Trigger warning for the next line! And know that we hate to say it (well, not really) but you are not a true pickleball fan/ player if you haven’t ever wondered about the origin of pickleball, what is the history of pickleball or when was pickleball invented. To your surprise, it’s not a game that was invented just in recent times. Granted that, it’s not wrong if we say the majority of the people playing pickleball today must think it is a sport introduced a few years back.
Well, one of the reasons behind the low popularity of the game was its techniques. It was a mix of a few racket sports and thus, people couldn’t recognize the difference among them. Lack of technology also has its part behind the game being undervalued. However, with the rising advancements in the digital world, the game got bigger and with time it holds a great history towards its roots to the late 1960s. That being said, it has gone through certain developments and struggles that we are going to explore today to see what the game actually was!
Evolution and Origin of Pickleball
Like every sport holds some unique history of invention, pickleball isn’t left behind to amaze us with its interesting history. The story begins with the beautiful view of Bainbridge island where three families came on vacation. Because the sports they were playing (golf basically) could only be played by the men of the families and thus the kids and women start getting bored. Now, what should these three dads do?
Although, the island has the old badminton court, yet again there were no rackets. Luckily, they found a set of ping-pong paddles and perforated balls so they got an idea. What they did was, knot the net at a certain height and start playing with the available equipment.
The name of these three people are;
- Joel Pritchard
- Barney McCallum
- Bill Bell
These people are the original inventors of pickleball let us introduce them as to who they were and what contributions each did to get this game to come into existence. Starting with Joel Pritchard who was the congressman of Washington at that time. For the first time, a pickleball court was set up in the backyard of his house. Then, Barney McCallum who was a neighbor of Pritchard, and Bill Bell, who was a business and a close friend of theirs were invited to the backyard court and they formulated the rules of pickleball.
For what purpose it was created?
The main goal behind the game was to create a friendly and easy sport that anyone could play despite age and gender. For this purpose, they went under various changes even in the first week of the invention. The first change was the length of the ball from 90 inches to 36 inches since the ball bounced immensely on the asphalt surface. Along with the court, the equipment has also gone through changes.
Earlier on, pickleball was played with wooden paddles with the perforated balls being replaced with whiffle balls. Afterward, the paddles were also replaced since wooden paddles weren’t that accurate. So McCallum came up with plywood paddles and thus the first handmade paddle came into being.
Since then, the game came into the spotlight with the advancement in paddle technologies and playing techniques. There is a whole separate association of pickleball known as the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) that formulates and amends the rule of pickleball. Aside from that, it also regulates tournaments at the national and local levels.
So this is how pickleball evolved through the years. However, this is not it. There have been a series of events that happened in that time period making pickleball for what it is today. Hereby, the next we have is the timeline so you’ll be updated on all the events at an exact date.
Timeline: 1965 – Onwards
1965 – The year in which pickleball invented
As we have already explained the story behind the invention. In the summer of 1965, pickleball was invented by Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and Bill Bell. The game was originally based on the rules of badminton.
1967: First Permanent Pickleball Court
1967 was the year when the first pickleball court was built for the first time. It was located at the backyard of Joel’s neighbor Bob O’Brian.
1972: Formation Of Pickleball Inc.
In 1972 an association was formed named “Pickleball Inc” by Joel and several of his friends. Later on, its name was changed to Pickleball-Inc.
1975: “America’s Newest Sport”
For the first time, an article was written for the game and Pickleball got the title of “America’s Newest Sport” in a tennis magazine published by the Nat6ional Observer. This was the first time pickleball got huge recognition as a unique sport after 10 years.
1976: “Pickleball Tournament”
As the game got a bit of popularity, therefore, a tournament was held in 1976 at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. Although, there were not any professional players that participated in the game i.e most are college students that didn’t even know how to play it. However, the winner of the tournament was “David Lester”.
1978: “The Other Racquet Sports”
For people to know about the game of pickleball in a proper way i.e clear knowledge of the rules and playing techniques of pickleball a book was written under the name “The Other Racquet Sports.”
1984: Formation of “USAPA” and “Composite Paddles”
1984 is a phenomenal year in pickleball history. Alone this year holds a series of major events that include the formation of “The United States Amateur Pickleball Association (U.S.A.P.A.)” and obviously, the organization needs no introduction. However, for the sake of facts, let us mention the first President and Director of USAPA whom everyone knows as “Sid Williams” – the pioneer of pickleball.
In a similar year, the first composite paddle was created by an industrial engineer – Arlen Paranato. The paddle was composed of a fiberglass surface and honeycomb core and since then the paddles adopted the technology of honeycomb cores and different lightweight and robust surface materials.
1990: Spread like a Virus
So when did pickleball become popular? Yes, it’s 1990! Honestly, this year was the BREAKTHROUGH! This was the year when pickleball reached 50 different states and the actual popularity of the game started.
1997: Joel Pritchard
The founder of pickleball “Joel Pritchard” after he crossed the age of 72. And with his death, the year has been remembered as the saddest year of pickleball.
1999: “The first Pickleball Website”
With the revolution of the internet, the first website of pickleball was made. Here information, products, and accessories were provided.
2001: “Arizona Senior Olympics”
Pickleball was introduced in the Olympics, more precisely, in the Arizona Senior Olympics which is the biggest triumph of pickleball. Since then, pickleball was played at the international level with players coming and participating from all over the world.
2008: “USA Pickleball Association Official Tournament Rulebook”
This year, the USAPA made and published the Official Tournament Rulebook were explained all the rules and regulations of pickleball that are being followed to date. During the same year, the game went live on ABC’s Good Morning America which is remarked as the first time media exposure of the game.
2010: Establishment of the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP)
By the time pickleball reaches International exposure, USAPA decided and worked on establishing an international forum which they entitled as International Federation of Pickleball (IFP). They also made a website for that federation ifpickleball.org.
2014: Pickleball Channel
To make the game more professional and more popularized, a channel was created. The channel has its name “Pickleball Channel”. This channel helped a lot in making and giving the sport more recognition.
2015: “SFIA” and “Pickleball Fundamentals, Master the Basics and Compete with Confidence”
Like the year 1985, here again, two major events happened that excessively contributed to the success of the game. The first major thing was the recognition from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) which is regarded as one of the biggest achievements for pickleball. Other than that, a more informative and simplest book was published having the title of “Pickleball Fundamentals, Master the Basics and Compete with Confidence”.
2016: Super Senior International Pickleball Association (SSIPA)
Since pickleball is a highly social game hence USAPA formed a forum for the seniors of pickleball, typically aged 50 and above so that these people may form allies with the same aged people and play with the alike skilled players. Besides that, there was another development that happened in the respective year that is; USAPA started certificating programs for the referees and the name given to it was “National certified referee certification program”
2018: Pickleball Tournamtes, UTPRs and PPR
As the game started getting exposure, new developments started to rise and therefore, 2018 entails the formation of Pickleballtournaments.com which arranges and regulates the result-based tournaments in which players are given ratings and abbreviated as UTPR.
There was another federation that came into being in the same year; PPR (Professional Pickleball Registry). The purpose of this organization is to certify the instructors of pickleball.
2020: Rebranded of USAPA
Even recently, pickleball hasn’t stopped upgrading. So in 2020, USAPA got rebranded. The name has changed from USAPA to USA Pickleball. In addition, the logo and website have also undergone changes, and a more sophisticated logo and a fast website was developed in order to strengthen Pickleball Community and protect the game’s right in a more better and organized way.
In present times, Pickleball is continued to grow with more than 30,000 members of USAPA and relatively more than 3 million fans. According to Pickleball2play, there are 8,500 known locations of pickleball which is regarded as the great success of the game, even the lockdown couldn’t stop the pace of the game.
Moreover, there have been international clubs have been built to promote the game. Likewise, more and more players have started to recruit in the game, most of which are ex-tennis players.
Right now, pickleball is among America’s fastest-growing sports having an interesting invention story and times of struggle that are worth true consideration. Though, we have covered the major events concerning the overall changes and developments in the game. In the last, let us appreciate the late founders of pickleball (Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and Bill Bell) because who knew an alternative to badminton and tennis could be this bigger sport now? So this is about the history of pickleball, wanna know more about pickleball? Read onto other articles on the page and get yourself moew informed.
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