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A Brief History of Pickleball

Pickleball’s Beginnings

In the summer of 1965, pickleball was born on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Three friends, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, invented the game to entertain their bored children.

One afternoon, after returning from golf, Pritchard found his family idle. He attempted to set up a game of badminton, but the shuttlecock was missing. The group improvised, using a perforated plastic ball, a lowered badminton net, and plywood paddles from a nearby shed.

The game they invented combined elements from tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. It was challenging yet accessible, with a court size identical to badminton, a tennis-like net, and paddles and a plastic ball similar to ping-pong.

The Name “Pickleball”

The name “pickleball” has disputed origins. Joel Pritchard’s wife, Joan, claims she named the game after the “pickle boat” in crew, which is filled with leftover oarsmen. Another story attributes the name to the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles, who loved to chase the balls and hide them in the bushes. Regardless of the name’s origin, pickleball has grown from a backyard game to a globally recognized sport.

The Early Days of Pickleball

In its early days, pickleball was a simple backyard game played on a makeshift court with improvised equipment. The original court was a badminton court in Joel Pritchard’s backyard. The net was lowered to 36 inches, and the game was played with wooden paddles and a perforated plastic ball.

As the game’s popularity grew, a standard set of rules was established. The rules, inspired by tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, ensured a fair and challenging game while maintaining its fun and easy-to-learn nature. The first dedicated pickleball courts were built in 1967, marking a significant milestone in the sport’s history.

Pickleball in the 70s and 80s

Pickleball’s growth in the 70s and 80s was marked by significant milestones. In 1972, a corporation was formed to protect the sport. The first known pickleball tournament was held in 1976. The sport gained national recognition when The National Observer published an article about pickleball in 1975.

By 1984, the United States Amateur Pickleball Association (U.S.A.P.A.) was organized. The first composite paddle was made by Arlen Paranto, a Boeing Industrial Engineer. By 1990, pickleball was being played in all 50 states.

Modern Pickleball

The modern era of pickleball has seen the sport skyrocket in popularity. Its appeal lies in its accessibility and simplicity, attracting millions of players. Major sports brands have started selling pickleball gear and sponsoring players. The rise in pickleball’s popularity has also led to a surge in the pickleball apparel market.

The sport’s growth has caught the attention of the media. Major networks are broadcasting games, and celebrities and professional athletes have started endorsing the sport. In conclusion, the modern era of pickleball is characterized by rapid growth and widespread popularity. As the sport continues to grow, it’s expected to make a significant impact on the sports industry.

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