History of Pickleball

Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the world and its history, including Pickles the dog, is pretty interesting!

Pickleball is a relatively new sport that has gained popularity in recent years. The origins of the game can be traced back to the summer of 1965, when two friends, Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell, a successful businessman, came up with the game on Bainbridge Island, Washington. The story goes that Pritchard and Bell were looking for something to do one summer day, but all the equipment they needed for their usual sports was unavailable. They improvised with a badminton net, a Wiffle ball, and table tennis paddles, realizing they had played their first game of a new kind, that would eventually gain mass media exposure, and invented pickleball!

The next weekend, their friend Barney McCallum played this new game with Pritchard and Bell and they all created the rules for the game we know today as pickleball.

The First Permanent Pickleball Court

Pickleball’s popularity quickly caught on with the friends’ families and the wider community. The official first permanent pickleball court was built in Pritchard’s backyard in 1967, and the game was first played on an old badminton court with a net that was lowered to 34 inches.

The game’s name, “pickleball,” is said to have been derived from the Pritchard family’s cocker spaniel, Pickles, who would chase the ball and hide in the bushes, thereby “pickling” it.



The Story Of Pickles The Dog

Pickles was just a normal dog living on Bainbridge Island, Washington. He spent his days playing in the backyard and chasing after the family cat. But that fateful summer day changed his life forever. The day that the three friends decided to improvise and create a new pickleball game, Pickles, being the curious dog he was, followed them to see what they were doing.

Watching the friends hit a Wiffle ball back and forth with table tennis paddles, Pickles couldn’t resist joining in on the fun. He chased after the ball and hid in the bushes, “pickling” it as the game was named. Pickles became the inspiration for the game’s name, “pickleball” and became the game’s mascot. Little did he know he would be a main contributing factor to America’s newest racquet sport and inspire people to play pickleball!

The road of trials began as the game grew in popularity. Pickles and the Pritchard family had to adapt to the changes. Pickles had to learn how to interact with the players, and how to behave during the games, especially pickleball tournament games!

The Growth Of Pickleball

The game continued to grow in popularity in the Pacific Northwest, and by the 1970s, it had spread to other parts of the United States. In 1975, the National Observer published an entire article about the new, exciting sport, helping it to gain even more exposure. The first official tournament was held in 1976 in Seattle, and the game’s first governing body, the International Pickleball Association (IPA) was formed in 1984, along with the first pickleball rulebook! This professional pickleball association worked to standardize the rules and promote the game, which helped it to gain even more popularity and attract more pickleball professionals.

In the 1990s and 2000s, pickleball began to gain traction among older adults and retirees as a fun and low-impact form of exercise. It was also popular in physical education classes and community centers. In 2005, the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was formed, which helped to further promote the sport and provide resources for players and communities.

Because of this organization forming, USAPA national championships started to take place and eventually the first USAPA ambassador retreat even happened, taking place in Tahoe City, California in 2015.


Pickleball Today

Today, pickleball is played by people of all ages and skill levels and it is considered one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. It is played on a pickleball court that is similar in size to a doubles badminton court and is a combination of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. The game pickleball is played with a perforated plastic ball and a pickleball paddle and is enjoyed by so many people! It’s no wonder that it’s America’s newest racquet sport and fastest growing, in comparison to other racket sports.

Pickleball has come a long way since its humble beginnings on Bainbridge Island, Washington in 1965 when Pickles, the dog, jumped in on his owner’s game they called pickleball. From backyard games among friends to an organized sport with official tournaments and governing bodies, pickleball has grown in popularity and become a beloved pastime for people all over the world.

Although Joel Pritchard and Pickles the dog have passed away, their legacies continue to live on, as the game continues to grow in popularity and reach new heights. Pickles will always be remembered as the playful dog who inspired the game of pickleball and brought joy to so many people. His memory, and Joel’s, will live on in the hearts of pickleball players everywhere, and their heroic journey will be told for generations to come.

Joel and his friends hoped to inspire others to always remember the main purpose of why they invented the game of pickleball: to have a game that the whole family could enjoy together.