The game of pickleball has become a popular trend lately in many areas. It is an attractive way to have fun and get some exercise for younger generations as well as the elderly who wish to remain active. It may surprise you though to learn the game of pickleball isn’t new, it has been around for a long time. You may have a new appreciation for it once you learn of its origins and history.

history of pickleball


The game pickleball was introduced in 1965 by two friends who had enjoyed a game of golf. Bill Bell was a successful businessman at the time and Joel Pritchard was involved with Congress. When they went back to the home of Pritchard, their families were all sitting around and wanted something fun to do. They put their creative minds to work and came up with this exciting game to get everyone outside to have a great time.

They had a badminton court on the property where Pritchard lived in Washington. They searched around for the equipment to enjoy a game of badminton, but they couldn’t locate those items. They did come across some other gaming items including paddles for ping pong and some plastic balls. They decided to use these items and have fun anyway.

Initially, the net was 60 inches off the ground. Since the balls bounced well on the asphalt, they lowered it down to 36 inches. They all had so much fun, they played their newly invented game all weekend long. They modified it as they learned new things to keep it challenging but achievable.

The next weekend, everyone was excited to play the game again as they gathered at Pritchard’s home. Another friend, Barney McCallum, joined them and these three men spent lots of time finalizing the rules for the game. They wanted to keep the rules simple so the game could be one the entire family could enjoy together!

Pickleball Court

Two years later, the game was still picking up momentum from this group of friends. They loved playing it and others they knew were introduced to it. In 1967, one of their friends, Bob O’Brien, had a permanent court to play pickleball placed in his backyard. He lived next door to Pritchard, and that old badminton court was abandoned while everyone migrated to the new court to enjoy pickleball.

Introduced as a Sport

By 1972, a corporation was founded to uphold the integrity and rules of the sport. Several magazines published articles about this sport between 1973 and 1976. They were talking about how it gave the game of tennis a fresh spin. It was often referred to as the “American Racquet Sport.”

The first pickleball tournament was held in 1976 in Tukwila, Washington. Most of the people who entered were male college students. Those who won were tennis players at different colleges, and they applied what they knew about tennis to the game of pickleball. The first book about this sport and the official rules of it was published in 1978.

Tournaments Around the United States

The sport continued to draw people in, but the tournaments were few and far between. In 1982, an avid pickleball player by the name of Sid Williams started organizing regular tournaments around the Washington area. It took time for the tournaments to pick up speed, and in 1990 they were being held in all 50 states.

In 2001, pickleball was introduced in the Arizona Senior Olympic games. More than 100 people took part in this tournament, the largest by far of any tournament to this point. Within a couple of years, they were closing the entries after the first 300 people had signed up.


USAPA (United States Amateur Pickleball Association) was established in 1984. The goal was to help it get recognized on a national level. The group agreed an official rulebook for everyone to follow in games and tournaments should be created. It was published in March of 1984 and used as a guide for learning the game of pickleball and for official scoring in tournaments.

Paddle Development

The early paddles used for pickleball were the ones from ping pong. Many tennis players used similar items when they participated in pickleball. In 1984, the development of specific paddles for pickleball were created. They were made from a combination of honeycomb core and fiberglass materials.

There are numerous types of paddles and designs offered today for paddleball. Consumers can decide what to use based on their preferences, the cost, and how the item feels in their hands. A quality paddle can last for years, making it a great investment.

Pickleball Today

The game of pickleball continues to be one families can enjoy. It is a game with simple rules that youth like to learn and challenge themselves with. Friendly competitions and tournaments can entice people to practice and give it their all. Leagues help people bond over a shared passion for the game and it is a delightful way to forge friendships. Playing pickleball is fun and it is a great source of exercise.

There are more than 11,000 places in the United States today where you can enjoy playing pickleball. This includes parks, gyms, YMCAs, senior centres, and private entities. The sport is known internationally and has been played on every continent.