There are many competitive sports that originated more than a century ago. As opposed to these games, pickleball is fairly new considering it started its journey just 50 years ago. In these past few decades, pickleball has grabbed a lot of eyeballs and has swiftly transitioned into a competitive sport with professional tournaments being held around the world.
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Pickleball has been commended as the fasted growing game with players hailing from more than 10 countries. The rapid widespread of the game brings many questions to mind while the most important being; pickleball’s origin.
Origin of Pickleball:
Pickleball was founded in the year 1965 when a group of friends decides to make their afternoon interesting by making some improvisations to a game of badminton. This group of friends included Congressman Joel Pritchard and successful businessman Bill Bell.
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They replaced the badminton rackets with ping pong paddles and the shuttlecock with a perforated plastic ball. Initially, the net was placed at a height of 60 inches and volleyed over the net. From then on there were major changes made to the game.
To watch the history of pickleball, you can watch this video:
Barney MacCallum was introduced to the game and soon the rules of the game were being discussed, these rules relied heavily on badminton. The sole purpose of the game was to get a whole family to play together.
Why the name ‘pickleball’?
The name pickleball is quite interesting, as the game does not involve any pickles. There many different stories behind the origin of the name.
According to Joel Pritchard’s wife (Joan), she started referring to the game as Pickleball due to the combination of the different sports reminded her of the pickle boat in a crew where the oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of the other boats.
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On the other hand, Barney MacCallumstates, the game was named after Pritchard’s dog Pickles who would chase the ball and run off with it. In a statement, he said, ‘You’re having fun at a party, right? So anyway, what the hell, let’s just call it pickleball.”
To watch how pickleball got its name, you can watch this video here:
Well, it’s a general opinion that both accounts may be true. In the early years, the game had no official name assigned to it. And after two years of the game’s invention, the Pritchards purchased a cocker spaniel and named it pickles.
As the game progressed, the game needed an official name, and the name pickleball was finalized.
The journey of pickleball began from the year 1967 when the first-ever pickleball court was created in Joel Pritchard’s friend and neighbor’s house.
To see the first Pickleball court, you can watch the video here:
In the year 1972, a corporation was formed to protect the creation of this new sport. Following this in 1975, The National Observer published an article about pickleball, and the next Tennis magazine released an article about ‘America’s newest racquet sport.’
The first tournament of pickleball in the world was held at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington.
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David Lester won Men’s Singles and Steve Paronto came in second place. The majority of the students who participated in the event were college tennis players who knew very little about pickleball. They practiced with large wood paddles and a softball-sized Wiffle ball.
The year 1984 saw the formation of the USAPA ‘To perpetuate the growth and advancement of pickleball at a national level. In the same year, Sid William was appointed as the first Executive Director and President of USAPA and the first rulebook was published.
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By the year 1990, pickleball was being played in all the 50 states.
Through the efforts of Earl Hill in 2001 pickleball was introduced to the Arizona Senior Olympics for the first time. The event had over 100 players and was played at Happy Trails RV Park in Surprise, AZ. It was the largest played event to that point. Over the years, the number of participants grew to 300.
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In the year 2003, there were 39 places in NorthAmerica that were listed on the Pickleball Stuff website where the game was being played. This included 10 States, 3 Canadian Provinces, and 150 individual courts.
The year 2005 brought massive reformation in the world of pickleball. The USAPA had a new board of directors, a new USAPA website was created and most importantly USAPA became a Non-Profit Corporation on July 1.
The USAPA cooperated with different websites to create a reliable source for players.
In the year 2008, the Rules Committee published the USA Pickleball Association Official Tournament Rulebook – Revision: May 1, 2008. The number of places to play pickleball in North America increased to 420.
The first USAPA National Tournament for players was held in Buckeye, Arizona on November 2-8, 2009. It had around 400 players from 26 states and several Canadian provinces.
In the same year, the USAPA established the Grant Program to assist players in creating new playing sites for new players. This led to the increase of playing sites to over 1,400 new sites by the end of 2013.
Currently, pickleball’s popularity is exploding with every passing day. The number of places to play has doubled since the year 2010. The USAPA’s map now has over 4,000 places to play.
This popularity of pickleball can be attributed to the community centers, PE classes, YMCA facilities, and retirement communities. The game continues to grow at an exponential rate and currently has international centers in Canada and India.
The increasing numbers of players and countries that are accepting pickleball have incited a competitive spirit among people. This has led to an increase in the number of competitions organized in America and different countries of the world.
The biggest pickleball tournaments in the US are:
- Minto US Open Pickleball Championships
- Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships
- Tournament of Champions
Due to a high number of participants, the winners of these big leagues are considered as top players of the game.
Pickleball’s rapid growth holds great potential for the game to become acceptable worldwide. I hope the above information helps you learn about the history and its progressive future. If you have any suggestions or queries, you can write them in the comments below.