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What even is Pickleball, anyway?

Pickleball is the sport that increased in popularity from 3.4 million participants in 2019 to a whopping 4.2 million players in 2020 just in the United States alone. Those are the most recent stats from SFIA (Sports and Fitness Industry Association) regarding this relatively new, popular pastime. Even the pandemic hasn’t slowed the growth of this sport. Up more than 20 percent again last year, Pickleball’s unprecedented rise in popularity makes it the fastest-growing sport in the country. And no wonder! Pickleball is played and enjoyed by folks of every age and competency level.

What’s needed to play?

Invented in 1965, Pickleball is a racket sport. It uses a wooden or composite paddle, a perforated wiffle-type ball, and a net. Pickleball is played on a badminton-size court.

How did Pickleball begin?

The game originated with three friends: Congressman Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, on Bainbridge Island, Washington, a 30-minute ferry ride from Seattle. The three returned home one day after golfing to find their children bored with “nothing to do.” They tried to play badminton but could not locate the shuttlecock. So, the men lowered the net and gave the kids table tennis paddles and a wiffleball. Using a cobbled-together version of badminton, tennis, and ping pong rules, the sport of Pickleball was born!

Pickleball appeal grows

Snowbirds helped the sport to migrate from its origin in the Pacific Northwest to southern climates throughout California, Arizona, and Florida. Today there are national championships played in the U.S. and an International Pickleball Championship with 57+ countries participating. You can find how to play Pickleball here.

Why was “Pickleball” chosen as the name?

And now the big question: How did Pickleball get its name? Some say the game was named after the family pets of Pritchard and McCallum. But the game was invented in 1965, and the dogs didn’t come into the families until three years later.

It seems Joan Pritchard, Joel’s wife, is credited with naming the game after the “pickle boat” in the college sport of rowing. After the varsity crew team competes in a regatta, the non-varsity players get their chance in a less competitive race. Teams are put together with a variety of lesser-skilled crew members who didn’t race in the main event. These crew teams of mixed skill levels race in what’s come to be known as “pickle boats.” An avid fan of rowing, Mrs. Pritchard felt that Pickleball earned the name because it, too, began as a less competitive game, with rules put together from several other games, and can be enjoyed by everyone—no matter their level of skill.

Have you ever played Pickleball? Would you recommend the sport to our readers? Let us know in the comments below. Or scoot on over to my forum to talk about it!

Related:

USA Pickleball: History of the Game (with videos)
International Federation of Pickleball Official Rules

##RVT1035

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Alain T.
1 day ago

Pickleball players seem to enjoy an increasing number of adepts. Except that it entails the most annoying noise levels of any court games in an rv park. We’re currently in southern Texas where there is a very popular pickleball court, that all the park residents enjoy even if they don’t play, because it’s an interior facility comprised of eight separate courts. Fun for all players, while peaceful for all residents.

Dale Sain
2 days ago

The court was right outside my window begging me to learn. Sean & Sheryl loaned me a racket. An hour later, being a competitive sort, I went forward for a low shot that I couldn’t have picked when I was 29 let alone 69. I’m an idiot. Quickly realizing my center of gravity was beyond recovery, instinct said to “tuck & roll.” A casual observer would think it was more of a “plop & skid” right into a chain link fence. (Seeing the white skid mark that we thought was from my short pants we later discovered was skin; leg skin.) S. & S. were dear and not only called the ambulance (who insisted on that darned siren even though I begged them not to), but took care of this solo traveler’s RV and then lead my recovery team all during the shattered hip replacement episode. I’m forever grateful to all participants in this and fully intend to play again…sometime before H*** freezes over.

Admin
RV Staff(@rvstaff)
2 days ago
Reply to  Dale Sain

Wow! Sorry for your very painful experience, Dale. Maybe they should rent out padding for those who need it, kinda like the Michelin Man. 😆 Good luck with your recovery! I’m sure your future experiences with Pickleball will be much more enjoyable, and pain-free. Take care. 😀 –Diane

Cam
2 days ago

Good basics article! We are fanatics and plan our RV travels and parks around having pickleball available on site or nearby. One thing about it is that EVERYWHERE welcomes new players to join in the fun and all you have to do is show up and you’ll be rotated into the play and plenty of folks will help newbies out. A GREAT resource for pickleball RV’ers is the website PLACES TO PLAY https://www.places2play.org which lets you see all available play opportunities on a map and gives you information about when to show up or who to contact. PB can be played and enjoyed by almost anyone fairly quickly…and at the highest level is now attracting elite athletes and pro leagues have formed. Social and fun and competitive and something you CAN still get better at.
BTW…330 people are presently registered for the tournament at the RV park I’m headed to in a couple of weeks. All sorted by age, gender, event and skill level so EVERYONE can play along with others at their own level..FUN!!!

Mac
3 days ago

The ambassador of the Palo Alto Pickleball Club (and the founder of this 700+ member club) says, at age 70, “Pickleball saved my life!” She’s not wrong. Besides the sneaky exercise component, pickleball is a great social activity, since almost all play is doubles play. Our paddles and balls travel with us all over. The app Places2Play is one of a few showing where and when people play, and Playtime Scheduler is commonly used to set up games and sign up for them.

Thomas D
3 days ago

We’ve had a lot if serious accidents in our park. Last year an older gentleman reached,slipped, and screwed up his face big time. Glasses broken cuts on face and arms. Generally a mess. There is at least one accident a week that a pickle ball accident sends someone to the doctor. Not an old people sport.

Mac
3 days ago
Reply to  Thomas D

Sure it is! We have players in their 80s. They don’t dance on the court quite like they used to, but they are quite competitive and rarely does anyone get hurt.

Mike Brown
3 days ago

We are regular Pickleball players and have found it keeps us healthy plus is lots of fun. It is a sport that can be quickly learned and appeals to all ages. Get off the couch and play some pickleball!