How Did Pickleball Get Its Name? Unraveling the Mystery!

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how did pickleball get its name

If you’re a new pickleball player, you’ve probably noticed that many people are always asking how did pickleball get its name, and you’ve probably asked yourself the same question too.

There’s no exact answer to that question, but there have been several stories that tell how did pickleball get its name.

What’s Pickleball?

Pickleball is a sport that borrows elements from tennis, badminton, and ping-pong.

It can be played either indoors or outdoors on a court similar to the only badminton is played on.

A pickleball court features a slightly lowered tennis net (34″). Moreover, the sport is played using composite paddles that contain thin polymeric faces. Other material options include graphite, fiberglass, and kevlar.

In the past, plastic and wooden paddles were usually used, and some even use them today.

The ball used is usually made of plastic. The ball contains circular holes (26 for indoors and 40 for outdoors). The game can either be played as 1v1 or 2v2.

Every single state in the US has a number of pickleball ambassadors, for a total of 1,700 ambassadors in all and around 3,000 courts to play in the U.S.

History of Pickleball

Back in 1965, Pickleball was invented on Bainbridge Island by three dads on a short ferry ride from Seattle, Washington.

Their kids were bored with their conventional activities during the summer holiday, and that’s how the sport was created.

The game has evolved from primitive handmade equipment and limited number of rules, to a popular sport that’s played by millions of people throughout the United States and Canada.

The sport has also gained international recognition, with many European and Asian countries slowly adopting it.

Check out this documentary that gives you more in-depth information about the history of the sport.

Additionally, here’s a brief timeline of the sport’s evolution:

  • 1965 – Pickleball was created
  • 1967 – The first pickleball court was opened
  • 1972 – The launch of a corporation dedicated to preserving and setting the standards of the sport
  • 1976 – The first pickleball tournament was witnessed in Tukwila, Washington
  • 1984 – The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was formed to spread the sport and set its rules.
  • 1990 – Pickleball was played all over the United States
  • 2003 – Pickleball joined the Huntsman World Senior Games
  • 2005 – USAPA turned into an NGO
  • 2008 – It was stated on the USAPA’s website that there are now 420 places to play pickleball all over the United States

How Did Pickleball Get Its Name?

There are two famous stories on how pickleball got its name.

The First Story: ​Pickles the Dog

Joel Prichard’s daughter and his neighbor, Jim Brown got a new Cockapoo puppy for free from their neighbor. They’ve decided to name the new puppy “Pickles”.

As it’s believed, when they started playing the new racquet game (that we know as pickleball) at that time, the dog, Pickles, would always put the plastic wiffle ball in its mouth and run around the court with it, and that’s how the sport was named after the little dog

On several occasions, the McCallum and the Browns families have insisted that the story that the new racquet sport was named after the dog is the true one.

They also claim that they remember the night they named the game after the dog while sitting in the living room.

The Second Story: The Pickle Boat

The second story comes from Joel Prichard’s wife, Joan. From her side, the sport got its name from the term “pickle boat.”

A pickle boat is the last boat to reach the finish line in a race.

For example, in rowing, the pickle boat usually contains leftover oarsmen from competing teams. Joan did mention that pickleball is also considered to be leftovers from other sports, hence the name.

Over time, the inventors of the game kept calling it pickleball until it became a standard.

Controversy Surrounding the Two Stories

There has been an ongoing debate on which story is the real one.

The Prichard’s daughter, Peggy, said that there’s no way the game was named after the dog, because they got the dog many years after they started playing the game, which is considered a point of strength for the pickle boat story.

However, the creator, Barney McCallum, insisted that the name came from the dog, or at least that’s what he said in a recent interview.

While this version of the story doesn’t seem like a simple story to tell, it’s highly likely that the game was named after the pickle boat, not the dog.

If you’ve ever been to Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island, the exact place the game was born, you’ll notice the rowers frequently practicing there.

Bainbridge is home to many water sports sessions, including sports like sailing, rowing, and motor boating.

The people behind pickleball were businessmen and politicians. That’s why they were good story-tellers.

The ability of the inventors of pickleball to market for and spread the sport has greatly contributed to the success of the sport.

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If you’ve ever tried to introduce a friend to pickleball, a question they’re likely to ask is “Why is it named like that?”.

It’d be much easier for you to say that it was named after a dog called Pickles than it’s for you to explain what a pickle boat is.

It’s believed that the dog story is made up for marketing purposes.

The “Pickles” story was rejected by three members of the Prichard family in multiple interviews. Nevertheless, the dog story is still widely accepted by many.

It was mentioned in various major newspapers, and it’s the dominant story on the internet and in the pickleball communities.

Some people believe that the “pickle boat” story isn’t as fun of a story as the adorable puppy story, and that the inventors of the game decided to make the dog story an identifier of the sport’s history, rather than a rowing term that few people have an idea about.

What’s interesting is that the contradiction between the stories, in itself, has helped spread the sport even more.

Many people said that it doesn’t matter which story is the true one. They love the sport and the funny name it holds.

On the other hand, other players in the sport don’t like the somewhat goofy name, since it can be hard to be taken seriously when you say “I’m participating in a pickleball tournament”.

Wrap Up – How Did Pickleball Get Its Name

In wrapping up our exploration of how did pickleball get its name, we’ve delved into the heart of a debate that’s as lively and engaging as the sport itself. The origins of pickleball’s name are steeped in folklore, with two main stories vying for authenticity.

On one hand, we have the charming tale of Pickles the dog, whose penchant for chasing after the ball during games led some to believe the sport was named in his honor.

On the other, we find a more historically grounded explanation in the “pickle boat” story, where Joan Pritchard drew a parallel between the sport’s eclectic mix of elements from tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, and the crew racing term for a boat with a mixed crew of leftover rowers.

Despite the differing accounts, what’s undeniable is the spirit of fun, inclusivity, and innovation that these stories encapsulate—a spirit that’s intrinsic to pickleball itself. Whether named for a mischievous dog or an underdog boat, pickleball has transcended its humble beginnings to become a beloved sport worldwide.

As players continue to serve, volley, and dink, the true essence of pickleball—a game for everyone—shines through, regardless of its name’s origin. We hope this clears up the question, how did pickleball get its name?

FAQ – How Did Pickleball Get Its Name

When was pickleball invented?

Pickleball was invented in the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA, by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum.

Why is it called pickleball?

Pickleball is named after the “pickle boat” in crew racing, where leftover rowers form a team, reflecting the game’s creation from mixed sports equipment. The name was chosen by Joan Pritchard, debunking the myth it was named after the Pritchard’s dog, Pickles.

Is there any controversy over the origin of pickleball’s name?

Yes, there has been some controversy and confusion over the years regarding how did pickleball get its name. This stems from the existence of two main stories: the “pickle boat” story and the story about the dog named Pickles. While both stories have been circulated, the “pickle boat” story is more widely accepted among the game’s inventors and their families as the true origin of the name.

What does the term “pickle boat” have to do with pickleball?

The term “pickle boat” comes from crew racing and refers to a boat with a crew made up of leftover rowers from other boats. Joan Pritchard drew a parallel between this concept and the game of pickleball, which was created using a mix of equipment from different sports. Thus, she named the game “pickleball” to reflect its eclectic nature.

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