How Did Pickleball Get Its Name? And The History

When you hear the name Pickleball, many people think “How did pickleball get its name“?

Well, according to the United States Pickleball Association, Pickleball got its name by one or both of these different ways:

1. According to Joan Pritchard (Joel Pritchard’s wife), she started calling the game pickleball because “the combination of different sports“ reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”

2. According to Barney McCallum, the game was officially named after the Pritchard family dog Pickles, who would chase the ball and run off with it. It’s a dog story! According to McCallum, “The Pritchard’s dog was named Pickles, and you’re having fun at a party, right? So anyway, what the hell, let’s just call it pickleball.”

The history of pickleball has an origin story that goes back to 1965.

It was originally invented by three men to keep their kids busy during the summer.

It’s now one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States.

In recent years, it’s become popular throughout the world.

The Origins of Pickleball

While summering on Bainbridge Island, in Washington state, Congressman Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum were looking for a fun activity that the whole family could play together.

When Joel, William and Barney came home from a game of golf one day to find their kids bored and restless, they set out to create a new game that would be challenging but suitable for everyone to play.

They started playing with table tennis paddles (ping-pong paddles) and a wiffle ball (large perforated plastic ball), and a lowered badminton net, on an old badminton court.

The kids and parents all enjoyed the game and had fun playing throughout the summer.

Today pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with a net that is 34 inches off the ground, with a paddle that looks similar to a ping pong (table tennis) paddle but much larger and uses a wiffle ball.

It’s a sport for people of all ages and skill levels who want to expand their social network, have fun, and get physically fit, all at the same time.

This video interview with Barney and his son does a fantastic job of explaining the history and evolution of the pickleball game.

How To Play A Game Of Pickleball

Pickleball is an easy and fun sport to learn how to play.

You play with a pickle ball (also called a pickleball ball) and a pickleball paddle.

You hit the ball over the net, diagonally, and try to keep it in bounds and then your opponent hits the ball back to you.

Simple, right?

And because the pickleball court is not as large as a tennis court, it’s easier to cover half of the court with your partner when you’re playing doubles. 

Easy, peasy. Without a ton of strain on your body.


Pickleball Rules

Now, it’s easy to play pickleball but it does get a little bit more involved from a rules perspective because there are a few rules that are unique to pickleball.

These rules are governed by the USA Pickleball Association.

Remember, when I said that the sport was created to allow all family members to play?

Well, in order to be sure that pickleball players don’t play too aggressively, the non-volley zone and the double bounce rule were created.

Non-Volley Zone Rule in Summary

The non-volley zone is a 7 ft area on either side of the net that extends the width of the net.

You can’t stand inside the non-volley zone when hitting the ball unless it has bounced first.

It means that you need to play more strategically because you can’t just easily smash the ball over the net as you can in tennis.

The non volley zone rule forces you to think about how to play the ball.

It’s easy to learn and with a bit of strategic thinking, you can outsmart and outplay your competitor.

Double Bounce Rule

The double bounce rule does not refer to not allowing the ball to bounce twice on your side of the net, although, this is not allowed either.

The double bounce rule means that when you are serving the ball, your opponent must let the ball bounce once on their side of the net before making a return shot.

When the return shot is made over the net to the original server’s side, the ball must also bounce once before the shot is returned.

This rule exists to discourage pickleball players from making smash shots immediately after the first serve and quickly ending the play.

The video below provides a basic overview of the pickleball game and how to play.

You can read more about pickleball rules in this article.

Pickleball Scoring

Learning how to score in pickleball can sometimes seem a bit daunting but it does get easier, the more often you play. Here’s an overview of the key pickleball scoring basics:

  1. Scoring is done sequentially (1,2,3,4 etc).
  2. The score goes to 11 points (in some tournaments, the score goes to 15 or 21).
  3. The winning team must win by at least 2 points. So, if the score is 10 – 10, the winning team must get at least 2 more points to win or in this case, at least 12 points.
  4. Only the team that is currently serving can score points.
  5. Each team gets to serve at least twice, once per player. Except for the very first serve of the game where the player gets only one serve and once the rally is lost, the opponent gets the ball to serve.
  6. You score a point when your opponent doesn’t successfully return the ball.
  7. When you score a point, you switch sides with your partner and serve again.
  8. You continue to serve and score points until your team misses a shot.
  9. The server must always say the score before serving.

Pickleball Scoring – doubles

Scoring in pickleball is different than other racquet or paddle sports and confuses players who are new to pickleball and even more, seasoned players can easily question the score.

Have a look at the scoring examples below that will help clarify how to keep score and help you understand why there are 3 numbers to call out when announcing the score.

The server will say the score, as follows, before serving the ball:

0 – 0 – 1 (neither team has a point, and the 1st player on a team is scoring – the last number)

1 – 0 – 1 (the serving team has 1 point, the receiving team has 0 points, and the 1st player on a team is scoring)

1 – 1 – 2 (the score is tied and the 2nd player on the serving team is now serving)

Pickleball Scoring – Singles

Pickleball scoring when playing pickleball is similar to scoring in a game of doubles but a bit simpler. The biggest differences are:

1. When the score is called out, only 2 numbers are called. The number of points for the serving team and the number of points for the receiving team.

2. As soon as the server loses a rally, the receiving team earns the right to serve. Play alternates every time the serving team loses a rally.

Facts About Pickleball?

Before I began playing pickleball, I had heard a lot about it but didn’t understand why it would be fun.

But, I knew that pickleball’s popularity over the last few years had been for some good reasons:

  • Doable – almost anyone can get on a court and play
  • Fun – It’s fun and easy just to want to keep playing and playing – some pickleball players say it’s addictive and I agree
  • Social – Regardless of skill level and age, many people play pickleball for the social interaction
  • Low impact exercise – suitable for those prone to injury
  • Recreational or more serious – Play for fun, just hit the ball around or play in tournaments

This video below, of a mixed doubles game from the US Open tournament, is with a team of 12 and 14-year-olds playing in the 19-49 division.

In pickleball, players can play up in age but not down. This is a fantastic example of how various age groups and skills can play together.

Where To Play Pickleball?

Many community centers have places to play pickleball, and sometimes there are courts that have been built specifically for pickleball. 

But quite often, the pickleball courts are shared with tennis, basketball, or badminton courts.

To easily figure out where to play pickleball, take a look at 5 Simple Ways To Find Pickleball Courts Near You which outlines several really easy ways to quickly find places to play pickleball near you.

If you want to find an established pickleball club or courts that are already established, use the Places To Play application.

Some people will also figure out places to play near them which makes it really convenient.

As an example, they’ll set up pickleball courts with portable pickleball nets on their driveways, backyards, cul-de-sacs or even at the local basketball court.

Some people also play pickleball on the grass for fun!

Is Pickleball Expensive?

Pickleball is a reasonably inexpensive sport and doesn’t require a lot of pickleball equipment which makes it accessible to a wide range of people.

All you need is a pickleball paddle (cost as low as $30) and a pickleball ball (as low as $3).

There are plenty of pickleball sets that are available with everything needed for 4 players for as low as $100.

Depending on your location, places to play could be inexpensive or free.

For fun games can also be played in your backyard on grass by changing to a non-regulation ball. 

Give it a try!

The best way to really understand this new sport is to give it a try.

You may be surprised at how many of your friends have already discovered it.

Maybe you can come up with your own reason why it’s called Pickleball! 

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