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Why Is Pickleball Called Pickleball - The Curious History

pickleball paddles with ball

Pickleball can easily be lumped with any other paddle and racquet sport. But the sport has its own unique set of rules, equipment, charms, and more. If you’re wondering about its origin and why pickleball is called pickleball, you’ve come to the right place!

Here’s the complete breakdown of pickleball’s history and the strange but fascinating stories behind its name. We will also review some health benefits of playing pickleball to help you show off at your next game!

What Is Pickleball and Its Origin?

Pickleball is a racquet or paddle-type sport you can play indoors and outdoors. It involves two (singles) or four players (doubles) who use a pickleball paddle to hit a perforated ball across a pickleball court separated by a net.

The sport was first concocted by Joel Pritchard and William Bell who were returning to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, WA. When they found their families bored and uninspired with the other available sports, it got them started on a hunt for a new fun way to spend the summer of 1965.

The property had an old badminton court, but all they managed to find were some ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. And so began the first-ever pickleball game.

The game was fun and easy, and soon, everyone was playing together and spending time planning and readjusting its rules and other specifics. They also got their friend Barney McCallum to pitch in ideas.

Two years later, they built the first pickleball court. It was in the backyard of Bob O’Brian, a neighbor and friend of the Pritchards. And five years later, the first pickleball corporation made the game official.

children playing pickleball

But it was in 1976 that the game got its first national recognition through an article in the National Observer. The game also saw its first tournament in the same year at the South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington, where David Lester won the Men’s Singles, and Steve Paranto came in second.

The tournament saw significant participation from college tennis players. While good at tennis, these students didn't know anything about pickleball. But they ran a practice with large wooden paddles and softball-sized plastic balls.

And the rest is history.

The game kept getting popular, with many pickleball tournaments running in Washington in 1982.

There was soon a lot of buzz about the sport. And finally, in 1984, the United States Amateur Pickleball Association (U.S.A.P.A) was established, and the first pickleball rule book was published.

This marked the national-level acknowledgment of the game and its success.

There were also many more developments in the game, some of which are as follows:

  • The first composite pickleball paddle by Arlen Paranto, a Boeing Industrial Engineer.
  • The new pickleball corporation, USA Pickleball Association (USAPA).
  • Establishment of the USAPA Grant Program.
  • Establishment of the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) organization in 2010.
  • Launch of the Pickleball Magazine.
  • The First US Open Pickleball Championship in Naples, FL.
  • Establishment of the Super Senior International Pickleball Association (SSIPA) in 2016.

How Did Pickleball Get Its Name?

There are plenty of theories concerning how the name Pickleball came to be, all referring to the game’s origin. Let’s go over some of the common ones that the U.S.A. Pickleball Association suggests.

In the first story, Joan Pritchard (Joel Pritcherd’s wife) is the one who suggests the name, remembering the “pickle boat” in crew races. The “pickle boat” refers to a crew of leftover oarsmen from other boats — a concept quite similar to how pickleball’s equipment and rules came about.

Another retelling suggests the name was an inspiration from Joel Pritchard’s dog, who was also named Pickles. It was part of an interview Pritchard was doing with a national publication.

Pritchard later resolved the matter by confessing the dog story to be a hoax.

Moreover, Pritchard's dog was born three years after they named the game. So, the dog was more likely to be named after the game.

What Are the Health Benefits of Playing Pickleball?

players shaking hands after pickleball game

Pickleball’s popularity continues to increase for various reasons. Not only is it easy to take up at any age, but it is also slower and safer than most other racquet or paddle sports. Besides, it offers a range of health benefits to your mind and body.

The physical benefits of playing pickleball include improved hand-eye coordination, better lung function, improved muscle strength and function, agility, balance, and power; it helps you burn calories, regulates blood pressure, better cholesterol levels, better cardiorespiratory fitness, and controls blood sugar levels.

There are also plenty of mental benefits to playing pickleball. Some benefits are improved cognitive performance and better memory; it helps relieve stress and anxiety, lowers levels of depression, and improves social connection.

Unlike some other sports, a round of pickleball doesn’t cause your body much strain. It’s a low-impact sport that is less risky than a game of tennis.

Pickleball is thus the best sport for someone looking for a fun workout without straining themselves.

Wrapping Up

While it may have an odd name, pickleball is a beloved sport among families worldwide. We hope this guide gave you answers and trivia to impress friends and family.

old hands with pickleball paddle and yellow ball

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the size of the official pickleball court?

An official pickleball court, including lines, is 44 feet long and 20 feet wide.

Can you play pickleball indoors?

Yes. You can play indoor pickleball on gym floors or wooden surfaces as well.

Is pickleball a safe sport for all ages?

Yes, pickleball is a safe sport for all age groups.

How is pickleball different from tennis?

Pickleball differs from tennis in three main ways. Pickleball has a smaller court, uses different types of equipment, and has a unique set of rules.

What equipment do you need to play pickleball?

Pickleball only requires a paddle for each player, a pickleball, and a small court with a net.

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