Who Invented Pickleball and Why Was It Called Pickleball?

Pickleball is a sport that has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years. Many people wonder about its origins and the story behind its unique name. This article will explore who invented pickleball and the reason behind its quirky name.

The Invention of Pickleball

The Creators: Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum

Pickleball was invented in the summer of 1965 by three dads: Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. Joel Pritchard, who was a U.S. Congressman from Washington, and his friend Bill Bell, a successful businessman, were looking for a way to entertain their families during a weekend gathering at Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, Washington.

The Initial Concept

The original idea was to create a game that would be easy for everyone to play, regardless of age or athletic ability. The three men improvised with some old ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball, setting up a net at a height of 60 inches. They quickly found that lowering the net to 36 inches and adjusting the rules made the game more enjoyable and accessible.

The Role of Barney McCallum

Barney McCallum, a friend of Pritchard and Bell, joined them in refining the game. Together, they established the basic rules and played the first official games of pickleball on a badminton court with a modified net and simple paddles. The game quickly gained popularity among their friends and families.

Why Is It Called Pickleball?

The Name’s Origin

The name “pickleball” has sparked various stories and legends. The most widely accepted version is that the game was named after Joel Pritchard’s dog, Pickles. The dog would chase after the ball and run off with it, which led to the name “Pickle’s ball,” eventually shortened to “pickleball.”

The Alternative Story

Another story suggests that the game was named after the term “pickle boat,” referring to the last boat to return with its catch in rowing competitions. Since pickleball was created by combining elements of different sports, it was metaphorically like a pickle boat, with its eclectic mix of rules and equipment.

The Official Stance

While both stories have their charm, the official stance from the Pritchard family supports the dog Pickles’ story. Joel Pritchard’s wife, Joan, is often credited with coming up with the name.

The Evolution of Pickleball

Growing Popularity

Since its invention, pickleball has grown exponentially in popularity. It has spread from the backyards of Bainbridge Island to become a globally recognized sport. Schools, community centers, and recreational facilities have adopted the game, and it is played by people of all ages.

Organized Competitions

In 1972, a corporation was formed to protect the creation of the new sport. The first pickleball tournament was held in 1976 at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. Since then, the sport has seen numerous national and international tournaments, further cementing its place in the sporting world.


The invention of pickleball is a fascinating story of creativity, family fun, and the desire to make a sport that everyone can enjoy. Its quirky name, whether from a beloved dog or a rowing term, adds to its charm and appeal.

For those curious about the differences between pickleball and similar sports like paddle tennis, you can explore this detailed comparison of pickleball and paddle tennis.

Pickleball’s journey from a simple backyard game to a global phenomenon is a testament to its universal appeal and the joy it brings to players worldwide.