There are a couple of stories about the origin of the name pickleball. One story gives credit to Joanne Pritchard for coming up with the name due to the similarity of the leftovers of a pickle boat of crew races. Another report cites that the name comes from the dog’s name of the sport’s inventor. Finally, another story credits Bill Bell, who enjoyed putting players in a pickle and thus came up with the game’s name.
So, who was the inventor of pickleball in the first place, and how did the game come to be? What does the term “pickle” mean in pickleball? Where is pickleball most popular in the world, and is there a Major League Pickleball team similar to the MLB or NBA?
Here is the complete breakdown as to why the game is called pickleball.
Who are the Inventors of Pickleball?
According to Fox News, the invention of the game of pickleball comes from Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and Bill Bell, three dads from Bainbridge Island, Washington. As the story goes, in 1965, the trio was attempting to find a way to amuse themselves and their children at the Pritchard family home. They set up a badminton game but needed help finding the shuttlecock. Rather than give up, they experimented with a Wiffle ball, then tried other plastic balls until ultimately settling on the Cosom Fun Ball.
They also tried various rackets, starting with table tennis paddles and eventually fashioning their own paddles from plywood they found in a nearby shed. This was done to show their kids how to find new ways to pass their time. The badminton net was even lowered during this experimentation, and the official pickleball court took shape. And thus, after much fine-tuning, the game of pickleball was established, creating a game for the whole family.
From there, pickleball spread, first to neighbors and relatives, and then further with the establishment of Pickle Ball, Inc., which began producing wooden Pickleball paddles and Pickleball kits to cater to growing interest in the new racquet sport. The corporation took place in 1972 and eventually migrated from the Pacific Northwest to the warmer climates of Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Florida.
What Does the Term Pickle Mean in Pickleball?
While the origin of the word “pickle” in pickleball is in question, the term has come to mean that one is about to serve the ball. The server shouts the word, alerting everyone that the action is about to resume. Another term, “pickled,” also means to score no points during the game. And finally, the related term “pickler” means someone who is a pickleball fanatic.
Where Is Pickleball Most Popular in the World?
Currently, pickleball is most popular in the United States and Canada, with over 4.8 million players in the United States alone. In 2005, the USA Pickleball Association began, establishing official rules and promoting the sport to increase its popularity. The South Atlantic region accounts for the highest number of players, but the sport is growing throughout the country, with an annual growth rate of 11.5%.
Pickleball is also gaining international attention. In 2018, the World Pickleball Federation (WPF) began and currently has 34 member nations. An even older international group, the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP), began in 2010 and had 63 member nations.
While pickleball has yet to be an Olympic sport, there is a push to include it in future matches by both international groups. In July 2022, it was an exhibition game in the Maccabiah Games, an officially sanctioned event by the International Olympic Committee; though, expect it to be in the Olympics for a while.
Is There a Major League Pickleball Team?
Pickleball became a Major League sport in America for the first time in 2021. The Major League Pickleball (MLP) headquarters is out of Austin, Texas. The league is still growing but plans to expand the league to more teams down the road. Initially, it comprised members of the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) and the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA). However, the PPA has since rescinded its support and disallowed its players to participate.
Both associations and the MLP hold pickleball tournaments yearly. The APP had 32 games in five countries in 2022; the PPA had 20 tournaments, and the MLP had three major competitions.
The Major Lague Pickleball league is also drawing high-profile investors, adding to the game’s growth. For instance, according to WFTV, Tom Brady and Kim Clijsters, both top sports athletes in their game, are investing in pro pickleball franchises. With the support of people like Tom Brady and Kim Clijsters behind the movement, the game is taking off in interest with new players and fans.
Conclusion: Why is it Called Pickleball?
In summary, why the game is called pickleball is partially clear. Some folks credit a dog’s name. Others say it came from putting players in a pickle, and the other is from the resemblance of a leftover pickle boat crew. No matter how the name took place, the history of how the game started remains the same. Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and Bill Bell invented the game in 1965 to entertain their kids one day.
Over the years, pickleball began expanding due to its popularity. The game became so popular that corporations started, and even a Major League Pickleball league has investors like Tom Brady. The sport of pickleball might even become an Olympic game one day.
Today, pickleball is more popular than it has ever been before. Chances are that you will know somebody that is playing the game with their friends. Also, when you drive by tennis court, odds are that some of these games will be pickleball instead of tennis. Not only that, but town leagues are popping up everywhere to get people into this sport. Specific pickleball courts and leagues jumping up in towns is only helping grow the sport further.