Pickleball History (How Sport Was Invented + Timeline 1965-2023)

Last Updated on August 10, 2023 by Sorin Petroj


Sports have a remarkable way of weaving themselves into the fabric of society, reflecting the passions, ingenuity, and camaraderie of human beings. One such sport that has garnered a dedicated following over the years is pickleball. From its humble beginnings in a suburban backyard to becoming a widespread sensation, the journey of pickleball through time is nothing short of fascinating. In this article, we delve into the intriguing history of pickleball, tracing its evolution from a casual game to a competitive sport that has captured the hearts of millions.

Pickleball History Book

Imagine flipping through the pages of a captivating history book that narrates the intriguing story of pickleball – a sport born out of creativity and a desire for recreation. This history book would be rich with anecdotes, capturing the essence of pickleball’s journey from its inception to its current status as a globally recognized sport. Let’s turn the pages of this virtual history book and explore the fascinating chapters that have shaped pickleball’s evolution.

Creating the Game of Pickleball

The history of pickleball begins with three friends – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum – who found themselves at loose ends one summer day in 1965. Looking for a game to entertain their families, they improvised a unique blend of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. Using handmade paddles and a perforated plastic ball, they christened their creation “pickleball” after Pritchard’s dog, Pickles, who had a habit of chasing stray balls.

The First Legitimate Paddle of Pickleball

As pickleball gained popularity among their circle of friends, Pritchard, Bell, and McCallum realized the need for a proper paddle. In 1967, they enlisted the help of a local carpenter, who crafted the first official pickleball paddle. This innovative design featured a plywood surface with holes drilled into it for reduced air resistance, setting the stage for the paddle’s evolution into a sophisticated piece of sports equipment.

The First Legitimate Pickleball Court

Playing pickleball required a designated playing area, prompting the trio to create the first legitimate pickleball court in Pritchard’s backyard. The court was approximately the size of a badminton court, complete with boundary lines and a net lowered to a height of 36 inches at the center. This marked the beginning of pickleball’s transition from a casual backyard game to a structured sport.

Pickleball’s First Media Coverage

The buzz surrounding pickleball reached the local media, leading to its first mention in a 1968 article published in the Seattle Times. As word spread, more enthusiasts embraced the sport, contributing to its growing popularity within the Pacific Northwest.

Pickleball Shifts from a Game to a Sport

By the 1970s, pickleball had outgrown its backyard origins and established itself as a bona fide sport. The Pickle-Ball, Inc. company was founded in 1972 by Pritchard, Bell, and McCallum to manufacture and market equipment for the sport. This pivotal step provided pickleball with a platform for expansion, setting the stage for the sport’s global journey.

Who Invented Pickleball? What Year Was Pickleball Invented?

The invention of pickleball is attributed to the collaborative efforts of Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, who created the game in 1965. Their ingenuity and resourcefulness gave birth to a sport that would go on to capture the imagination of countless individuals around the world.

The First Pickleball Tournament

The first organized pickleball tournament took place in 1967 on the newly established court in Joel Pritchard’s backyard. This informal competition marked a significant milestone in pickleball’s history, providing players with an opportunity to showcase their skills and passion for the sport.

How Did Pickleball Get Its Name? Why It Is Called Pickleball?

The origins of the name “pickleball” have often been a subject of curiosity. Contrary to popular belief, the sport has no association with pickles or the briny concoction. Instead, the name is derived from Joel Pritchard’s dog, Pickles, who became an unwitting source of inspiration for the game’s moniker.

The Sport of Pickleball Today

Fast forward to the present day, and pickleball has become a global sensation. From community centers to professional courts, enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels partake in the exhilarating gameplay that pickleball offers. The sport’s inherent accessibility, social nature, and relatively simple rules have contributed to its widespread appeal.

Pickleball’s Origin Story

Pickleball’s humble beginnings remind us that the most cherished pastimes often emerge from everyday moments. The improvisational spirit of Pritchard, Bell, and McCallum transformed a leisurely afternoon into a lifelong passion for countless individuals.

The First Composite Pickleball Paddle

Innovation has played a significant role in pickleball’s evolution, and the introduction of composite materials marked a turning point in paddle design. The transition from plywood to composite paddles revolutionized gameplay, providing players with enhanced control, power, and durability.

The First Governing Body – US Amateur Pickleball Association

With pickleball’s growing popularity, the need for standardized rules and regulations became apparent. In 1984, the USAPA (US Amateur Pickleball Association) was established, serving as the sport’s first governing body. The USAPA’s efforts have been instrumental in promoting pickleball and organizing tournaments at regional, national, and international levels.

Pickleball’s National Media Moment Arrives

Pickleball’s ascent into the national spotlight came in 2009 when NBC featured a segment on the sport. This media exposure introduced pickleball to a broader audience, igniting interest and prompting even more individuals to pick up a paddle and join the fun.

The First USAPA National Tournament

The inaugural USAPA National Tournament was held in 2009, marking a significant milestone in pickleball’s journey. This event brought together players from across the nation, highlighting the sport’s competitive aspect while fostering a sense of community and camaraderie.

Pickle Boat Story

Among the intriguing tales surrounding pickleball’s history is the “pickle boat” story, where the sport’s founders playfully reminisce about their dog Pickles and the game’s naming origin. This lighthearted anecdote adds a charming layer to pickleball’s rich narrative.

What Does the Term Pickle Mean in Pickleball?

Despite the initial confusion, the term “pickle” in pickleball has no relation to the tangy condiment. Instead, it pays homage to a furry friend who unwittingly left an indelible mark on the sport’s identity.


Pickleball’s history is a captivating tapestry woven with creativity, camaraderie, and the relentless pursuit of recreation. From its modest beginnings in a suburban backyard to its current status as a beloved global sport, pickleball’s journey is a testament to the power of innovation and the enduring spirit of play. As enthusiasts continue to embrace this exhilarating pastime, the legacy of pickleball’s founders lives on, reminding us that even the simplest of games can leave an indelible mark on the world of sports.

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