Pickleball’s name comes from one of the game’s creators, Joel Pritchard’s wife. She thinks that pickleball, a mix of badminton and ping pong, resembles the idea of a pickle boat formed from leftover crews. 

Many people think that this is a silly name.

But I think it is a creative thought. 

If you don’t understand why Joel’s wife would relate a racquet sport to rowing…

You are interested in the details of the origin of pickleball…

Or you are wondering what about the story of the family’s dog Pickles. 

Read this article as I will walk you through the original story of the invention of pickleball.

The Origin of Pickleball

Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, by neighbors who wanted to play a game with their families after a round of golf. The group included Joel Pritchard, a businessman who later became a politician who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and Washington’s lieutenant governor, and two of his friends, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum.

One day in the summer, Frank, Joel’s son, complained that there was nothing fun to do in Bainbridge. So Joel decided to invent a new game for his son.

Joel and Bill found an old badminton court on Pritchard’s property but could not find enough rackets to play. So they decided to use what they had in hand, ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. They also lowered the net to 36 inches and created some basic rules based on badminton. They soon discovered that the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and that the game was easy to learn and fun to play. 

The following weekend, they introduced the game to McCallum, who helped them refine the rules and equipment. They also invited more friends and family members to join them, and the game quickly became popular among their community. 

In the backyard of Pritchard’s neighbor and friend Bob O’Brian, the first permanent pickleball court was constructed in 1967. The world’s inaugural pickleball competition was played in 1976 at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. To encourage the expansion and improvement of pickleball on a national scale, the United States Amateur Pickleball Association (USAPA) was established in 1984. In March 1984, the first rulebook was released. 

Since then, pickleball has grown exponentially in popularity across the United States and beyond. In 2022, pickleball because the hottest sports trend in the US. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, pickleball was the fastest-growing sport in the United States in 2021, 2022, and 2023. 

The Naming of Pickleball

The origin of the name pickleball is clear and undisputed. Even though many people think that there are two theories about how pickleball got its name, only one of them has been conclusively proven and officially accepted. 

Pickleball was named after a term for a boat with a mixed crew in rowing or sailing. According to this story, Pritchard’s wife Joan was an enthusiastic fan of the rowers who had participated in the regattas. She knew that sometimes when there were not enough rowers for a full boat, they would form a pickle boat, where rowers from different boats or teams would join. Joan suggested that pickleball reminded her of the pickle boat because the game used a mix of different equipment and rules from other sports.

The name pickleball was supposedly a reference to the mixed and mismatched nature of the game.

This theory has more support from some of the original inventors of pickleball, who have confirmed that Joan Pritchard did make this analogy. 

What about the Dog?

The second theory is that pickleball was named after a dog named Pickles, who belonged to Pritchard’s family. According to this story, Pickles was a mischievous and playful cocker spaniel who loved to join the game whenever he saw the ball flying over the net. He would dash onto the court, snatch the ball with his mouth, and run away, wagging his tail and barking happily. The players would have to chase after him and coax him to give back the ball or find another one to continue the game.

Pritchard’s children or wife supposedly coined the name pickleball as a tribute to their furry friend who added some extra fun and challenge to the game.

Even though this story is cute, it is not where the name of pickleball comes from. Pickles was born three years after pickleball was invented, so he could not have been present during the early stages of the game’s development. According to Joel’s son, it is just a funny story his father would tell his neighbor. 

Wrap Up

Thank you for reading this blog post about why it is called pickleball. I hope you enjoyed the story.

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