The History of Pickleball and its Name

(Courtesy of

Pickleball on Bainbridge Island

1965 – After playing golf one Saturday during the summer, Joel Pritchard (a congressman from Washington State ) and Bill Bell (a successful local businessman) returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, WA near Seattle to find their families sitting around with nothing to do.  The property had an old badminton court so Pritchard and Bell looked for some badminton equipment and could not find a full set of rackets.  Instead they improvised and started playing with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball.  At first they placed the net at badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net.  As the weekend progressed, the players found that the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and soon the net was lowered to 36 inches.

The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home.   Soon, the three men created rules, relying heavily on badminton.  They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together.

1967 – The first permanent pickleball court was constructed in the backyard of Joel Pritchard’s friend and neighbor, Bob O’Brian.

1972 – A corporation was formed to protect the creation of this new sport.

1975 – The National Observer published an article about pickleball followed by a 1976 article in Tennis magazine about “America’s newest racquet sport.”

1976 – During the spring of 1976, the first known pickleball tournament in the world was held at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. David Lester won Men’s Singles and Steve Paranto placed second.  Many of the participants were college tennis players who knew very little about pickleball.  In fact, they practiced with large wood paddles and a softball sized whiffle ball.

1984 – USAPA “was organized to perpetuate the growth and advancement of pickleball on a national level.”  The first rulebook was published in March, 1984.  The first Executive Director and President of USAPA was Sid Williams who served from 1984 to 1998.  He was followed by Frank Candelario who kept things going until 2004.

1984 – The first composite paddle was made by Arlen Paranto, a Boeing Industrial Engineer.  He used the fiberglas/nomex honeycomb panels that commercial airlines use for their floors and part of the airplane’s structural system.  Arlen made about 1,000 paddles from fiberglas/honeycomb core and graphite/honeycomb core materials until he sold the company to Frank Candelario.

1990 – By 1990, pickleball was being played in all 50 states.

1997 – Joel Pritchard passed away at age 72.  Though he was Washington State’s Lieutenant governor from 1988 to 1996, he is probably better known for his connection to the birth of pickleball.

2001 – The game of pickleball was introduced for the first time in the Arizona Senior Olympics through the efforts of Earl Hill.  The tournament was played at Happy Trails RV Park in Surprise, AZ and drew 100 players.  It was the largest event ever played to that point and over the next few years, the event grew to nearly 300 players.

2003 – There are 39 known places to play in North America listed on the Pickleball Stuff website.  This represents 10 States, 3 Canadian Provinces and about 150 individual courts.

2003 – Pickleball was included for the first time in the Huntsman World Senior Games, held each year in St. George, Utah during October.

2005 – Mark Friedenberg was named President of the new USAPA, a new corporation and created a Board of Directors …

  • Vice President – Steve Wong
  • Secretary – Fran Myer
  • Treasurer – Lela Reed
  • General Counsel – Phil Mortenson
  • Grievance – Phil Mortenson
  • Marketing – Erne Perry followed by Pat Carroll in March, 2006
  • Membership – Carole Myers
  • National/International Relations and the Ambassador Program – Earl Hill
  • Newsletter – Jettye Lanius
  • Ratings and Rankings – Mark Friedenberg
  • Rules – Dennis Duey
  • Tournaments – Barney Myer
  • Training – Norm Davis
  • Webmaster – Steve Wong

Click here to view a list of current Board Members

2005 – Steve Wong (Past USAPA Webmaster) created the new, improved USAPA website that went live in March. Bill Booth took over as webmaster in May, 2006.  Website activity continues to increase as the popularity of pickleball grows and the features of the website increase.

2005 – USAPA became a Non-Profit Corporation on July 1.

2005 –  USAPA cooperated with several web sites to have them discontinue their Places to Play links and consolidate all their entries into the USAPA database creating a single reliable source for players to find sites to play.

2008 – The Rules Committee, headed by Dennis Duey, published the USA Pickleball Association Official Tournament Rulebook – Revision: May 1, 2008.

2008 – Pickleball has been included for the first time in the National Senior Games Champion Festival to be held in Providence, Rhode Island September 4 – 7.

2008 – There are now 420 places to play in North American as listed on the USAPA website.  This represents 43 States and 4 Canadian Provinces and about 1500 individual courts.  This does not take into account those places that are adding courts or the many courts at private homes.

2009 – The first USAPA National Tournament for players of all ages was held in Buckeye, Arizona, November 2-8, 2009.  The tournament drew almost 400 players from 26 states and several Canadian provinces.

2009 – USAPA establishs the Grant Program to assist players in creating new sites for new players.  By the end of 2013 the program has accounted for over 1,400 new sites.

2013 –  In January, Justin Maloof joined USAPA as its first full-time Executive Director.

Continued Growth

Currently, the sport of pickleball is exploding in popularity.  The number of places to play has more than doubled since 2010.  There are now nearly 4,000 locations on the USAPA’s Places to Play map.  The spread of the sport is attributed to its popularity within community centers, PE classes, YMCA facilities and retirement communities.  The sport continues to grow worldwide as well with many new international clubs forming and national governing bodies now established in Canada and India.

Videos:  The Pickleball Story and an Interview with Barney McCallum

The first video is 7 minutes and was recorded on August 11, 2013.  Congressman Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and Bill Bell invented the game of pickleball one summer afternoon in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, WA.  In Barney’s own words, here is the story, along with views of the original (and oldest) pickleball courts in the world.

The Birthplace of Pickleball


The second video is 14 minutes and was recorded December 3, 2009 at Barney McCallum’s home in Seattle WA.

Interview with Barney McCallum

Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell are no longer with us but the USAPA was honored to have Barney attend the National V tournament in November, 2013 where he was court side for a number of matches and was the special guest speaker at the ambassador’s dinner.  We were grateful to Barney for taking the time to attend and provide us not only with the history, but the reasoning behind many basic rules of the game.  Unfortunately Barney McCallum passed away in November of 2019 and here is a great article on his life and his contributions to our sport…….

Barney McCallum – A Wonderful Life


The Name

Pickleball …the fun game with the funny name!  So where did Pickleball get it’s name?  Well that is a question that almost always comes up when people are first being introduced to the sport and you’ll eventually discover that there are different opinions on where the name originated. But one thing is certain – it has nothing to do with pickles!

One common story suggests that the sport was simply named after the Pritchard’s family dog called “Pickles” who used to chase after the “ball” as they were playing …thus “Pickle’s ball” or “Pickleball”.

However, the other story in circulation is far more believable – especially since the families acknowledge that Pickles the dog only entered the picture about two years after they started playing this new game.  This other story suggests that the name actually came from a slang term that was common in competitive rowing – or “Crew” as it was known in the US colleges.   Joan Pritchard (Joel Pritchard’s wife), was a competitive rower and she recalls that each boat in college rowing teams were created from the best oarsmen available.  But the oarsmen that didn’t get selected for one of the more competitive boats were often considered the leftovers….the bottom of the barrel of misfits if you will….and their boat was referred to as the “pickleboat”.

While this new paddle sport still hadn’t been given a name yet, it was only being played by friends and families on Bainbridge Island.  This group consisted of children, parents and grandparents and as expected, they possessed a variety of different skill levels.  So as Joan looked over the diverse group of players one day, she was reminded of a similar barrel of misfits found in a pickleboat and from that, the name Pickleball was born.

Here’s a couple of links to provide lots of background on the history of how our sport got its name so you can decide which story you wish to believe and share with your friends .

Kitsap Sun

Pickleball Portal

Other References:

(1) Pickle Ball featured on Morning show By JOAN PRITCHARD, Local Columnist, July 27, 2008

(2) “The Other Racket Sports” by Dick (Richard C.) Squires – published in 1978 by McGraw-Hill

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