What is Pickleball?

What is Pickleball?

Unless you’re Captain America and have been frozen in an iceberg for the last 10 years, you have likely heard of pickleball. Whether your neighbors invited you to play or you watched the previous Super Bowl, where E-Trade introduced the "Pickleball Babies," But in case you’re still unsure what pickleball is, we will tell you a little more about this highly contagious sport… 

Imagine a sport that mixes tennis, badminton, and ping-pong—that’s pickleball! It uses a paddle and a plastic ball with holes. The rules of pickleball are simple, which makes it a great introductory sport. However, as players gain experience, it can become challenging, fast-paced, and competitive. 

Because a pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court—you can actually convert one tennis court into four pickleball courts—it is more accessible for people of varying ages and skill levels. So, your 12-year-old child can easily play with your 65-year-old father, making pickleball the perfect sport for social interaction. Pickleball is also an excellent alternative for older players with physical limitations like hip, shoulder, knee, or other joint problems. 

Don't believe me? Google how pickleball was created!

 On a summer Saturday afternoon in 1965, Joel Pritchard (yes, the congressman) and Bill Bell returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island after playing golf, only to find their families sitting around with nothing to do. The property had an old badminton court, so Pritchard and Bell searched for some badminton equipment but couldn’t find a complete set of rackets. They improvised, starting to play with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. Initially, they placed the net at the badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over it. As the weekend progressed, they found the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and lowered the net to 36 inches. The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. Shortly after, the three friends developed rules based heavily on badminton, yet tailored to fulfill their original goal: to provide a game that the entire family could enjoy together. Fast forward to 2024, and they've made it!

 But it was only in 1975, 10 years later, that pickleball was officially mentioned for the first time, The National Observer published an article about pickleball, followed by a 1976 article in Tennis magazine titled "America’s Newest Racquet Sport."

 In 1984, the United States Amateur Pickleball Association (U.S.A.P.A.) was established to promote the growth and advancement of pickleball nationally. The first rulebook was published in March of that year.

 Sid Williams served as the first Executive Director and President of U.S.A.P.A. from 1984 to 1998, followed by Frank Candelario, who led the organization until 2004. 

The first composite paddle was created by Arlen Paranto, a Boeing industrial engineer, who utilized the fiberglass/Nomex honeycomb panels commonly used for commercial airline flooring and structural components. Arlen produced approximately 1,000 paddles from fiberglass/honeycomb and graphite/honeycomb core materials before selling the company to Frank Candelario. 

The growth of pickleball is nothing short of phenomenal. In February 2023, USA Pickleball membership numbers reached the 70,000 mark, following a nearly 30 percent increase in membership growth in 2022. In its 2023 Topline Participation Report, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) named pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America for the third consecutive year. According to the report, there are now 8.9 million pickleball players in the United States over the age of six, a significant rise from 4.8 million in 2022. This rapid growth is a testament to the sport's appeal and its potential to become even more popular in the future. 

Pickleball has come a long way since its random creation on a quiet Bainbridge Island day in 1965. This unexpected mix of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong has not only grown in complexity and competitiveness, but it has also become a moment of social interaction and physical activity accessible to all ages and abilities.


As the sport grows, it wraps the spirit of community and the joy of participation, proving that sometimes, the simplest ideas have the most enduring impact. Whether you are an athlete or a beginner looking for a fun way to stay active, pickleball offers something unique—a chance to create lasting memories while enjoying a game that is as fun as it is inclusive. So grab a paddle, step onto the court, and join the millions who have discovered the infectious excitement of pickleball.

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