickleball is a multicultural game with players spanning as far as China.

Though Joel Pritchard has passed on, friends and family fondly still speak of his excitement for sharing his game with all families that came over to his home. He would invite people over, including Governor Dan Evans, with the very intention of gathering families together to play pickleball and have a great time. He considered it his claim to fame.

History of Pickleball: The Expansion

After the invention of pickleball in the summer of 1965, Bob O'Brian, Pritchard's friend and neighbor, constructed the very first permanent pickleball court in his backyard in 1967. By 1972, Pickleball Inc the corporation was formed!

In 1975 and 1976, articles on pickleball were published in both The National Observer and Tennis magazine showcasing “America’s newest racquet sport.” The first known pickleball tournament was held in 1976 in the spring at the South Center Athletic Club.

In 1982, Sid Williams began not only playing pickleball but also started organizing tournaments in Washington. A huge stride was made with pickleball when The United States Amateur Pickleball Association (U.S.A.P.A.) was created in 1984 to organize the sport on a national level and created the first official rulebook in March of 1984. Sid served as the first Executive Director and President until 1998.

That same year in 1984, a Boeing industrial engineer by the name of Arlen Paranto invented a composite paddle constructed of fiberglass and honeycomb panels. These same panels were used for airplane floors and structures! He had around 1000 paddles made before he sold the company to the second Executive Director and President of USAPA, Frank Candelario.

By 1990, Pickleball had made its way to all fifty states!

Pickleball made its debut in the Arizona senior olympics in 2001 with one hundred players and became the biggest pickleball event to date. In 2008, it was officially included in the National Senior Games Association (NSGA) for the very first time!

Now, in 2022, USA Pickleball Membership has over 50,000 members, has had several books written about it, and has its own USA Pickleball National Championships. Pickleball is one of the fastest growing US sports with over 8,500 locations available to play on the USA Pickleball’s Places2Play map.

Play Pickleball

Pickleball is a family-friendly ageless sport that is a great time for all. The history of pickleball tells us that the founders' original intention was to get families up and moving to create lasting memories together.

Remember to stay safe with UV protection as you play because a lot of courts are outdoors. Though it's not too intense of a sport, bring a water bottle to also stay hydrated!

While you're here, take a look at some of our 50+ UPF sun protective clothing! Some models even include ball pockets so you don't have to run around gathering up balls after every serve.

January 13, 2023 — Gabriella Lowell