A growing number of parks and recreational facilities offer pickleball, one of the fastest-growing sports in the country. Over 2.5 million people play it across the country alone, making it a favorite among a wide range of people. Pickleball is so popular, but where did pickleball originate?
Three dads, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, created pickleball as a means of keeping their families occupied outside on Bainbridge Island, Washington, in 1965. Several states surrounding Washington began playing pickleball shortly afterward.
In this article, I’d like to share Where Did Pickleball Originate and how the sport evolved over time.
Where Did Pickleball Originate?
It is fascinating to follow pickleball’s record-breaking growth over the years. It all started on an old badminton court at Congressman Joel Pritchard’s summer cottage on the southwest shore of Bainbridge Island.
Having learned the game from Joel Pritchard’s two well-known friends, Barney McCallum and Bill Bell, the game spread like a weed across parks and tennis centers nationwide.
Starting from its birth year in 1965, I’ll take you on a detailed journey through the game’s development. Take a trip back in time with the pickleball time machine.
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The year is 1965, and Bainbridge Island is nicknamed “The Rock” for its cloudy, rainy weather. There were three families on the vacation together, the Pritchards, the Bells, and the McCallums, but everything wasn’t right.
As the children of each family had grown bored and crabby, Joel, Barney, and Bill decided to take them to the old, rundown badminton court at the Pritchard’s house. A couple worn out ping pong paddles, a random Wiffle ball, and three badminton rackets were scrounged up by one dad and directed to whack the ball back and forth over the net by the other two dads.
Since badminton’s net was too high for Wiffle balls of that kind, the net was gradually lowered, and pickleball began to take root.
In order to make the game accessible to their families, the three men created and formalized the rules.
After developing the “M1” and “M2”, the first wooden pickleball paddles from his basement bandsaw, Barney McCallum created the “M” and “M2. There is still something classic about the M2 pickleball paddle shape.
The engineering skills he possesses are evident in that.
The “no-volley zone” line was moved back by 6 inches at a time by Joel, Barney, and Bill over the winter of 1965 until they found the optimal 7-foot length for pickleball.
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One final rule needed to be finalized before winter ended. There is a rule about double bounces. Three of the game’s creators played a key role in developing this unique rule, which gives the return team the service advantage.
The biggest difference between it and tennis is this rule.
According to Barney McCallum, the double bounce rule and the 7-foot no-volley zone rule provided unprecedented balance to the game. Designed to equalize the playing field, the game ensured a level playing field. It was impossible for players who were young, athletic, and physically imposing to dominate.
By including these two rules, the game became fun and challenging for everyone regardless of their skill level or athletic ability. Players of all ages were able to play this game.
Barney McCallum’s garage was soon filled with paddles made from plywood by hand and official rules were created.
By inviting their friends to play, the families spread the word about the game. As soon as Barney started making paddles for everyone, everyone wanted one too. Bainbridge Island friends and families were paying Barney to make paddles for their friends and families.
During the game’s popularity boom, the game’s wonderful inclusive social aspect was born with Prichard, Bell, and McCallum’s friends.
There is something so delightfully engaging and inviting about pickleball that has made it one of the most popular games ever. Everybody they knew was invited to play with the Pritchards and McCallums.
Today, courts across the country still exhibit the same social acceptance and inclusivity. This type of friendly, social acceptance has never been seen in any other sport in American history.
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The game’s first permanent pickleball court was built in Joel Pritchard’s backyard by his neighbor Bob O’Brien in 1967.
Did Joel Pritchard’s house on Bainbridge Island host the first court?
Despite the fact that this still remains to be regarded as the original “A court”, as it is referred to, it still possessed all the classic issues that would arise from a homemade, improvised, and made from the scratch court.
There were trees and bushes on Joel’s original court that impeded players and gave them an unfair advantage. During the development of the game, classic driveway, and home court stuff was played.
I use this pickleball net for my driveway pickleball as my only portable pickleball net.
The real deal, however, was Bob’s court. You can run and swing without having to worry about trees since the park is all asphalt.
A dedicated pickleball court was built in Barney McCallum’s backyard three years after the game was created accidentally. In fact, this was technically court number 3, but it was called “the McCallum court” by family and friends.
Among the three families and their friends, the game quickly became addictive. It was only on the island that there were these three courts. What would everyone do when they returned to the city after leaving their summer homes?
Joel Pritchard and Barney McCallum, congressman Joel Pritchard’s bandsaw buddies, had plans to move the game to their regular homes and beyond in the greater Seattle area.
The game jumped from Bainbridge Island to Seattle in the early 1970s when Barney McCallum convinced his neighbors to play with him in Magnolia Bluff (Seattle), where portable courts were constructed in the neighborhood streets.
Within a few months, one of Barney’s neighbors decided to install a full-fledged concrete pickleball court instead of undergoing traditional landscaping upgrades.
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During Joel Pritchard’s political fundraisers, he would set up a court and encourage attendees to play two-on-two at his fundraising events.
Having fun and bringing people together was the goal of the game! There was never a wavering of that “inclusive feel.” It spread to local Seattle schools as well.
During the early 70s, Barney and his son had started teaching pickleball at school programs outside of Seattle.
At this demonstration, the game was well received by local school board administrators. By the end of the year, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Missouri, California, Texas, and Illinois joined Washington and Oregon in playing the game.
As a result, many national news outlets began to cover the game. There was a flood of press coverage. A rapidly growing number of pickleball starter sets were offered by Barney and the company.
There was such a demand for money that an official pickleball entity was formed to handle it. Therefore, Barney McCallum founded Pickleball Inc., which is still in business today.
“America’s newest racquet sport” was described as “America’s newest sport” by the National Observer in 1975.
In 1976, in Tukwila, Washington, a pickleball tournament was held for the first time. A lot of college tennis players who were relatively new to pickleball played in the first tournament, which was a great milestone for the sport.
The 80s were a time of unprecedented growth and recognition for the game. Newspapers and magazines that cover racket sports now openly cover pickleball as well as tennis.
It was a wake-up call for the racket sports world.
As a result, pickleball became a sport played in all 50 states and tournaments were held all over the country by 1990.
Founded in the mid-1990s, Pickle-ball Inc makes paddles, sets, and at this point a patented ball as well.
In 2001, pickleball made its second monumental achievement when it was announced that it would be included in the Arizona Senior Olympics for the first time ever. As a result, it grew from 100 participants to over 300 in just a few years.
US Pickleball Association rules and tournaments were officially managed by a board of directors by 2005.
For 10 consecutive years, the game ranked as the “fastest growing sport in the United States” in every statistical category.
The title is still held by it today.
2020 and Beyond
There are over 8,000 pickleball courts in the United States and abroad, and over 3.3 million players play pickleball. Currently, it is one of the most popular racket sports in the world.
Many people play casually between friends and community members, though hundreds of tournaments offer competitive games at different levels. Bill Bell, Joel Pritchard, and Barney McCallum would have approved.
When Do People Start Playing Pickleball?
Suitable for all ages, pickleball is a great way to stay active, whether you’re a child or a retired adult. Tennis is a sport that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy because the intensity is not as high as other sports.
Approximately 43.5 years old is the average age of pickleball players, according to USA Pickleball. As a result, there is a wide range of age groups participating in the sport, with 16.2% being younger than 17 and 21.1% being older than 65.
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Where Did Pickleball Originate – Final Thoughts
Players of all skill levels and backgrounds enjoy pickleball on Bainbridge Island, Washington.
In spite of its amalgamation of badminton, ping pong, and tennis elements, it has grown to become a stand-alone sport.
Many retired people across the country are using this method to remain active. Some areas of the country even prefer it to golf.
An island in Washington is the birthplace of pickleball, which is popular with summer vacationers. After it was invented to pass time in the family, it quickly evolved into a fully-fledged, televised racket sport that everyone can participate in…together. We love it because of that!
Here’s a look at how pickleball started in a backyard and then became a global sport 40 years later, in part because I hope I’ve adequately answered your question about Where Did Pickleball Originate.
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