Why is It Even Called Pickleball?

Pickleball continues to gain popularity. It’s a sport that combines tennis and other racquet sports. One the one hand, people like how they can get a bit of a workout without having to give maximum effort.  One the other, it’s a simple game to pick up too. One particular common thought is the original of the name “pickleball.”

We are here to answer the question “Why is it called Pickleball?” It’s a unique name for sure. Nothing about the sport indicates why it would be named this, however. There are no green items or pieces of equipment, and you are not forced to play while eating a pickle. Well, not officially sanctioned matches – you can add your own degrees of difficulty when playing with friends.

Just like many other things in life, there is no clear-cut answer. But it’s fun to wonder.

What Is Pickleball?

It’s a good idea to know what we are talking about when finding out about the origin of this sport. You play with special paddles that are larger than ping pong ones and smaller than a tennis racquet. The game is played on a court that is about as small as a quarter of a tennis court. There is a net in the middle that is roughly as high as in tennis. The ball is basically a wiffleball.

The rules are simple – there are usually two players on each side, or a doubles match. There can be single-player matches too, but typically it is a doubles sport. Like tennis, one side serves to the other and they attempt to volley it back and forth until the ball bounces twice or lands outside the defined lines of the court. The players play until one side scores 11 points – but they need to win by two points.

The thing that people like about pickleball is that it is an easy game to pick up. It is fun and an entire family can pick it up and start enjoying playing it very quickly. There is a very short learning curve – and then you can start looking like a pickleball pro in a very short amount of time.

How It Started

We need to go back in time for this. It’s the not-too-distant past, but it was before tablets, cell phones and cable TV. Computers were the size of rooms. It was 1965. There were two families, the Pritchards and the Bells, meeting each other on a sunny summer day in Washington. While it was a nice day, there was not too much to do and boredom was starting to set in fast. So…. Joel Pritchard, who owned the home that they were staying in, began to think of how to get an activity together that all of them could enjoy.

Pritchard noticed that he had a badminton court, but sadly, there were not enough racquets. After digging around a bit more, he was able to scrape up enough spare ping pong paddles for his family and for those in Bill Bell’s, who was the other father’s, family.

As time went by, they tinkered with the dimensions of the court and the rules. Pritchard and Bell added a third person to the mix – a family friend named Barney McCullum. The first official pickleball court was erected in ’67, in a neighbor’s yard.

The sport started picking up steam. As they entered the 1970s, they came up with the pickleball name and started a corporation of the same title in ’72. That still leaves the question: What was the real origin behind the name?

The Origin of the Pickleball Name

One school of thought is that the name came from the pickle boat, which was made up of leftover rowers from other boats. The pickles, as it were. This idea for the name does make sense. It was summer and the creators of the game were near water, after all.

There is another possible origin – apparently the Pritchards had a dog around the time that was named “Pickles” and it loved to try to grab the ball in between games. So they dubbed it “Pickleball.” Sadly, the dog is no longer around to corroborate this story.

So where are we when it comes to knowing why the game was named such? Both stories seem equally plausible. There is also the possibility that it could have been a scenario of “A Little Bit of A’ and “A Little Bit of B” where both of them were combined.

People like playing pickleball because the equipment is not expensive, it’s fairly easy on the body, and the game can be learned in a short amount of time. There are a lot of places that people can play around the country and new spots are being opened on a fairly regular basis. It’s a popular sport at recreation centers, since they don’t have to renovate existing space to accommodate players.

Although the equipment is fairly simple, there is a market for upgrades. Companies sense that the sport is growing and have developed higher-end items. They include paddles that are made of material that can absorb the impact of the ball and redirect it to wherever the person hitting it wants it to land to pickleball-specific shoes and gloves.

Pickleball continues to be a lot of fun for nearly everyone who plays it. If it continues to grow like it is, who knows how things will look by the time 2064 rolls around? There may even be major sites for it around the world for tournaments … much like tennis now.

Now that you know the origin of the sport and its name, you can go and try it out yourself. There are plenty of places in both cities and towns to find them. Then you can also call yourself a pickleball aficionado.

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