How Did Pickleball Get Its Name?

Are you looking at that, how did pickleball get its name? Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It is played both indoors and outdoors on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net. Despite its growing popularity, many people are curious about how pickleball got its unique name. This article explores the origins of the sport and the story behind its distinctive name.

The Inception of Pickleball

Pickleball was invented in 1965 by three fathers Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum in Bainbridge Island, Washington. The game was created as a fun activity for their children during the summer. Using a mix of badminton, ping-pong, and tennis equipment, they devised a new game that could be played by the entire family.

Early Equipment and Rules

The original pickleball court was set up in the backyard of Joel Pritchard’s home. They used a badminton court, lowered the net to 36 inches, and created makeshift paddles from plywood. The game was initially played with a wiffle ball, which later evolved into the perforated plastic ball used today. The rules of pickleball were simple, focusing on creating a game that was easy for everyone to play and enjoy.

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The Origin of the Name “Pickleball”

There are two popular stories about how pickleball got its name:

Pickles the Dog

One of the most widely circulated stories is that the game was named after a dog named Pickles. According to this version, Joel Pritchard’s family had a dog named Pickles who would chase after the ball during games and run off with it. Thus, the game was whimsically named “pickleball” after the family pet. However, this story has been debunked as a charming myth. Pickles the Dog was adopted by the Pritchards a few years after the game was created, so the name could not have originated from the dog.

The Pickle Boat

The more historically accurate version relates to the term “pickle boat” in rowing. In crew races, the pickle boat is the last boat to return to the dock, and it is typically made up of rowers who were not chosen for the main team. Joan Pritchard, Joel Pritchard’s wife, is said to have come up with the name because pickleball was a mix of different sports, much like the mixed crew of the pickleboat. This explanation aligns with the eclectic nature of the game, which combines elements from various sports to create a new and engaging activity.

Popularity and Evolution

Since its inception, pickleball has grown exponentially in popularity. It is now played by people of all ages around the world. The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was established in 1984 to promote the sport and standardize its rules. Pickleball tournaments are held internationally, and the sport has gained recognition for its inclusivity and low-impact exercise benefits.


The name “pickleball” reflects the game’s quirky and playful origins. Whether derived from a beloved family pet or inspired by rowing terminology, the name encapsulates the fun, mixed-sport nature of pickleball. As the sport continues to grow, its unique name remains a charming part of its history, attracting curiosity and adding to its appeal.

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