The Birth of Pickle-ball®
Pickle-ball® is a game for the whole family. So it’s only fitting that it was invented by a family, too. The game got its start back in 1965, in Bainbridge Island, just a short ferry ride away from Seattle, WA.
When Congressmen Joel Pritchard, William Bell and Barney McCallum came home from a game of golf one day to find their kids bored and restless, they set out to create a game that would engage them through the lazy days of summer.
They wanted to create a game that would be challenging, but still accessible. They handed the kids table tennis paddles and a wiffle ball, and lowered the net on their badminton court. In the coming days both kids and adults alike fell in love with the game, and as they played the rules evolved (to include the non-volley zone, for instance) and solidified to their present incarnation.
Pickleball has a very interesting name, especially since no pickles are used. Accounts of how the name originated differ. One version is that Pickleball was named after the Pritchards family dog who would chase the ball and run off with it. Another version is that Joel Pritchard’s wife (Joan) started calling the game pickleball because the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.
Others claim both versions may actually be true. In the early years, no official name was assigned to the game. However a year or two after the game was invented, the Pritchards purchased a cocker spaniel and named it Pickles. As the game progressed, an official name was needed and “pickleball” was it.
Joel Pritchard said the tall tales about the sport’s name originated with an out-of-town reporter… and a few imaginative locals… and his own willingness to hush-up when a good story takes hold. We needed a nutty name like Pickle-Ball, but, no, the dog was named after the game. A reporter came through and was doing a national story on the game, and somebody told him that story. Everybody said, “Shut your mouth. It’s a good story. It works better, leave it alone.” It’s like a lot of stories.
Pickle-ball's Birthplace — Bainbridge Island
The Early Years
Pickle-ball® caught on fast with friends and neighbors. People began making their own Pickle-ball® paddles, which were more suited to the game than table tennis paddles, using a wood jigsaws and marine plywood. Those who had access to badminton courts simply lowered the net. Others set up courts in their driveways and backyards, drawing lines with chalk. News of the fun new game spread by word-of-mouth.
Evolution of Pickle-ball®
Pickle-ball® continued to gain in popularity over the years for players of all ages, and in 1972, Pickle-ball® was officially incorporated to give the game a proper hub and keep up with the demand for paddles, balls, nets and other gear.
An Interview With Barney McCallum
Today Pickle-ball® is played all over the world—through community groups, PE classes, YMCA, retirement communities and more. According to a recent article there are more than 2,000,000 people playing Pickle-ball® in the US alone, and the game is growing exponentially.