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Why Is It Called Pickleball

Why Is It Called Pickleball

December 17, 2023
Why Is It Called Pickleball

Why Is It Called Pickleball?

Pickleball, an increasingly popular sport, has a unique and somewhat whimsical name that has intrigued many. The origins of its name, however, are shrouded in a mix of stories and folklore, with no definitive answer.

The Inception of Pickleball

Pickleball was created in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, Washington, by Joel Pritchard, William Bell, and Barney McCallum. These three fathers, seeking to entertain their children during the summer, improvised with available sports equipment. Using ping-pong paddles, a Wiffle ball, and a lowered badminton net, they created a new game that blended elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis​​​​​​.

The Name “Pickleball”: Conflicting Stories

Story 1: Pickles the Dog

One popular version of the name’s origin involves a dog named Pickles. According to this story, the Pritchard family had a cockapoo named Pickles, who would often chase the Wiffle ball during the game and run off with it. The amusement derived from this incident supposedly led to the sport being named after the dog. This version is widely circulated and has a certain charm, especially for animal lovers​​​​.

Story 2: The Pickle Boat

The second, and perhaps less whimsical story, comes from Joan Pritchard, Joel Pritchard’s wife. She likened the sport to a “pickle boat” in crew racing. In rowing, a pickle boat is often composed of leftover rowers from other boats and typically finishes last. Joan Pritchard’s analogy drew from the notion that pickleball, too, was a mix of leftovers from other sports​​​​.

Alternative Theories and Considerations

There are other considerations and alternative theories as well. Some suggest the game was initially named “pickle ball” because it put players in a pickle, a challenging situation. Furthermore, Jennifer Lucore and Beverly Youngren, authors of “History of Pickleball: More than 50 Years of Fun!”, found evidence of a third possibility, where Bill Bell claimed he named the game because he enjoyed hitting the ball in a way that put his opponent in a pickle​​.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that the dog Pickles may not have been part of the Pritchard family until after the game had already been named. The confusion and lack of concrete evidence make the true origin of the name a matter of personal preference or belief​​.

The Evolution of Pickleball

Pickleball’s growth from a backyard pastime to an internationally recognized sport is a testament to its appeal and accessibility. The game, initially played on a badminton-sized court with ping-pong-like paddles and a perforated plastic ball, has undergone several modifications over the years. The rules have evolved, and the equipment has improved, making the game more dynamic and competitive.

The sport’s popularity soared in the United States, leading to the formation of the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) in 1984. The USAPA was instrumental in standardizing the rules and promoting the sport across the country. Today, pickleball is played in thousands of locations across the United States and has a growing international presence.

The Cultural Impact of Pickleball

Pickleball’s impact extends beyond just being a sport; it has become a cultural phenomenon. Its simplicity and inclusivity have made it a favorite among people of all ages and skill levels. The game is particularly popular among senior communities, as it offers a less physically demanding alternative to tennis while still providing a competitive and social experience.

Pickleball tournaments have become significant events, drawing players and spectators from around the world. The sport has also seen a rise in professional players and coaches, further cementing its status as a legitimate and competitive sport.

Educational and Health Benefits

Pickleball is not just fun; it offers various health and educational benefits. Playing pickleball improves physical fitness, including better hand-eye coordination, agility, and cardiovascular health. It also promotes mental well-being, as it requires strategic thinking and provides opportunities for social interaction.

Schools have started to incorporate pickleball into their physical education programs, recognizing its value in teaching students about teamwork, strategy, and physical fitness in a fun and engaging way.

The Future of Pickleball

The future of pickleball looks bright, with its popularity continuing to rise globally. Efforts are underway to include pickleball in major multi-sport events, and there is a growing push for its inclusion in the Olympic Games.

As the sport evolves, so does its equipment and playing strategies, promising an exciting future for players and fans alike. With its welcoming community and the ongoing support from organizations like the USAPA, pickleball is poised for continued growth and success.


For more information on the history and evolution of pickleball, the following resources offer detailed insights:

  1. USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) – Official Rules
  2. The History of Pickleball: More Than 50 Years of Fun! by Jennifer Lucore and Beverly Youngren
  3. Pickleball: A Paddle Sport for Everyone – A Historical Overview
  4. Joan Pritchard’s Interview on the Origin of the Name “Pickleball”
  5. National Pickleball Tournament Information
  6. Olympic Inclusion Efforts for Pickleball

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