When Was Pickleball Invented?

If you love to play pickleball, you probably have some questions about when it was invented and the history of the game. The history of pickleball had humble beginnings, but it didn’t take long for the sport to pick up steam. Today it’s one of the most popular and fastest-growing racquet sports. Here’s the information you’re craving about the invention and history of USA pickleball. 

When Was Pickleball First Invented
Photo Credit: usapickleball.org

Racket sports have been popular as both recreational hobbies and competitive events for years. Tennis is rumored to be the oldest racket sport, with its modern origins as we know it today dating back to the late 1800s. But what about the game of pickleball? When was this addictive game invented, and how does it fit into our modern sport’s history?

The very first game of pickleball, which looked a bit different from the pickleball that we know today, was first invented on an otherwise ordinary afternoon in 1965. Its invention wasn’t intentional, and at the time, it’s doubtful that the creators knew they had stumbled upon a game that would capture the attention of so many people decades later. 

The first game of pickleball was rather “rustic.” It was played on an old badminton court, combining elements of badminton, tennis, wiffle ball, and table tennis. It’s rumored that the game was first played with wooden paddles or table tennis paddles rather than the specially designed pickleball paddles used today. 

Who Invented Pickleball & Why?

Photo Credit: usapickleball.org

The story goes that the game started one afternoon with congressman Joel Pritchard, and successful businessman Bill Bell returned to the Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island in Washington after playing golf. What they found on that afternoon was that their families were bored and were desperate for something new and fun to do. 

The first idea was to get the family involved in a game of badminton, using the old badminton court that was on the property. The only problem was that they didn’t have or couldn’t find all of the necessary equipment to play badminton. 

Like any parent desperate to cure the family’s boredom, they made it work with what they had – which was a badminton net, some paddles, and a few wiffle balls – and created a brand new game called pickleball. 

The game was played throughout the weekend, evolving a little each time. The following week, they introduced the game to their friend Barney McCallum, bringing yet another person in on the fun. Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum settled down that weekend to iron out the rules of their new game. 

Keeping other racket sports in mind, the game of pickleball was created to be fun, competitive, and accessible for the whole family.

The Origins of the Name Pickleball

The Origins of the Name Pickleball

Pickleball seems like a kinda silly name for a game that has absolutely nothing to do with pickles, so where did the name come from? 

There are a couple of different theories on this. The first is a little dog story that involves the family dog – whose name just happened to be Pickles. The story of Pickles the dog goes that he would chase the pickle ball (which was actually a perforated plastic ball called a wiffle ball), so they named the new sport after him. 

This version of how the game was named has been debunked, however. It turns out that the dog Pickles came into the family after the game’s invention, not before. So, if the family dog wasn’t the inspiration for the name pickleball, then what was? 

The other story on how the game was named came directly from Joel Pritchard’s wife, so already, this version is more reliable. She says the game was named after a pickle boat, which is the last boat to finish a race and typically carries a mishmash of leftover rowers from various teams. 

It doesn’t take much to see the connection between pickleball and the pickle boat. Both are made up of various parts of different games (or, in the case of the boat, teams). There’s a little bit of everything in there, which is a perfect way to describe pickleball. 

How Pickleball Has Evolved Over The Years 

When Pritchard, McCallum, and William Bell began playing pickleball with their family, they really had no idea of the successful new sport they had created. To them, it was just a fun new game to play over the summer, and they never really expected it to even be a thing the following year. 

How wrong they were. 

It was about two years later when Joel Pritchard decided that the game was enough of a recreational staple for his family and friends that he constructed the first permanent pickleball court. This didn’t happen in Pritchard’s own yard, but instead in the backyard of his neighbor Bob O’Brian. 

These families, being what you would call influential on Bainbridge Island, soon invited others to play the game, and before long, the sport began to really gain popularity throughout the Pacific Northwest. 

Pickleball Gets Serious with Pickle Ball, Inc. 

Pickle Ball, Inc. 

Seven years after the first seeds of the game were planted, Pickle Ball, Inc was founded with the purpose of spreading the love of the game by helping direct people to all of the equipment and such that was needed to play. This was a huge turning point in the history of pickleball because this was when actual pickleball equipment became a thing. 

Rather than playing pickleball with the leftovers of other racket games, and sports, all of this equipment was specially made for pickleball. We’re talking about all types of pickleball stuff, like a high-quality pickleball paddle instead of ping pong paddles, a real pickle ball instead of a Wiffle ball, and nets that were designed specifically for pickleball courts. You could say that this was the birth of what would eventually become the pro pickleball circuit. 

The First Known Pickleball Tournament 

Photo Credit: pickleballnovascotia

By the time 1976 rolled around, America’s newest racquet sport had enough players that were serious enough about the game that it was time for the first known pickleball tournament. The tournament was held at the South Center Athletic Club located in Tukwila, Washington. Shortly after, a prominent pickleball figure named Sid Williams began playing in and organizing more tournaments. 

Two years later, the rules of pickleball were published in a book about racquet sports, but the official rule book on pickleball wasn’t published until 1984.

Sid Williams and the Pickleball Hall of Fame

Sid Williams and the Pickleball Hall of Fame 

Although we’re getting a little far away from the invention of pickleball here, it doesn’t seem right to go into the history of the game without showing some respect to Sid Williams. As mentioned earlier, Williams began playing pickleball and organizing tournaments shortly after the first known tournament in Tukwila, Washington. 

Sid Williams is the founder and president of the first USAPA, which was established in 1984. During his career, he has directed more than ninety tournaments and stayed active playing pickleball himself until 1995. 

Williams is responsible for the development of the ranking and rating system, along with expanding the rules of the game. Sid Williams is also known for his generous spirit, often donating proceeds from the tournaments to charitable causes. 

The USA Pickleball Association and Pickleball Today 

The USA Pickleball Association and Pickleball Today 

Pickleball as a sport has undergone an amazing transformation from its humble beginnings back in 1965. As we fast forward to more modern times, the USA Pickleball Association was established in 2005, with the USAPA Rules committee publishing an Official Rules Book in 2008. 

It was right about this time that pickleball gained its first mass media exposure with a Good Morning America segment, right along with pickleball being included in the National Senior Games Association. Suddenly, pickleball was grabbing the interest of players of all ages. 

In 2009, the first USAPA National Tournament was held, drawing players from around the United States and Canada to compete. Now, more than a decade later, pickleball is played around the world, with some leaving the tennis court in favor of the pickleball court. Pickleball is a game that has absolutely exploded in popularity and only continues to grow. 


When Was Pickleball first played?

Pickleball was first played in 1965 on a badminton court on Bainbridge Island in Washington. The first game was played by the families of Joel Pritchard and William Bell on Pritchard’s property. 

What country invented pickleball?

The game of pickleball was invented in the United States by a couple of friends and their families during an otherwise uneventful day in the summer of 1965. 

Pickleball Then and Now

Ask a simple question about when was pickleball invented, and from us, you’ll get a very long answer. What started as a boredom buster in 1965 has exploded into one of the most popular sports today. Pickleball is being played in parks, in backyards, on university campuses, community centers, retirement communities, and on tournament courts around the world. 

Unlike tennis, pickleball can easily be adapted to an individual’s skill and fitness level, making it a great game for the whole family. The next time you’re trying to land a ball in your opponent’s non-volley zone, and strategizing your next play, take a minute to thank the people who created the game, created the original pickleball court, and made the game what it is today.

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