How Did Pickleball Get Its Name? Discover the True Story!

Pickleball has a curious origin story. It involves a pickle boat, a family dog, and some creative improvisation! Let’s dive into the history of pickleball and explore how did pickleball get its name.

How did pickleball get its name - Joel Pritchard's family dog
How did pickleball get its name – Joel Pritchard’s family dog

When Was Pickleball Invented?

From humble beginnings on a rainy weekend to a worldwide phenomenon – pickleball has become extremely popular in recent years. Compared to other sports, it may be young, but its accessibility makes it a game for everyone to enjoy. So, when did this popular sport first come into existence? The answer may surprise you.

Rainy-Day Fun: The Invention of Pickleball on Bainbridge Island

Pickleball history started one rainy summer weekend on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Congressman Joel Pritchard and his friend businessman Bill Bell was searching for a fun way to spend time with their families. They wanted a game that can be played in any weather, both indoors and outdoors.

How Did Pickleball Get Its Name - Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, Barney McCallum
Barney McCallum, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell

They used table tennis paddles and a wiffle ball, and the net was lowered to the height of a badminton net. As they played, they began experimenting with different equipment and rules. They set on a game that combined elements of badminton, tennis, and ping pong. They called the game “pickle ball”.

At first, they played pickleball on an old badminton court. Later, they moved to the south center athletic club, to play on another badminton court. Joel Pritchard and his family were the first ones to play “pickle ball”, and they told other families about it. Soon, the Bainbridge pickleball locals heard about it and started playing.

From Bainbridge Island to The World: The Rise of Pickleball

Pickleball started gaining popularity. The first permanent pickleball court was built on Bainbridge Island in the late 1960s.

How did pickleball get its name - The first permanent pickleball court

The Origins of Pickleball – The first permanent pickleball court

Soon the game’s fame spread beyond Bainbridge Island to other parts of the country.

In 1972, the first pickleball tournament was held in Tukwila, Washington. It was the first USAPA national tournament, and it was a huge success. By the early 1990s, there were over 1,000 places to play pickleball across the United States.

Today, pickleball has its own set of rules, equipment, and governing bodies, including the USA Pickleball Association and the International Federation of Pickleball. The sport has even been included in the National Senior Games, and the World Senior Games and even earned a spot in the Pickleball Hall of Fame, securing its place in the world of sports.

The Legacy of Pickleball’s Inventor and His Wife: Joel and Joan Pritchard

Joel Pritchard continued to play pickleball until his death in 1997, and his legacy lives on in the sport he helped create. He was a strong advocate for the game and played an instrumental role in its early development. Also to be an inventor of the game, Joel served as a member of Congress, representing the state of Washington for several terms.

Senator Joel M.Pritchard - How did pickleball get its name
Senator Joel M.Pritchard

Joel’s wife, Joan, was also an avid pickleball player and a great player in her own right. She won several national championships and was known for her competitive spirit on the court. After her husband’s death, Joan continued to support the growth of the sport and remained an active participant in the pickleball community.

Joan Pritchard
Joan Pritchard

Together, Joel and Joan Pritchard left an indelible mark on the sport of pickleball. Their dedication and passion for the game helped turn it into the popular and thriving sport that it is today. 

Why Is It Called Pickleball?

The exact origin of the name “pickleball” is somewhat disputed. Let’s take a look at a few popular theories about how did pickleball get its name.

The Dog Story

Begin with the most popular story about how pickleball got its name. It involves Joel Pritchard’s family dog named Pickles. As mentioned above, in 1965, Pritchard and Bill were trying to create a new game. As they played, Pritchard’s dog Pickles would chase after the ball and even swat it back with her nose. The friends jokingly called the game “pickle’s ball” after the dog’s name, and the name stuck.

The dog story Pickleball
The dog story

The Pickle Boat Story

Some people believe that pickleball was named after the term “pickle boat”. It means a crew of leftover oarsmen from other boats. They think the name comes from how the game combines elements of different sports, like a pickle boat crew that’s made up of people from different teams. 

The Boat Story Pickleball
The Boat Story


Some people believe that the name comes from the pickling process. Where different ingredients are combined to make something new and unique. In the same way, pickleball combines elements from other sports to create a new game.

Pickling version Pickleball History

Pickling version

What Is The True Version?

According to the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP), the name “pickleball” was derived from the Pritchard family’s dog named Pickles. This is the widely accepted story of how the sport got its name. While other stories are floating around about how the game was named, the story about the dog Pickles is the most popular one.

In conclusion, regardless of how the game got its name, it’s undeniable that pickleball is a fun and exciting sport. So why not pick up a paddle and give it a try? You might fall in love with the game that was once named “pickle’s ball” in honor of Joel Pritchard’s lovable dog, Pickles.

Pickle Ball
Pickle Ball

History of Pickleball

Pickleball became one of the fastest-growing games in the United States and beyond. But how did this intriguing sport come to be? Let’s take a trip down memory lane. We will explore the fascinating history of pickleball through a timeline of its key moments and highlights. From its humble beginnings on a small island to its induction into the Pickleball Hall of Fame. Join us as we uncover the story of this exciting and addictive game.

History of Pickleball

Timeline and Highlights

1965Invention of PickleballJoel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and Bill Bell created the game on Bainbridge Island, Washington.
1972First Pickleball TournamentThe first known pickleball tournament was held in Tukwila, Washington.
1984Introduction to PublicThe first permanent public pickleball court was built in Seattle, Washington.
1990sPickleball SpreadsPickleball begins to spread to other parts of the United States and Canada.
2001USA Pickleball Association FoundedThe USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was founded to promote the growth and development of the sport.
2009First US Open Pickleball ChampionshipThe first US Open Pickleball Championship was held in Naples, Florida.
2015Pickleball Declared the Fastest Growing Sport in AmericaThe Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) declared pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America.
2016Simone Jardim Emerges as Top PlayerSimone Jardim burst onto the pickleball scene, winning her first national championship and establishing herself as one of the sport’s greatest players.
2017The Pickleball Hall of FamePickleball inducted into the Pickleball Hall of Fame
2018First Professional Pickleball LeagueThe Professional Pickleball League (PPL) was launched, featuring top players competing for cash prizes.
2019Pickleball Recognized by International Olympic CommitteePickleball was officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a sport.

The Popularity and Growth of Pickleball Today

According to the 2023 Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s (SFIA) Topline Participation Report, pickleball remains America’s fastest-growing sport for the third consecutive year and there are now over 40 member countries actively playing the sport.

The report shows that pickleball participation almost doubled in 2022. It was increasing by 85.7 percent year-over-year and by 158.6 percent over three years. The number of pickleball players in the United States has risen to 8.9 million, up from 4.8 million in the 2022 SFIA report. 

Total Number Of Pickleball Players In The US
Total Number Of Pickleball Players In The US

These numbers prove the significant impact and widespread appeal of pickleball across the globe.


What is the origin of the game’s name?

The game was named after the dog, Pickles. In the summer of 1965, Joel Pritchard and his friend Bill Bell invented the game in Washington state. They had a dog named Pickles, and whenever they hit the ball, Pickles would chase after it. Hence, they named the game “pickleball” after their beloved four-legged friend.

Why is Pickle Ball called Pickleball?

At the beginning the game had the name “Pickle’s ball”. Then it turned into “pickle ball”, and only after a while the game was called pickleball. It’s related to one of the most popular stories about how pickleball got its name – the “dog story,”. It involves Joel Pritchard’s family dog named Pickles.

Who Invented Pickleball?

Pickleball was invented in 1965 by Joel Pritchard and his friend Bill Bell. They created the sport “pickle ball” as a way to keep their families entertained during a summer holiday.
Regardless of which story you believe, the game started on Bainbridge Island and was originally played with table tennis paddles and wiffle ball on an old badminton court.

What Is a Pickle in Pickleball?

In pickleball, a “pickle” refers to a situation where a player or team is caught between two options, often resulting in losing a point. This can happen when a player is caught out of position or is unable to return a shot effectively.

How did Pickleball spread across the country?

After its creation in the mid-1960s, pickleball started to gain popularity on Bainbridge Island in Washington. From there, it spread across the country as players introduced the game to their friends and communities. By the early 1990s, there were over 1,000 places to play pickleball in the United States. Today, it has a dedicated following with players and tournaments around the world.

How did the game get its name?

The name “pickleball” came about because Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell didn’t actually get their dog Pickles for a few years after inventing the game. Therefore, the sport’s name stuck even though the dog didn’t initially have any connection to the game.

What is the history of pickleball?

Pickleball has an interesting history. It was invented in the summer of 1965 by Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell. The game started gaining popularity and eventually became one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Today, pickleball is played by millions of people worldwide.

Is pickleball a funny name for a sport?

Some people find the name “pickleball” amusing, but it has a meaningful origin. While it may sound funny, the name actually has a story behind it and has become synonymous with this exciting sport.

How is pickleball played?

Pickleball is played on a court with a net in the middle. It is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. Players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over the net, aiming to score points. The game can be played in singles or doubles.

What is a pickle boat in crew?

A pickle boat in crew refers to a boat where the rowers are a mix of experienced and novice rowers. The term “pickle boat” in crew is unrelated to the sport of pickleball.

How did pickleball become the fastest growing sport?

Pickleball’s popularity soared due to its accessibility, simplicity, and the fun it offers. People of all ages and skill levels can enjoy playing pickleball, which contributed to its rapid growth. Additionally, the inclusive and friendly community surrounding the sport has attracted many new players.

How did the name “pickleball” come about?

There are several variations of the story behind the name “pickleball.” One version suggests that the game was actually named after the dog, Pickles. As mentioned earlier, Pickles was known to chase after and hide the balls, which added an element of fun to the game. Another theory suggests that the name “pickleball” was coined because the game resembled the pickle boat in crew, where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats. So, the term “pickleball” could be a metaphorical reference to a mix of different sports.

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