History and Origin of Pickleball

Where and How Did Pickleball Originate?

The idea of pickleball began one afternoon in 1965.

Joel and Joan Pritchard lived in Seattle. However, they spend most of their summers at their home on Bainbridge Island.

For their 1965 summer, they decided to invite their friends, Bill and Tina. Both families visited Bainbridge Island for a memorable vacation.

One Saturday, Joel and Bell went out to play golf, leaving behind their families. Upon their return, they found Joel’s 13-year-old son, Frank, bored.

Frank complained to his father that there was nothing fun to do on the island. Joel told his son that when they were kids, they created games that kept them entertained. After the response, Frank challenged his father to create a game.

Joel took up the challenge. He called his friend Bell, and together, they walked to the backyard badminton court.

There, in Joel’s backyard, was a 44 by 20 feet regulation court that had been asphalted earlier by Joel's parents.

From there, the two friends visited the back shed, where they found a plastic perforated ball from a plastic bat and ball set that Frank had received for his birthday earlier that year. They also found two broken table tennis paddles and erected a badminton net. With this basic equipment, they began playing the first game.

Pickleball Lobby
Image from: Pickleball Lobby

However, the broken paddles made the gameplay challenging. So, the two friends decided to make new ones. The results weren’t appealing but served better than the broken ones.

As they continued to play, Joel suggested they needed Barney.

Barney was a handyman whose home was six doors down the beach. Upon his arrival, Barney helped the duo construct more reliable and appealing paddles. He then became integral to pickleball's rules, formation, and equipment.

There is a debate on how Pickleball got its name.

Joel's son, Frank, claims that Joan, her mother, suggested they name it "Pickleball." Joan explained that the name referred to leftover rowers racing for fun in local "pickle boat" crew race competitions.

Others say the game was named after Frank's dog, Pickles. But Frank claims the dog joined the family in 19 when the game already had a name.

Who Were the Original Inventors of Pickleball?

The original inventors of pickleball were Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum.

The History Of Pickleball
Image from: Pickleball Guide

Joel McFee Pritchard was an American businessman and politician who worked in the US House of Representatives. Before he died in 1997, Joel told his daughter, Peggy, that of all his work, he was most proud of pickleball because it had made a lasting impression on people. It made them healthy and happy.

Bill Bell was an avid player and promoter of pickleball. When his work took him abroad, he was the first ambassador of the company called "Pickleball Inc." which had been formed by the three Pickleball founders.

Joel and Bill introduced Barney McCallum to the game. Barney helped solidify pickleball rules and balance by suggesting features like the kitchen and double bounce rule.

How Has the Game and Community Evolved Since It Began?

Below are some ways pickleball and the community have evolved since it began.

  • Formation of pickleball clubs and groups: As of the end of 2022, there are over 10,724 USA pickleball registered facilities in North America.
  • World adoption: Pickleball was invented in the USA., which explains why Americans are the majority of pickleball players. However, other countries such as India, Canada, Spain, France, England, and the Netherlands have embraced the game.
  • Change in pickleball rules: As per Pickleball 2023 rules, a serve must be made with only one hand releasing the ball, and the server is not allowed to impart manipulation or spin on the pickleball ball with any body part immediately before they serve. The exception to this rule is that the server may use their paddle to execute the drop serve. Also, according to the new rules, the referee can call for a replay if they are uncertain that one or more serve requirements have been met.
  • Birth of adaptive pickleball: Adaptive Pickleball teaches people with cognitive, physical, or developmental issues how to play pickleball. It was formed in 2020 by Sandy Halkett.