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Short History of Pickleball

Posted by Josh K on

Discovering the Sport of Pickleball

It sounds like something you would do when taking off the pickles on your burger and throwing them, but Pickleball is actually a racquet sport similar to tennis or badminton. In fact, it is played on a badminton court with the net lowered to a height of 34 inches. While you may have never heard of the sport, it has been around for some time and there is even an association for it in the United States, U.S.A. Pickleball Association.


History of the Game

The game was invented in 1965 in Bainbridge Island, Washington and it came about one Saturday afternoon to help entertain bored family members. The Pritchard family, Joel, who later became a Congressman from the state, and his wife Joan, plus their family friends the Bells and the McCallums had originally set out to play badminton. After they couldn't find the shuttlecock, a plastic whiffle ball was found and wooden paddles were shaped from old plywood found in a shed. There are two versions for how the game got its name. One version is that it was named after the Pritchard family dog, Pickles, and that the wiffle ball that was used belonged to the dog. However, Joan Pritchard nixed this story when she revealed she had named it Pickleball because it reminded her of a Pickle Boat for which oarsmen were chosen from leftover members of crew teams. The Pritchard's didn't get Pickles the dog until 1967. We have more about the history of the game, Pickleball equipment and the Pickleball rules in our Pickleball learning center.


How Pickleball is Played

The ball is served underhanded to the opposing player, or players if it is a doubles match. Only the serving side can score points and scoring occurs when the ball is hit out of bounds, the ball isn't returned or it is volleyed in the "kitchen" area of the court. The kitchen area is officially called the non-volley area and it is the first seven feet on either side of the net. Balls can be returned in this area, but they must be allowed to bounce first. When the ball is served, the server must allow the returned ball to bounce before they can hit a return ball. In both singles and doubles play, the serving side only gets one fault before a side out is called and the opposing team is allowed to serve. However, once the serve has been made by an opposing team, in doubles both teams are then allowed two faults per side. In singles play, points are scored in evens when served on the right side of the court and odds when served from the left. The first side that scores 11 points, with at least a two point lead, will be declared the winner. Here is a picture of the court: 


Where is Pickleball Played?

Pickleball is a good game for all ages and it is played internationally. The International Federation of Pickleball, IFP, has four member countries, the U.S., Canada, Spain and India. There are other organizations associated with the sport in the U.S. and Canada. Here you will find the USA Pickleball Association for more information.

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