Where Did Pickleball Get Its Name?
A brief history of Pickleball, and pointers on how to play and what to wear while you do so!
Pickleball continues to become a more popular sport in recent years, but you might be surprised by how many people don’t know the name or the rules. And speaking of the name, it’s definitely an interesting one!
Whether you play pickleball on the beach or on the court, and whether you are a stickler for the rules or just play for fun, it’s always nice to know the story behind something you enjoy.
So, here’s the backstory of the name “pickleball,” in addition to how you play and what you should wear in case you’re a pickleball beginner.
What’s in a Name?
It all started in Bainbridge, Washington during the summer of 1965, when pickleball was founded by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. However, Joel’s wife, Joan Pritchard, is the one who picked the name!
During that particular summer, Bill Bell and his wife were staying with the Pritchards, and the latter’s 13-year-old son Frank complained to his father about having nothing to do. Joel told his son that as a kid, he used to make up games to play, and then Frank reportedly challenged him to do so.
So, he and Bill went out to the paved badminton court in their backyard and played the very first game of what would become pickleball. They used a wiffle ball and table tennis paddles found in the shed.
When paddles breaking began to become a problem, and Joel and Bill had little success in making their own in the Pirtchard’s garage, so Barney McCallum got involved at their request and constructed some better looking paddles that would last much longer.
Barney also became very involved in the rules, formation, and equipment decisions going forward.
Pickleball has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Check out live.play.travel.light’s Instagram to see how she rocks some Dona Jo clothes on the pickleball court and podium! Here she’s wearing our Soar Skirt in Tracaja.
As the game began take a more distinct shape, they decided it needed a name, and Joan Pritchard came up with the perfect one— pickleball, named after the “pickle boat” races that she loved to watch during her time as a student at Marietta College, where she met Joel.
As it turned out, these boat races were also popular at the University of Washington in Joel’s hometown of Seattle, where she moved with him in 1948, so Joan would attend. The phrase “pickle boat” was used to refer to races where the crew was chosen from non-starters and the leftover oarsmen from other boats.
Since pickleball was cobbled together from the rules— and even equipment —of several different existing games, Joan thought it would be the perfect name. Clearly it was, as it’s stuck ever since!
There has been some contention over this origin story since the Pritchards also had a dog named Pickles. They claimed they named their dog after the game, but neighbors in the past have insisted that the dog was named first, and the game was named in the dog’s honor.
Barney McCallum is also reported to have said the game was named after Pickles the dog because he kept chasing the ball. Both stories are listed on the U.S.A. Pickleball Association’s website, and many believe that both hold some version of truth, even though Pickles the dog wasn’t adopted by the Prtichards until after that summer where they first invented the game.
Instagram user jaymeelong shows us that bringing a dog along to the pickleball court can be a great way to add to the fun! Her matching Love Bra and Soar Skirt in Groovy are the perfect outfit for a game of pickleball— and so cute, too! Check out our favorite skirts and skorts for the game for some more pickleball outfit inspo!
How to Play
The rules of pickleball are fairly simple, which makes the game easy to pick up for beginners— but it can easily become very fast-paced and competitive when you’re playing with an expert of the sport. Nonetheless, the game has retained a very positive, social energy since it was founded, so it’s gained a multi-generational following today.
The equipment you’ll need to start out is also simple and can be very affordable, too, though you’re always welcome to invest in more expensive gear as you progress. However, as a beginner the only requirements are a paddle, a ball, a net, and a court.
The paddles specifically need to be larger than table tennis paddles because of the size of the ball, but they’re still smaller than tennis rackets and don’t have the netting that rackets for tennis and badminton have.
While there are a lot of options for pickleball gear, some of the best players would tell you that the perfect equipment can make or break a perfect game. On Instagram, nancylessnick shows off her chosen pickleball gear while wearing our super cute Skirted Capris in Wildblue!
In terms of materials, there are a lot of different choices available for pickleball paddles— wood is a very affordable option, but paddles made from graphite, aluminum, and other compositions are also available if you are looking for more control.
The ball itself has remained very similar to the original spare wiffle ball that Joel and Bill used to play the very first pickleball game. They’re still lightweight and filled with holes, but now they’re made specifically for pickleball!
The best choice can be different depending on whether you’re playing indoors or outdoors. You can check out the USAPA’s guidelines if you want to use an official one, and you can check out our pickleball gear pointers if you want to know some more tips!
The actual, basic rules of pickleball apply to both singles and doubles games. To begin the match, players must serve underhanded and diagonally from behind the baseline to the opponent’s service court.
All serves have to clear the net and cannot bounce, though the ball must bounce at least once on either side after the serve in order for the players to volley. There is a non-volley zone and a non-volley line where players cannot hit the ball from.
Only the serving team can score, which happens when the opponent faults. Faults include failing to return the ball, hitting the ball out of bounds, and hitting the ball into the net. The same server will serve until their side faults.
Pickleball games are played until a minimum of 11 points, and the winning team has to have a lead of 2 points!
There are no specific rules for pickleball apparel, so you should just stick to appropriate athletic attire that you’ll be comfortable in on the court! Tennis shoes are your best bet, but as far as the clothes themselves go, shorts, leggings, and skirts are all perfectly okay to wear— though skirts are definitely the most popular option for women’s games!
Comfortable activewear is absolutely essential for anyone who plays sports, and Dona Jo has become a favorite for many women who play pickleball— for good reason! See how Instagram user maddietoren jumps into the fray while dressed in a monochrome fit including our Skirted Capri and Lite Tank.
If you want to look super cute and comfortable, you may want to check out the skirt selection on our website! But honestly, you’d be all set to play pickleball in any of the options Dona Jo has to offer.
So, hit the pickleball court in style and with some new knowledge about the sport’s origin story!