History Of Pickleball | A Game Invented By A Family

Despite being a professional game, Pickleball is one of the few games that reached the backyard of the families. You can pass your lazy afternoon with your family playing this game, you only need pickleball paddles and a ball to get started. Not only it is fun, it’s better than sitting on a couch and playing video games. It keeps your family entertained and active while binding them together through a sport. That’s something remarkable, isn’t that?

The history of Pickleball suggests the game started its journey for something similar, passing a good time with the family. As it is a family sport, so it’s only natural that the game was invented by a family. The interesting story starts back in summer of 1965, in a place named Bainbridge Island, just a brief ferry ride from Seattle, WA.

Who invented pickleball
Joel M. Pitchard (1925- 1997)

In that summer, Joel Pritchard, a congressman from the Washington States and his friend, Bill Bell, a successful businessman were passing a great time playing golf. One Saturday afternoon, they came back from their game, only to find out their kids are bored and annoyed.

Well, there were no video games available back then, and children actually loved playing outside. So, the responsible dads stepped up. As there was a badminton court on that property so they searched for some badminton equipment and could not find a full set of racquets.

So, they improvised and used ping pong bat and a whiffle ball. They started playing by the rules of badminton and placed the net at 60 inches height. Within a short time, they found that the ball jumps pretty well on the asphalt ground, and the net was lowered to 36 inches. The game started to take a shape.

The next weekend, another friend of this duo, Barney McCallum was introduced to the interesting game. He played at Pritchard’s house and soon, these three men started creating rules for this game. They were happy because they found a game that a whole family can play together and have fun.

How the game got its name Pickleball? The popular story is it was named after their dog, Pickle. The dog used to chase the ball run off with it. So they thought, why not name this game after this energetic and funny pet, after all this game was invented for fun, right?

It Caught The Eyes Of The Neighbors

The game started to spread out pretty fast among the neighbors. Apparently, Joel and Bill’s family weren’t the only ones bored by inactivity that summer. People embraced the game and started making their own Pickleball bats which suited to their play more and more.

Those who had badminton courts simply used that space, with one minor change of lowering the net to 36 inches. Others made room in their backyards and driveways. Not too much space needed for this game. So they made courts anywhere is a little space and the game started getting its momentum.

After 2 years of that summer, Pickleball was still spreading among people and the first permanent Pickleball court was constructed in the backyard of Joel Pritchard’s neighbor and pal, Bob O’Brian.

A few years later, in 1972, the game was incorporated to give this game an official form. As the game was accepted by people of all ages and the demand for pickleball balls, paddles, nets, and other gears were increasing, it was only a matter of time for this game to go to a professional level.

A Professional Game

In 1975, The National Observer featured the game, followed by the Tennis Magazine the next year. “America’s newest racquet sport”, they said.

The year 1976 was a leap for in the history of pickleball, during the spring, the very first Pickleball tournament was introduced to the world. This tournament was held at the South Center Athletic Club, Washington. David Lester was the first winner of the Men’s singles. Many players were new and only college tennis players. They practiced with large wood paddles and a whiffle ball. But, nonetheless, a group of professional players was starting to form.

In 1984, the official association for Pickleball USAPA was formed. The motto was protecting the growth of Pickleball at a national level.

The first official rulebook was published in March 1984. In the same year, a Boeing engineer named Arlen Paranto made the first composite paddle. He used Fiberglas/ Nomex honeycomb as the material which was mainly used by airlines for their airplane floors. Arlen manufactured about 1000 pieces of paddles combining Fiberglas/Honeycomb and graphite/honeycomb.

By the time of 1990, Pickleball was being played in all 50 states of the USA, and it became one of the most popular family sports.

In 1997, the founder Joel Pritchard passed away at the age of 72. From 1988 to 1996, he was Washington State’s, Lieutenant Governor. Yet he’s possibly better known for his invented game, Pickleball.

In 2001, the game was first introduced to Arizona Senior Olympics, nearly 100 players attended that tournament which was the biggest for this game till then. Over the next few years, the number of attendees increased to 300.

In 2003, Pickleball took place for the first time in Huntsman World Senior Games, this event held each year in Utah at the time of October.

The first USAPA national tournament was held in 2009. By this time this game got more than 400 listed places and more than 1500 individual courts to play throughout the North America. The tournament gathered more than 400 players from 26 states and numerous Canadian provinces.

Current Condition

Currently, this game is pretty much known and played by all. After the year 2010, the number of places to play increased rapidly and now it’s almost double. According to USAPA, there are 4000 places now where people play this sports, not to mention countless personal courts.

The game has been widely accepted and played by children, students, family members, retirement communities. There are indoor courts too to play it throughout the year. After the “USA Pickleball Association Official Tournament Rulebook” published in 2008, the game has a nationally accepted form.


So, the history of Pickleball tells us this is a truly American game, invented by one of Americas own and accepted and spread by its people. The game has now passed the borders of nationality and is widely played in Canada, UK, Australia, India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.

In the coming years, this game is going to spread throughout the world. Do you know how I know that? Because it ties a family together in the manner of harmless and healthy fun. No matter which part of the world you live in, when people get to know the game, dads are going to choose Pickleball paddle sets as a perfect gift for their children.

Leave a Comment