What Is the History of Pickleball?


Quick Answer

Pickleball was invented in 1965 by Washington State Congressman Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell in Bainbridge Island, Washington. The two began developing the game over the course of a weekend after not having enough rackets to play badminton with their families.

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Full Answer

Instead of badminton rackets, Pritchard and Bell used ping pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. They played by volleying the ball over a net set to a height of 60 inches. Soon the families discovered that the ball bounced well on the asphalt of the badminton court, so they lowered the net to 36 inches. The next weekend, their friend Barney McCallum joined them, and the three men then set about creating the rules of the game, which were heavily influenced by badminton.

The first pickleball court was built in the backyard of Pritchard's neighbor Bob O'Brien in 1967, and then in 1972 the men created a corporation for their new sport. In 1976, the world's first pickleball tournament was held in South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington; it was won by David Lester. Many of the participants in that tournament were college tennis players who knew very little about the game.

Pickleball enthusiasts formed the USA Pickleball Association in 1984 in order to grow and advance the game on a national level. Later that same year, the USA Pickleball Association released the game's first official rulebook. Within six years, people were playing the game in all 50 states. As of 2015, there are more than 2,000 places to play the game in the United States.

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