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When Was Pickleball Invented? And How Has It Become a Sporting Sensation?

by Pickleball Superstore January 08, 2024

Two pickleball players sit and talk strategy on a court between games.

Pickleball exploded in popularity from the late 2010s to the early 2020s. Now, the sport continues to gain new players at a tremendous pace.

As pickleball specialists, we think it’s because this sport is easy to learn, widely accessible, and very fun. You don’t need much more than a paddle, a ball, a court, and a partner to start enjoying pickleball.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association reports that pickleball was the fastest-growing sport in America in 2022. That’s very impressive, considering the report includes a wide range of sports and activities. From yoga and hiking to team sports and gym-based exercise, pickleball comes out on top.

It’s easy to see that pickleball keeps building on its foundation to become more and more popular. But what about the beginnings of this sport?

When was pickleball invented? Who created this game? And how did become such a phenomenon?

Keep reading to learn more about the history of pickleball.

Who Invented Pickleball? And When Was Pickleball Created?

USA Pickleball, the official governing body for the sport in the US, shares a detailed timeline of key events in pickleball history. If you’re “wondering what year was pickleball invented?”, USA Pickleball makes it clear: 1965.

That was the year when, following a weekend round of golf, the two inventors of pickleball came up with the game. Pickleball wasn’t a carefully designed project led by sports experts and guided by focus groups. Instead, it was invented at the spur of the moment by two friends, politician Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell.

The pair were looking for an activity to share with their families, who were bored on a summer afternoon. Pritchard’s home in the Seattle metro area had a badminton court. However, the pair couldn’t find all of the other equipment needed for the game.

With a little improvisation, pickleball was born. By using table tennis paddles and a plastic ball, along with a badminton net lowered from its standard height, the families found an enjoyable and easy, but still athletic and engaging, game. Over time, friends and other family members tried it out and enjoyed it, too.

A pickleball player reaches to hit a volley.

Early Growth of Pickleball

Between 1965 and 1976, this early form of pickleball continued to evolve. Pritchard and Bell continued to develop and refine the rules. They also formed a corporation to protect their invention.

1976 stands out as a key year in pickleball history. That was when the very first official pickleball tournament occurred.

Additionally, an article about the emerging sport appeared in 1975 in The National Observer, a general-interest weekly newspaper with national circulation. That led to more coverage in 1976 from Tennis magazine.

The sport continued to grow through the ‘80s and ‘90s. Key events during this time include:

  • The formation of the United States Amateur Pickleball Association (USAPA), which encouraged nationwide awareness of the game
  • Publication of the first official pickleball rule book
  • Mass production of pickleball paddles and pickleballs themselves
  • The game spreading to all 50 states

Pickleball’s Emergence as a Sport Sensation

As the pickleball timeline gets closer to the present—the 2000s and 2010s—the game continues to grow in popularity. It’s featured on national morning shows, like Good Morning America, and is adopted by sports organizations like the Arizona Senior Olympics and Huntsman World Senior Games.

A key turning point was the creation of the USA Pickleball Association (now US Pickleball). This organization focused on raising awareness and encouraging play. By publishing a tournament rulebook, offering a court locator, and supporting national tournaments, pickleball’s profile continued to rise.

The New York Times shared three reasons why pickleball has continued to find (and keep) new players in recent years:

  1. It’s easy to play. The basic rules are easy to learn. It’s simple to make changes for accessibility, meaning even more people can pick up the game.
  2. It’s a good opportunity for active exercise, but not so intense that it discourages potential players.
  3. It’s a social and fun sport, and that encourages many first-timers to keep playing.

Pickleball’s popularity appears to be much more than just a flash in the pan. With several years of sustained growth, it’s caught on as a fun way to stay active. By balancing the thrill of competition with the opportunity to play with friends and meet new people, it’s a deeply satisfying sport.

Pickleball Superstore: Everything You Need for Pickleball

Ready to start playing pickleball? Already a committed player and want to upgrade your gear? Pickleball Superstore is here to help! Shop all of our collections to get what you need for your next pickleball game!

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