man standing on a pickleball court holding a pickleball paddle

Uncovering the Fascinating Origins of Pickleball: Pickleball History

If you're reading this, you might be brand new to this sport. Perhaps you heard about it from a friend, or heard it covered in the news. However you heard about it, you might be wondering where Pickleball all started and how it's now become the fastest growing sport in America. Keep reading and you'll learn about all the major milestones, and how this sport came to be!


Pickleball was born in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, not far from Seattle, Washington. When two friends, Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell, returned from a game of golf, they found themselves with bored children at home and no badminton equipment. So, they improvised by using table tennis paddles and a perforated plastic ball, and thus, pickleball was born.

The first permanent pickleball court was constructed in the backyard of Pritchard's friend and neighbor Bob O'Brian in 1967. From there, pickleball began to grow in popularity, and by 1976, the first ever pickleball tournament was held at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington.


Over the years, pickleball continued to grow and gain popularity. In 1978, the first book about pickleball was published, and by 1990, the sport was being played in all 50 states. In 2005, the USA Pickleball Association was established, and the first USAPA National Tournament was held in 2009. Today, the USAPA has over 40,000 members and pickleball is estimated to have over 3.3 million participants.


So, why is it called pickleball? There are two different stories about the origin of the name. The first account is that Joel Pritchard's wife, Joan, started calling the game pickleball because the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat in crew, where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of the other boats. The second account from Barney McCallum is that the sport was named after Pritchard's dog Pickles, who would chase the ball and run with it.


Today, pickleball has become a sensation, with millions of enthusiasts participating in tournaments worldwide, regardless of age. The sport has been growing at an astonishing rate, with the USAPA (United States of America Pickleball Association) now boasting over 40,000 members. In recent years, pickleball has been estimated to be one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, with a current estimated participation of 3.3 million players. With its easy-to-learn rules, fun gameplay, and inclusive nature, it's no wonder pickleball has captured the hearts of so many people. Whether you're a seasoned player or just starting out, pickleball is a sport that everyone can enjoy. 

A Historical Timeline

1965: Pickleball is invented by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum in Bainbridge Island, Washington. The three friends combined elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong to create the new sport.

1967: The first pickleball rules are established and the sport begins to gain popularity in the Seattle area.

1971: The first pickleball tournament is held in Seattle, with 64 players participating.

1976: The first set of official pickleball rules is published.

1984: The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) is established to promote the sport and provide resources and support to players.

1987: Pickleball is introduced to the Sun City retirement community in Arizona, where it quickly becomes popular among residents.

1991: Pickleball is added to the Senior Games, a national competition for older athletes.

1995: The first pickleball national championship is held, with players from all over the country competing.

2000: Pickleball continues to gain popularity and is now played in all 50 states in the U.S.

2017: The first Pickleball World Championships are held, with players from around the world competing in various categories.

2018: The International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) is formed, with the goal of promoting and developing the sport on a global level.

2019: Pickleball is included in the World Games for the first time, held in Wroclaw, Poland.

2020: Pickleball experiences a surge in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as people look for outdoor sports to play while social distancing.

2021: The USAPA Pickleball National Championships sees record-breaking participation, with over 2,000 players competing in various categories.

2022: The Pickleball World Championships are held for the second time, with players from over 20 countries participating. Court Pickleball is born :) 

2023: Pickleball continues to grow and expand, with new pickleball courts, clubs, and events being established in cities and towns around the world. 

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