What is Pickleball? / History of Pickleball

Pickleball is a racquet sport which combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. The sport is played on a court with the same dimensions as a doubles badminton court. The net is similar to a tennis net, but is mounted two inches lower. The game is played with a hard paddle and a polymer wiffle ball.

Although pickleball appears to be very similar to tennis, there are key differences that make pickleball more accessible to a wider range of players, particularly children and seniors. Chief among these differences is the speed of the pickleball ball which typically moves at one-third of the average speed of a tennis ball. Equally important, however, is the size of the court which is just under one-third of the total area of a tennis court. This smaller area combined with the slower moving ball makes pickleball much easier to play than tennis.

History of Pickleball

 

1965 – After playing golf one Saturday during the summer of 1965, Joel Pritchard, congressman from Washington State and Bill Bell, successful businessman, returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, WA 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. They improvised, cutting shafts of the damaged rackets and found a perforated plastic ball. The rackets didn’t work very well, so the dads created four wood paddles, similar to today’s wood paddles. 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. The Pritchards had a cocker spaniel named Pickles, who became interested in this new game. Whenever a ball would come his way, he would take the ball and run off with it, because you see, it was Pickle’s ball. And that is how the game got its name.

1967 – The first permanent pickleball court was constructed in Joel Pritchard’s backyard in Seattle, Washington during the winter of 1967.

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

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.

1998. He was followed by Frank Candelario who kept things going until 2004.

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. He 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

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.

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.​