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Pickleball Isn’t Played With Pickles

The Birth of Pickleball

Bainbridge Island
Bainbridge Island

Once upon a time, during the summer of 1965, three families spent their weekends on Bainbridge Island, a scenic town just a ferry ride away from Seattle. When Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum returned from a round of golf, they found their families in the doldrums of boredom.

Not to worry. The adults decided to set up the badminton court.

Imagine the families scrounging around in the storage shed for badminton equipment. Perhaps the conversation went something like this:

19th century woman playing badminton

Net – Check

Rackets – Check

Shuttlecock – It’s not here.

Well, we can’t play without a shuttlecock.

Wait. Can we use this plastic ball instead?

Not with a racket.

How about using the ping pong paddles?

dog with ball

Okay. Now we have everything.

No. The net’s too high. We’ll never be able to hit the plastic ball over it.

Everyone scurries to lower the net.

Pickles ran off with the plastic ball. He’s over there somewhere.

Dumb Dog

As the sun set over the horizon, boredom was banished, and the weary players began their game.

And thus, Pickleball was born

Pickleball paddles, ball, & court

The game turned out to be fun. As time went on, the founders realized they had created a new game by staking out a court the same size as a badminton court, lowering the net to the height used in tennis, making paddles that looked like ping pong paddles but were slightly larger, and developing a ball that resembled a whiffle ball. The originators called the game pickleball, because …

One explanation is that when Pickles, the family dog, was able to catch the ball, he ran away with it. Possible, but unlikely.

Joan Pritchard, one of the game’s creators, had experience in the sport of crew rowing. She remembered that “The name of the game became Pickle Ball after I said it reminded me of the Pickle Boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”

Pickleball pictogram

Pickleball becomes an official international sport

Pickleball is now an official paddleball sport in which 2-4 players use paddles to hit a perforated polymer ball with 26-40 round holes over a net. It is the fastest growing sport in America with about 4 million active players of all ages. The configuration of the game lends itself to social interaction, and it’s easier on the joints than tennis.

Today there is an International Federation of Pickball with members from 37 countries. And a Professional Tour of Pickelball. The First National Open Pickleball Competition was held in Surprise, Arizona in 2009. Now there’s a national tour.

Want to know how to play? Check out the rules here.

🏓 🏓 🏸 🏸


Cottages on Bainbridge Island by Ecoscapes

Woman playing badminton about 1820

Dog playing with tennis ball by Ossewa

Pickleball by Bananajoe42

Pickleball pictogram by Lincoln227

Play Pickleball

International Federation of Pickleball (IFP)

The Professional Tour of Pickleball

Jane Wells. “Why Pickleball Is Seeing A Pandemic Boom.” The News With Shepard Smith. CNBC. April 16, 2021.

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.


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