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The game of pickleball has grown in popularity in recent years. Maybe because it's easy to play, doesn’t require much equipment and doesn’t require a lot of space. All you really need is the ball, a racquet, the net and a little space and you're ready to go.

And age isn’t a factor either. People of all ages, men or women, can enjoy the game and have fun doing so. Games can involve singles, doubles or mixed doubles, whatever your preference is. The court uses the dimensions of a standard badminton court while the net and rules are most similar to tennis.

So how did this game, which is an offshoot of badminton, tennis and table tennis, get its start?

Well, the origin is traced back to the year 1965 in Bainbridge, Washington. Joel Pritchard, a former State Representative and Lieutenant Governor of Washington, gets the credit. The story is that after Pritchard completed a round of golf with a couple of friends, he returned home and found their families at home but with nothing to do.

Wanting to find them an activity, they decided on badminton but couldn’t find the shuttlecock or a full set of racquets. Instead, the story goes, they replaced the shuttlecock with a wiffle ball and the racquets with a version of ping-pong paddles. They also altered the height of the net to compensate for the modified game and equipment.

The property at Pritchard’s home already had an old badminton court on the grounds so the dimensions of that court were utilized for the group’s new makeshift activity.

As time went on the three men (Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum) adopted the game and went on to create a set of rules. These rules mimicked badminton rules primarily but also incorporated pieces of both tennis and table tennis. In addition, the men agreed on a specific height for the net and settled at 36”.

The main goal for the three men was to create a game that was not only fun and good exercise, but to find a game that the whole family could play together. With pickleball, they were able to accomplish that goal.

There a couple of theories as the why the name of this new sport was pickleball. One theory is that it was named after the Pritchard’s dog Pickles”, who would chase the ball and take off with it. The other theory is that Pritchard’s wife Joan, who was a competitive rower, thought it reminded her of the Pickle Boat in crew where oarsman were chosen from leftovers of other boats.

Those closest to the situation are confident that the second theory is true since the dog was not acquired until years after the game started. In an interview with Pritchard’s daughter, Peggy Pritchard-Olson in 2005, she stated “the dog was named after the game, not the other way around.”

Anyway, it makes a good story and there are conflicting reports even to this day on the origin of the name.
February 08, 2017 — Chase Leavitt