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History Of Pickleball – Who Invented It

History of pickleball

TL;DR: Pickleball is a sport that originated in 1965 in Washington, created by three dads who combined elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis. The sport has since grown in popularity and has over 4 million players worldwide, with over 300 tournaments held each year. With international tournaments, the growth of professional leagues, and a low barrier to entry, the future of pickleball looks bright, and many continue to play the sport due to its ease of play and fun for all ages.


Have you ever heard of pickleball? It’s an action-packed sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis and can be played indoors or outdoors. It’s popular in a lot of places around the world, and it has a fascinating history.

If you’re curious about the history of pickleball, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of this thrilling sport and its early champions. We’ll look at how it’s evolved over time, as well as some of its most notable moments and figures. Finally, we’ll peek into what the future holds for pickleball – and why it’s a good idea to keep playing!

The History of Pickleball

Pickleball has been around for about 50 years, and it’s grown from a small backyard game to one of the most popular sports in the US. So, how did it go from inception to such a beloved game? Let’s dive into the history of pickleball to find out!

The game was invented in 1965 by three dads—Barney McCallum, Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell—who were looking for something for their children (and themselves!) to play in their backyard. They created an amalgam of badminton, ping pong and tennis that eventually became pickleball.

The first court was simply badminton lines drawn on the grass with a net strung across—the court has since been set at 44×20 feet. The sport was named after their dog Pickles who often ran off with the ball during games! The original equipment was nothing like what we use today—they used ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball, similar to a wiffle ball.

Since then, pickleball has become increasingly popular as people all around the world discover this fun sport. With over 4 million players in 2020 and over 300 tournaments held each year, there’s no telling just how far this wonderful game will go!

The Origins and Early Adopters of the Game

The history of pickleball began back in 1965, when three fathers – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum – created the game for their children in Washington’s Puget Sound. Combining elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis, the game was initially played with table tennis paddles and a perforated plastic ball on a badminton-sized court.

Soon after its inception, Pickleball was being widely enjoyed throughout the greater Seattle area and communities nearby. People embraced it because it was easy to learn and fun for all ages. Its popularity continued to grow as word spread throughout North America, paving the way for rallies at beaches and competitions across the U.S., Canada and even Mexico.

From the 1970s onwards, the sport continued to grow in popularity throughout the US and Canada as many YMCAs began teaching it.

By 1976 it had become a recognised sport in several states, with some parts of the US holding regular tournaments. In fact, it wasn’t until 1984 that Pickleball received official recognition as a sport by USAPA (the United States of America Pickleball Association).

By 2000, more than 1000 dedicated courts existed across North America alone. Thanks to its ease of play and low barrier to entry, Pickleball has attracted millions of people around the world who can now enjoy playing on both outdoor hard surfaces or indoors on a variety of court surfaces and equipment.

What’s the history of Pickleball’s name?

The name “Pickleball” was inspired by the Pritchard’s dog, Pickles. Years later it was officially trademarked in 1972 when the first courts were built. Giving it a clear brand identity certainly didn’t do it any harm as the history of pickleball and it’s growth shows today.

Early Competitive Pickleball

Ever since the first official Pickleball tournament was held in 1976 at a hotel in Idaho, competitive Pickleball has been growing in popularity. The tournament for the ball and paddle game featured only 20 players but has since grown to become a fast-growing sport all over the world.

But competitive Pickleball isn’t the same as it was back then. In fact, the game has changed significantly over time – going from predominantly doubles to include singles divisions. There are also now skill divisions that allow players of all levels to compete against one another.

International Expansion

Pickleball is also becoming an international game, with tournaments now held across numerous countries. This includes major tournaments such as the World Championship and Junior World Championship. With these events, players have an opportunity to showcase their skills on an international level and even represent their country!

Professionalisation of Pickleball

As the sport continues to grow in popularity, so too is its professionalisation. Professional Pickleball Associations are springing up around the world and there are now several pro leagues that offer prize money for winning tournaments. This allows players to make a living off of playing Pickleball at a high level and gives young players something to aspire to.

The First Pickleball Tournament

Do you remember the first ever Pickleball tournament? It was held in 1971 and was the spark that would inspire a worldwide phenomenon!

The tournament was organised by Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, Bill Bell and Joan Pritchard and hosted by the Washington State Legislature. There were only four players competing and it was won by Barney McCallum. The four of them wrote down their rules of the game, which started to become widely played in the Seattle area afterwards.

Popularisation & Growth

As word got out about pickleball and its unique combination of tennis, ping-pong and badminton elements, it began to grow in popularity. In 1976, Pickleball Inc. was established to produce paddles, balls and other gear to allow people to play with greater ease. This move set Pickleball up for success – now anyone could enjoy it!

Becoming an International Sport

In 1984, the sport became an officially recognised game by the United States Sports Federation and shortly after began being featured in international tournaments. Since then it has exploded onto the world stage with tournaments held all over – from Canada to India! The first Pickleball World Championships were even held as recently as 2016 in Canada – something unthinkable fifty years ago when four friends got together for a friendly game!

Early Pickleball Champions

Many people don’t know that even before the sport of Pickleball was officially established, people have been competing against each other and setting records. Over time, certain players became known as legends of the game.

Here are some of the early Pickleball champions who have made an indelible impact on the sport:

Bainbridge Island Athletes

In 1967, The Bainbridge Island Senior Citizens Centre in Washington State hosted the first tournament match. Not long after that, Frank and Joan Padden went on to become not only state champions but national champions as well. It seemed like everything they hit went in!

Stan Fisher

Stan Fisher is widely viewed as the “Grandfather of Pickleball” for his influence on the growth of the sport. He was a founding member of USAPA (United States of America Pickleball Association) and served as its first president for six years. Stan also developed standardised rules for Pickleball tournaments which are still used today!

Diane Moore

Diane Moore is recognised as one of the most influential female athletes in Pickleball history. Diane was a longtime board member and treasurer for USAPA and was also responsible for developing tournament rules and standards which are used by many tournaments around the world today! She helped shape what competitive Pickleball looks like today.

Who Are the Legendary Pickleball Champions?

Who are the legendary pickleball champions? Well, that depends on whom you ask, as there have been many talented players over the years. From the earliest competitions in 1965 to the modern day, there have been countless greats and world-class athletes who have made their mark in the sport.

Here’s a list of some of the biggest names past and present:

  • Barbara Scott – 6-time National Pickleball Champion and founder of American Pickleball Association
  • Steve Paranto – 5-time National Champion with 2 U.S. Open titles
  • Jennifer Lucore – 3-time National Champion with 2 U.S. Open titles
  • Dan Hibbs – 5-time National Champion with 2 U.S. Open titles
  • Erika Manahan – 4-time National Championship winner and 2003 U.S. Open Women’s Singles finalist
  • Kyle Yates – 4-time National Champion, 3-time U.S. Open finalist, and 3 Grand Slam titles
  • Maria Toorpakai Wazir – 8 time World Pickleball Championships winner in singles competition
  • Bill Booth – 10 time World Pickleball Championships winner in doubles competition

These are just a few of the long list of incredible champions from the past and present who have made pickleball the vibrant sport it is today—a testament to its timeless appeal!

Changes In Pickleball Over The Years

It’s hard to believe that Pickleball has been around for over fifty years. From its humble beginnings on a badminton court in Washington State, to its current status as a popular sport all over North America, Pickleball has seen some changes.

Court Sizes

Since the original game, court sizes have changed slightly. While original courts were smaller, today’s regulation-sized courts measure in at 20 x 44 feet (6.1 m x 13.4 m).


In the early days of Pickleball, scoring was done with words instead of numbers—the first team to “pot it” (a reminder of the origin story) won the point. Today’s scoring system uses numbers; if you haven’t been keeping up with the score yourself, be sure to ask your opponent after each point (or look for the scoreboard!)


If you’ve played lately, you’ve probably noticed some changes in the rules too. The International Federation Of Pickleball (IFP) continues to make amendments as necessary and adapts rules based on locals laws and regulations. It is important for all players to be aware of “Out of Bounds” and other rules that may have changed since their last game!


The equipment used in Pickleball has also seen some modifications over time. Originally made from wood or plastic paddles and a wiffle ball, many paddles nowadays are made from graphite or other materials and offer superior control of ball placement when compared to earlier models. As technology continues to improve, so will players’ equipment—and skills—in this great sport!

Where Is Pickleball Heading in the Future?

Pickleball has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the Pacific Northwest. From its early tournaments and competitions to its modern-day popularity, the sport has undeniably made a big impact in the world of sports. But what does the future of Pickleball look like?

Growing Popularity

One thing is for sure—the future looks bright for this exciting sport. With its easy-to-learn rules and fast-paced gameplay, there’s no doubt that more and more people will be getting into Pickleball in the coming years. Professional tournaments have already been established, and the potential for the sport on an international level is immense.

Expansion of Facilities

Another sign of Pickleball’s growing popularity is an expansion in facilities dedicated to it. From gyms and private clubs, to courts at public parks, you’ll see many places these days with a dedicated Pickleball court or two (or more!) As communities continue to invest in these facilities, players will find it even easier to get out there and enjoy this fun game.

Technological Innovations

With technology constantly advancing, it should come as no surprise that Pickleball is poised to take advantage of those advancements as well. In addition to improved rackets with lighter frames and bigger sweet spots, players can now use sensors that detect how hard they are swinging their racket—and who knows what else will become available!

From its competitive nature to its incredible health benefits, there’s no denying that Pickleball has a bright future ahead of it — so why not join the fun?

Factors Affecting Pickleballs Popularity

The sport of pickleball has seen steady growth in popularity since its inception in 1965. Factors such as its adaptability, variety of equipment and affordability have all contributed to the game’s widespread appeal.


Pickleball is a game that can be played both indoors and outdoors, making it easily accessible to a wide variety of players regardless of their locations or preferences. This adaptability is one of the main drivers behind its growing popularity.

Variety of Equipment

The sport also requires a relatively small amount of equipment, meaning that players don’t need to purchase expensive or specialised materials to start playing. In addition, modern pickleball paddles come in a wide range of sizes, weights and materials — providing players with plenty of options to choose from which best suit their style and preferences.


Finally, what really sets pickleball apart is its affordability — there’s no need to buy expensive rackets or court fees. All you need are some basic essentials like some balls, paddles and netting and you’re good to go!

Pickleball’s Place In The Olympics

The Olympic dream is alive and strong in the sport of Pickleball. Discussions about having Pickleball events included in the 2024 Olympics have been going on since 2018, and with more countries and players joining in, it’s looking increasingly likely that we’ll be seeing this game on the world’s biggest stage soon.

While the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has yet to officially announce that they’ll be including Pickleball events in their global event, it seems inevitable. The USA is already actively promoting it as an Olympic-level sport, as is Canada and Mexico—so much so that the three countries formed a North American governing body for Pickleball–along with their respective national committees—in 2019.

It’s safe to say that Pickleball could easily become part of future Olympic games. The Worldwide Pickleball Federation (WPF) endeavours to represent all of the different countries from around the world where competitive Pickleball is played, so this would give them even more incentive to make sure it’s included.

The future looks bright for competitive pickleball players who want to reach Olympic glory! What a way to complete the history of pickleball, with recognition at the Summer Games!

At The Net – Summary

Pickleball is a unique and exciting sport that has been a favourite of many for decades. It has come a long way since its invention in 1965, with the game now being played in all 50 US states and by millions of people worldwide. The history of pickleball is a story of innovation, competition, and resilience, and we can’t wait to see how the game will continue to evolve and grow in the years to come.

David Mason
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