What is Pickleball & Where Did it Come From?

What is Pickleball & Where Did it Come From?

Pickleball, a sport that is growing rapidly across North America is a hybrid of tennis, table tennis, and badminton. The game is played on a court which is the same size as a badminton court (20’x44’) and the list of equipment is simple: a plastic wiffle ball, 34-inch net, and paddles. Games can be played in either singles or doubles format and games are typically played up to 11 points. 

The game was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island by three men who spent their summers on the island with their families. On a rainy day, Barney McCallum, Bill Bell, and Joel Pritchard found some old sports equipment and invented a variation of badminton to entertain their bored children. The game would eventually catch on with the adults on the island and became less of a game for the children. As pickleball caught on, Barney McCallum constructed wooden paddles using plywood and former US politician Joel Pritchard used his network and large reach to promote the game. As word spread, people reached out to Barney asking where they could purchase pickleball equipment. He then began putting together basic starter kits and sold them to enthusiasts.

The most unique part about pickleball is the designated area on the court called the “non-volley zone”. This area is 7 feet from the net (see image below), on both sides of the court and players must allow the ball to bounce in this zone before making any contact. Meaning, one cannot hit the ball out of the air while standing in this non-volley zone.

 Other quirky pickleball rules include the “two-bounce” rule where the ball must bounce once on either side of the court before any volley shot is made (ex: serve and return both must land on the ground before a player can hit the ball) and teams are able to score points only when their side is serving.

As for the name “pickleball”, which truly grows on you, there is an ongoing conversation about where the name derived from.  Speculation is that one of the three founders had a dog named “Pickles” who would chase down the wiffle ball. Others say that the game reminded one of the founders’ wives of a “pickle boat” which is a concept in sailing where the team running the pickle boat are remaining sailors who were not chosen to crew on another ship. The comparison being that pickleball was a game made of up leftover, unused equipment. Most people tend to enjoy the dog story a little bit more.

Overall, pickleball is a very fun and social game, so if you are thinking about trying it out, we recommend you do a quick online search for recreation centres that offer pickleball near you. Or stay tuned for our next article “Where to Play Pickleball in the GTA”.

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