Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. It takes elements of Wiffle ball, table tennis, badminton, and tennis and combines them into one game that is now loved by many.
There are only about five rules to the game, which means that it can be played by just about anyone. This has undoubtedly added to its success.
However, as you may have gathered, despite its name, there are no pickles involved in the game of Pickleball which begs the question– Why is it called Pickleball when it has nothing to do with pickles?
Let’s start at the beginning and dive into the origin of the name.
History of Pickleball
Pickleball was created in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, his wife Joan Pritchard, and his friends Bill Bell and Barney McCallum on Bainbridge Island in Washington. It began after they came to the Pritchard house and wanted to play badminton on their old badminton court. They just had one problem.
They couldn’t find the proper equipment. However, they found table tennis paddles and a perforated plastic ball. The friends took what they could find to the badminton court and played over the 60-inch high net.
Over the weekend, as they played, they discovered that the plastic ball bounced well on the court, so the net was lowered to 36 inches. The following weekend when everyone wanted to play again, rules were established, and the name was born.
By 1967, the first permanent pickleball court was installed on Bob O’Brien’s property, a friend and neighbor of the Pritchard’s. The sport quickly caught on among the residents of Bainbridge Island and among the United States, with the first mass media exposure of the National Observer writing about the newest game in racket sports. Later, the first Pickleball tournament was held.
Pickleball continued to grow as an official Pickleball paddle was created, a USA Pickleball Association to uphold rules and standards was organized, and it eventually became a recognized sport.
Why It’s Called Pickleball
Over the years, there have been two main stories that have circulated about where the name came from.
Just A Funny Story About the Dog Pickles
The first story is the dog story. The story goes that Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard named the game after their family dog, Pickles. Apparently, Pickles used to run around the court to chase and pick up the ball in order to run off the court with it. And that is when they named the game after it.
Though Joel’s cute dog story warms the heart, the story has unfortunately been debunked. As it turns out, the dog wasn’t around until 1968, which means that Pickles was likely named after the game, not the other way around.
The Boat Origin
The other story about how the name came to be is much more likely. It is said that the game was named after the “pickle boat,” which comes from rowing. There are two things that the pickle boat can refer to in rowing.
For one, the pickle boat can refer to a crew thrown together in one boat rather than the traditional positions. Additionally, the last boat to finish in the local pickle boat races can be referred to as a pickle boat. The term comes from the fishing fleet where the last boat into the port was the boat that used to pickle the fleet’s catch with brine.
The reference to pickle boats was connected to the game because of how the equipment was thrown together, just like the crew is thrown together in the boat. Therefore, it is not connected to the reference of the last boat finishing last, but rather the mix of the crew.
Here are the most frequently asked questions about the name origin of Pickleball.
Who named the sport pickleball?
Joel and Joan Pritchard named the sport Pickleball.
What two things influence naming the game pickleball?
Two things were said to have influenced naming the game pickle ball– pickle boat races and the family dog named Pickles. However, it was later found out that Pickles was named after the sport, although the other theory makes for a fun story.
Now You Know Why It’s Called Pickleball
Though there is a two-story name debate, it has finally been settled. Though Pickleball began in the 1960s, it is a game that is alive and well today. The Pritchard family story is inspiring, which in addition to its simple rules and fun gameplay, is likely why it is so loved. Play Pickleball, and you’ll discover how the game started and why it’s America’s newest racquet sport.