The History of Pickleball Graphic | person plays pickleball with club. pickleball paddles

The History of Pickleball

Did you know that pickleball is the fastest-growing sport across the country? It's true! And if you love pickleball, you know exactly why it's becoming so popular. This fast-paced but fun game is a favorite among all ages. But there is a lot to learn about pickleball history facts– like how, when, and where did pickleball start and where did it get its name? Let's learn more about the history of pickleball.

When Was Pickleball Invented?

One of the first things that players learn is the pickleball origin story. Those who pick up a pickleball paddle for the first time might be surprised to hear that pickleball is a relatively new sport. In fact, it was first started in 1965! Pickleball was created when two dads first put their heads together to create something to keep their families occupied. Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell created pickleball at Pritchard's house. The family had an old badminton court but no badminton paddles. So they began playing with ping pong paddles and a whiffle ball. 

The players hit the ball over the badminton net at 60 inches high but soon found that the ball bounced well on a paved surface and then lowered the net to 36 inches. Soon after, Pritchard and Bell introduced Barney McCallum to the sport. Together, the three men created the rules, which were heavily influenced by badminton. 

Where Did Pickleball Start?

Those who fall in love with pickleball ultimately ask, where was pickleball invented? Pickleball was invented in Joel Pritchard's backyard in Washington State. Pritchard, a congressman in Washington state, is mainly responsible for creating pickleball in his backyard on Bainbridge Island near Seattle. Though it started in Seattle, the sport became incredibly popular. Of course, we now know that it's widespread across the country and even the world!

Why is it Called Pickleball?

 tie dye & black & white pickleball paddles on a bench

Now for another popular question: why is pickleball called pickleball? Sadly, there isn't a straightforward answer because there are two very different stories about how the sport got its name. Let's dig a little deeper. 

The first legend states that pickleball got its name from Joel Pritchard's wife, Joan. After the sport was created, Joan said the sport reminded her of a pickle boat. In rowing, the pickle boat is usually the last to finish a race and is full of leftover rowers from the other teams. Joan joked that pickleball comprised the leftovers from other popular paddle sports. After that, everyone started calling it pickleball, and the name just stuck.

The second name legend states that pickleball was named after Joel Pritchard's family dog, Pickles. The story says that when the family began playing pickleball, Pickles would grab the ball with his mouth and run away with it. But this story is disputed because Joel's daughter, Peggy, said the family didn't get the dog until years after pickleball was invented. 

So how did pickleball get its name? While many online accounts say that the name came from Joan, you can make your own judgment. 

How the Pickleball Paddle Has Evolved over the Years


Why Pickleball is so popular graphic - two pickleball paddles on the court

Just like any other sport, the game of pickleball has evolved throughout the years. There has been quite a bit of change since the sport was founded in 1965, and even more changes within the last 10 years since pickleball recently became incredibly popular. So how are things different now? Here are a few ways that pickleball has changed.

  • The players are getting younger. That's right–even though pickleball is now popular among families, young kids, and even young adults, the sport has been a mainstay in the senior community for many years. And it's for a good reason, too. Pickleball is relatively easy for older people to play, partly because of its small court and whiffle ball. It's a slower, more relaxed version of tennis. While it's been a staple in the aging population for years, pickleball fans are becoming increasingly younger and younger!
  • More athletes are switching to pickleball. While many pickleball players begin playing the sport and go from there, many athletes from other sports are switching to pickleball for a few different reasons. Crossover athletes, especially those from tennis, are beginning to enjoy pickleball because of its ease, accessibility, pacing, and more. 
  • The emergence of professional leagues. Did you know there are professional pickleball leagues? As the sport becomes more popular, the playing becomes more intense, and the tournament payout increases. In other words, it's becoming more competitive!
  • The evolution of the paddle. Pickleball paddles have come a long way since the sport was first created in Joel Pritchard's backyard. Instead of wooden ping pong paddles, the sport is dominated mostly by graphite pickleball paddles. The graphite pickleball paddles of today are lightweight, strong, and give the player control. 

Using the History of Pickleball to Improve Your Game

man playing pickleball on a pickleball court

Now that we've learned all there is to know about the history of pickleball, it's time to get back to playing your favorite game! Before you hit the court, snag the best pickleball paddle out there, the graphite paddle from Club. Paddles. Browse through our custom pickleball paddles or shop our collection of the best pickleball paddles for beginners. We've got plenty of styles, so you can find your best fit. Shop our graphite pickleball paddles today!

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