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Pickleball: The Fastest Growing Sport in America with an Interesting History

In 2014, NBC hailed pickleball as the “fastest growing sport in America.” But this popular pastime has been around much longer than that. In fact, pickleball can be traced back to three things: summer boredom, missing sports equipment, and a cocker spaniel.

Every parent can relate to those dog days of summer, when the novelty of an extended vacation wears off and kids start complaining of boredom. In 1965, Bill Bell and Joel Pritchard, both U.S. Congressmen, faced this problem during summer in Bainbridge Island, WA. Desperate to entertain the children, Pritchard took them to the asphalt badminton court in his backyard. But with no shuttlecock in sight, they improvised by using a wiffleball and badminton rackets. The kids complained it was too hard, so they made wooden rackets like Ping Pong paddles. Their quick thinking and determination to occupy the kids all summer led to the creation of baseline rules for a new game.

Originally played with a badminton net at five feet high, they lowered it to three feet, making it easier to volley and keeping the pace exciting. Inviting Barney McCallum over, the three men created more rules so the whole family could play.

With a new sport came the need for a name. As the kids played, Pritchard’s cocker spaniel Pickles grabbed the ball and ran off. The kids yelled, “Pickles, the ball!” until finally everyone was playing “pickleball.”

Although named either for the dog or because it reminded Joan Pritchard of a pickle boat in crew, pickleball has endured. What began as a cure for summer boredom 51 years ago has become popular in the U.S. and Canada.

“Although pickleball is the game with the funny name and peculiar scoring, it’s fun to play and easier to learn than most court sports, thus having a broader appeal to people of all ages and athletic abilities. This is why the sport continues to grow at a feverish pace,” said Chuck Vietmeier, Product Manager


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