The Story of Pickleball In Short

The Birth of Pickleball
In the summer of 1965, on Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA, three friends found themselves with a common problem. Joel Pritchard, a congressman, and his friends Bill Bell and Barney McCallum were looking for a way to entertain their families during the summer. They had an old badminton court on Pritchard’s property, but they couldn’t find a full set of rackets. So, they improvised.

The Creation
They started playing with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. At first, they placed the net at the badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. As the weekend progressed, they 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 badminton1. They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together.

The Evolution
In 1967, the first permanent pickleball court was constructed in the backyard of Joel Pritchard’s friend and neighbor, Bob O’Brian. By 1972, a corporation was formed to protect the creation of this new sport. The National Observer published an article about pickleball in 1975, followed by a 1976 article in Tennis magazine about “America’s newest racquet sport”. During the spring of 1976, the first known pickleball tournament in the world was held at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington.

The Concept
Pickleball is a racket or paddle sport in which two players (singles) or four players (doubles) hit a perforated, hollow plastic ball with paddles over a 34-inch-high net until one side is unable to return the ball or commits a rule infraction. It was invented as a children’s backyard game. While it resembles tennis and table tennis, pickleball has separate rules, paddles, and court dimensions. The court is 44 feet long and 20 feet wide, and the paddle is larger than the one used in table tennis. The hard plastic ball used in pickleball produces less bounce than tennis balls. On each side of the net is a 7-foot area known as the non-volley zone (or the kitchen), where the ball must bounce before it is hit.

The Equipment
The necessary equipment required to play pickleball includes pickleball paddles, pickleballs, a pickleball court, and a pickleball net. Tape may be needed to identify court dimensions and markings if an official court is not available. An external net is also required if there is not an existing one built into the court. Shoes, a shirt, and shorts are usually worn when playing pickleball. Hats and sunglasses can be useful for keeping the sun or lights out of a player’s eyes.

The Legacy
Pickleball has evolved from original handmade equipment and simple rules into a popular sport throughout the US and Canada. The game is growing internationally as well, with many European and Asian countries adding courts. Today, pickleball is played in all 50 states and is estimated to have over 4.8 million players. It is named the fastest-growing sport in the United States by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association2.

And so, the story of pickleball continues, a testament to the creativity and innovation of its creators, and the enduring appeal of a game that began as a simple solution to summer boredom.

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