The Origins of Pickleball

Ever wonder how this amazing game that you love so much got started? Well, don’t miss this episode of “I ♥ Pickleball!” Pickleball Channel was fortunate enough to go to Bainbridge Island, the birthplace of the sport, to speak with one of the founders of pickleball, Barney McCallum.


1965 – Pickleball was born. 1967

1967 – The first permanent pickleball court was constructed in Seattle, WA.

1976 – The first known pickleball tournament in the world was held in Tukwila, Washington.

1984 – The USAPickleball Association (USAPA) was organized. The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was organized “to perpetuate the growth and advancement of pickleball on a national level.” 

1990 – Pickleball was being played in all 50 states.

2009 – The first USAPA National Tournament. The first USAPA National Tournament for players of all ages was held in Buckeye, Arizona. The tournament drew almost 400 players from 26 states and several Canadian provinces.

2013 – 1,800 places to play in the U.S. and growing!!


The game of pickleball began in the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington.  Joel Pritchard, a Congressman from the state of Washington, and Bill Bell, a successful businessman, returned home after playing golf one Saturday afternoon. They found their families sitting around and complaining that they had nothing to do. In the backyard Pritchard had a badminton court set up on an asphalt surface along with some rundown badminton equipment.  He tried to collect a full set for his family to use but there were just too many damaged pieces. So they cut off the damaged shafts of the rackets and found a perforated plastic ball as a replacement to the badminton shuttlecock. As their families began to play this new game the inventors noticed that the players had trouble using the smaller rackets on the three-inch plastic ball. So in Pritchard’s workshop the inventors created new wooden paddles, which worked very well. The net, set at the regulation badminton height, forced the players to volley the ball too much, so they set the net lower. Pickleball has a very interesting name, especially since no pickles are used. Accounts of how the name originated differ. (1) According to Joel Pritchard’s wife (Joan), she started calling the game pickleball because the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat in crewing where the participants are a diverse mixture. (2) However, according to pickleball mythology, the game was named after the Prichards’ dog Pickles who would chase the ball and run off with it.


Pickleball is a sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis.  It’s played on a court with the same dimensions as a doubles badminton court, and the net is similar to a tennis net but mounted two inches lower.  The baseball-sized ball is similar to a whiffle ball, made of perforated plastic.  The paddle is about 25% bigger than a table-tennis paddle and may be made of wood, graphite, or composite. Since serving is done underhanded and there is less court to cover, it is easier on the knees, hips and shoulders than most other sports, one reason pickleball is reportedly America’s fastest growing sport.  Whether it’s to stay in shape, to increase a skill level, or to meet new friends, the game of pickleball can help you stay active and healthy while providing endless hours of social entertainment and enjoyment.  The video in the last section below will give you an idea of why so many people love pickleball. 


Currently we play doubles only,  i.e. two players on each side. The ball must be served underhand and each team must let the ball bounce once on their side before hitting it. Then both teams can either volley the ball or play it off the bounce. A team can ONLY score points when seving.  Serves must be underhand and each team must play their first shot off the bounce. The serving team gets points when the opponents hit the ball out of bounds or into the net, volley the ball while in the non-volley zone (kitchen), or volley the ball before the ball has bounced once on their side of the net. If the serving team does any of these, the server loses the serve. A game is usually played to eleven points and you must win by two. The score is announced before each serve followed by server number (1 or 2). As an example, if you are the first server on your side when you have two points and your opponents have three points, you would announce “2-3-1” before serving. This can be confusing so let the other players keep score until you get the hang of it. The USAPA (USA Pickleball Association) rules for Pickleball are included on the “Pickledocs” page of this website.