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!