How did Pickleball Get its Name? The Story Behind It

If you’ve encountered Pickleball, the enticing amalgamation of tennis, badminton, and ping pong, you might have chuckled or raised an eyebrow at its unusual name, how did pickleball get its name?

In this piece, we’ll pull back the curtain on the fascinating story that prompted the name of this sport as Pickleball. 

How did pickleball get its name? the story behind it

How did pickleball get its name?

The name “Pickleball” has an intriguing origin story with two competing versions. Both stories involve the creators of the game, Joel Pritchard and Barney McCallum, who invented it in 1965.

How did pickleball get its name
  • Version 1: Pickles the Dog: According to one version, the sport got its name from the dog of Joel Pritchard, one of the creators. Pickles, the dog, loved chasing the ball during the game and often ran off with it. Thus, “Pickleball” was born to reference the canine’s love for the game.
  • Version 2: The Boat Story: The alternative story comes from the Pritchard family and their boating roots. Joel’s wife, Joan Pritchard, referred to the sport as “Pickleball” due to its design combination of different sports. She associated it with the term “pickle boat,” which is used in rowing to describe a boat crewed by leftover oarsmen from other boats.

While both stories are quite compelling, the name’s true origin remains contested and open to interpretation.

Who invented pickleball?

Pickleball was a spontaneous invention by three fathers- Joel Pritchard, William Bell, and Barney McCallum. It all started one summer afternoon in 1965, on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Who invented pickleball

After a round of golf, they returned home to find their children bored with the usual summertime activities and unable to engage in a constructive pastime.

The dads took the matter into their hands and invented a game to keep the kids entertained. At first, they tried to set up badminton, but the shuttlecock was missing.

They improvised, providing the children with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball, which was lighter and larger than a wiffle ball. They lowered the net on the badminton court, and an improvised game was born.

After realizing the potential of their creation, the three fathers spent the next two weeks refining the rules, creating a game that was as challenging as it was fun. Over the years, this simple, innovative game has become a globally recognized sport called Pickleball.

Where did pickleball originate?

Pickleball originated in the United States on Bainbridge Island, Washington. The sport was invented in 1965 by three fathers looking to entertain their children during the summer. It’s a blend of elements from tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, and over the years has developed its own specific rules, paddles, and court dimensions.

What is a pickle in pickleball?

In Pickleball, the term “pickle” or “being in a pickle” doesn’t refer to a specific rule or aspect of the game itself. It is colloquially used to describe a challenging situation a player may encounter during a match.

What is a pickle in pickleball

This could be when they’re facing a well-placed shot, facing aggressive opponents, or trying to recover from a poor play. In this context, “pickle” is similar to everyday vernacular, where “being in a pickle” means being in a tricky or awkward predicament.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is pickleball so popular?

Pickleball’s popularity can be attributed to its simplicity, accessibility, and social aspect. The rules are easy to learn, which attracts players of all ages and skill levels. Furthermore, it’s a low-impact sport, making it popular among older adults. The small court size encourages social interaction, making the game not just a physical activity but also a social event.

Was pickleball named after a dog?

There are two theories regarding the name “Pickleball”. One attributes the name to “Pickles”, a dog owned by one of the game’s inventors, Joel Pritchard. Pickles would chase the ball during their games. However, this story is contested by the Pritchard family themselves.

When did pickleball become popular?

Pickleball was invented in 1965, but its popularity grew significantly around the 2000s when it began to spread through community centers, Physical Education classes, and retirement communities. Its growth has been especially rapid over the past decade, with the establishment of more formalized organizations and tournaments.


The genesis of the Pickleball name is a tale wrapped in controversy. Whether named after a dog named Pickles or a rowing term from the Pritchard family’s boating pursuits, the shroud of mystery only adds to the game’s allure. 

Regardless of how it came to be, the name ‘Pickleball’ is indelibly etched into the sporting culture, representing a sport that is as diverse as it is inclusive. 

As the sport continues to grow, the tale of its nomenclature does too, encapsulating the creativity and joy that has distinguished Pickleball as a fast-growing phenomenon. The debate only acknowledges a colorful background befitting a dynamic and innovative game that continues evolving and captivating players worldwide.

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