History of Pickleball: How Did Pickleball Get Its Name?

Watching pickleball in action might remind you of badminton or tennis. The courts share a similar layout, the rules are similar, and so are the rackets, albeit more table-tennis-sized. 

Now, let’s dissect the sport’s name—”pickle” and “ball.” Like baseball, basketball, and football, the “ball” part of the names makes sense because there’s a ball involved in the play. Similarly, baskets in basketball, bases in baseball, and feet in football are essential elements of each respective sport. But how did pickleball get its name? What do pickles have to do with this sport? Let’s explore pickleball’s history and growing popularity to gain more insight.


Who Invented Pickleball? The Sport’s Origins

One summer weekend in 1965, businessman Bill Bell and his family visited Joel Pritchard, a congressman, at his Bainbridge Island home in Washington. Although the two men frequently enjoyed golfing together, they found themselves at a loss for activities that could engage their families at Pritchard’s residence. 

The friends decided to repurpose an old badminton court on the property, using table tennis rackets to volley a Cosom Fun Ball—a small perforated plastic ball—since they lacked the complete set of badminton equipment. They eventually realized that the ball bounced nicely off the asphalt, so they lowered the net from 60 to 36 inches. 

Eventually, they invited their other friend, Barney McCallum, an envelope salesman, to play, and the trio started making rules for their emerging sport. The creative spark between three friends laid the foundation for pickleball—a sport that’s loved worldwide today.


Why Is Pickleball Called Pickleball?

So, how did pickleball get its name? Well, two stories might explain it. The first says it’s all thanks to Pickles, the Pritchard family dog who couldn’t resist chasing stray balls during the games. 

The second comes from Pritchard’s wife, Joan, who likened the sport to the “pickle boat” in rowing. “Pickle boat” refers to the last boat to dock, typically filled with a motley crew and less competitive. This concept symbolized the improvised nature of the game when it was first created. Either way, these stories capture pickleball’s playful and spontaneous spirit, making its name as unique as the game itself.


The Game’s Evolution 

Pickleball was invented when the first official pickleball court was constructed in 1967 at the home of Joel Pritchard’s friend and neighbor, Bob O’Brian. This move from impromptu setups to dedicated playing areas helped standardize the rules and formalize the game, paving the way for broader acceptance. 

As more courts appeared, pickleball’s popularity surged across the United States, attracting players of all ages and skill levels, drawn by its accessible and engaging nature.


Pickleball Today

Today, pickleball is one of America’s fastest-growing sports. People play it everywhere—from community centers to school gyms and retirement communities. Because of its booming popularity, national organizations and big tournaments now attract players from all over the globe.

What’s great about pickleball is that the rules are simple, and you don’t need expensive gear or extensive training to jump in. It’s also fast-paced and action-packed, so people of all ages and backgrounds love it.


Play Pickleball at Home with Dominator

Like pickleball founders Bill, Joel, and Barney, you can set up a court in your backyard where your family and friends can compete and create endless fun memories. Moreover, pickleball is an excellent way to stay in shape and sharpen your mind and reflexes. 

Whether you need nets, poles, paddles, or court lighting equipment, Dominator has it all. Contact us today to learn more or find an installer near you.