Why is it called pickleball? How Pickleball Really Got Its Name!

In the summer of the year 1965, pickleball was founded by three men Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Within a few days, Joan Pritchard came up with the name “pickleball”. It was a reference to the thrown-together leftover non-starters in the “pickle boat” of crew races.

Naming pickleball after a dog’s name!

After many years, as this sport grew, a controversy ensued when a few neighbors said that they were there when Joan (Joel’s wife) named the game pickleball after their family dog, Pickles. However, Joan and his family have held fast for decades saying that the dog came along a few years later and was named after the game.

Is the dog’s story true?

It’s an undisputed fact that in the summer of 1965 pickleball began, and it was also its name. The dog story could have been true if he was there at that time. Pritchard Joel later confessed that If Pickles wasn’t born until after 1965, the dog story would have been confirmed as just a funny newspaper interview hoax.

If there was proof of when Pickles was born then this could help resolve the two-story name debate.

When the official pickleball magazines tried to dig up the past, they looked for dog(pickle) records and uncovered photos, and they also interviewed several people who were there from 1965-1970. Based on the evidence they found that the dog was born in 1968. Which means three years after pickleball was first played and named.

In other words, the story that the Pritchard family told that pickleball was not named after the dog was actually true. But it was also confirmed that the name was rather in reference to the local pickle boat races.

The traveling of 1965

Joel and Joan Pritchard who lived in Seattle mostly spent their summers at their home on Bainbridge Island.

In 1965 during summer, the Pritchards invited Bill and Tina Bell to stay with them at the Bainbridge compound.

One day after golfing, Bill and Joel returned home to find Joel’s disgruntled thirteen-year-old son, Frank, in one of those angry teenage moods. As there was nothing at all to do in Bainbridge. His father said that when they were kids, they’d make games up. Frank responded that his dad should go and make up a game instead.

The first trial of Pickleball

Joel, who was 40 at that time, loved this challenge from his son Frank, so he and Bill took off to the backyard badminton court. The paving of their court was necessitated by the steady Seattle rain.

Bill and Joel went back to the shed and grabbed a Wiffle ball from a plastic bag and a ball set that Frank had been given for his birthday earlier that year. They found a pair of table tennis paddles, set up the badminton net for the play and grabbed the ball, and played that very first game.

Their broken paddles were causing problems, so the men designed some pretty gothic-looking paddles in Joel’s father’s garage workshop. In the task, they also added Barney McCallum who was able to construct more reliable, better-looking paddles than them.

He quickly became an integral part of the game’s equipment and rules along with the formations.

Pickle boat crew orientation

One day when the Bells and Pritchards were sitting around they made the decision to come up with a name in the summer of the year 1965. Joan was the first one to step up and said, “Pickle Ball.”

According to the Pritchard, their only houseguests who were the Bells were in attendance when the name of the game was decided upon.

The Inspiration for the Game’s Name was the college crew “Pickle Boats”

Pickles and the Summer of 1968

After three years in the summer of 1968, the Pritchards invited their close friends Joan brown and dick along with their children, to stay on their property at the Bainbridge guest house. Where Jeannie had named her dog Pickles.

Frank recalls, “I will say that I had a sixth sense that the name was going to be Pickles since we were actually on the pickleball court at the time when Jeannine and Paul brought the puppies home, and my mother’s mind would run in those channels.

I’m quite sure she named our puppy Pickles and the Browns named their Lulu.”

Looking forward to alleviating the boredom of his loved ones and close friends, Pritchard began to hatch a plan to bring an end to the group’s summertime woes.

Pritchard had a property with an old badminton court so they started there with hopes of playing a certain game.

However, the two dads couldn’t find enough rackets for a complete game so instead, Joel improvised by using spare ping pong paddles and a Wiffle ball. A brand-new game was born by using the bits and pieces in their garage and in the present time, you know it better as pickleball.

Rules of Pickleball

As the weekend went on and time flew by, they enhanced their makeshift game further with their own makeup house rules.

At first, the net they used was set at badminton regulation at a height of almost sixty, but the group found that the Wiffle ball bounced smoothly on their asphalt court so they lowered it down to thirty-six. At this point, there weren’t many rules to follow in that game so, during the upcoming weekend, Pritchard and Bell introduced their new creation to another family friend named Barney McCullum.

From there on, with a lot of inspiration from badminton, the three dads created new rules with the sole purpose of family play, fun, and accessibility in mind.

The first pickleball court

Two years later in 1967, Joel Pritchard constructed the very first, permanent pickleball court in the backyard of Bob O’Brian, who was Pritchard’s neighbor and very close family friend.

The decision to build a dedicated and permanent court cemented their homemade game into a loveable pastime for family and friends.

The role of Pickleball Inc.

As the game started to gain publicity in the Pacific Northwest, a corporation by the name of Pickleball, Inc. was founded in 1972 to help all interested players buy equipment to play the game.

This equipment included varieties of paddles, balls, and nets that weren’t taken from other racquet games as they were created specifically for the purpose of playing pickleball.

This organization helped this game to turn into a legitimate sport rather than a pastime game.

And in the present day, you’ll find pickleball as the fastest-growing sport in the United States along with international growth gaining steam.

Currently, the U.S.A. Pickleball Association lists nearly 4,000 accessible locations where you can play the game nationwide.

In the last 50 years, the population of the game has exploded and this is due to the nature of this fast-paced, friendly, and enjoyable sport.