How Did Pickleball Get Its Name As American’s Fastest Growing Sport

How Did Pickleball Get Its Name As American’s Fastest Growing Sport

Pickleball is a game that has been recently growing over the years and today it is played by over 2.5 million people in the US. Every year various pickleball leagues and tournaments are held in many different countries. Since the game is becoming more common every passing day, so is the name ‘pickleball’. Still, a majority of people including pickleball players are not aware of where the name originates from. Because the name ‘Pickleball’ sounds so different than most names of sports, people are curious to know where the name comes from.

It’s no surprise that when you hear the name for the first time, your assumption is that pickleball is a game for kids. Since the past few years, people have been taking this game more seriously. If you too want to know where this unique name comes from, keep on reading.

What is pickleball?

Pickleball game was invented by Joel Pritchard; Washington state representative, along with two of his friends back in 1965. The story follows as that the two families decided to play badminton but couldn’t find a shuttlecock to play with. Hence, they decided to use a Wiffle Ball instead and the badminton rackets were replaced with ping pong paddles. A tennis net was included in between of the court and this game was invented.

Special pickleball paddles are used to play this game and it is played on a badminton-sized court. The ball that is used to play pickleball is similar to a Wiffle Ball, but is comparatively smaller in size. Since the placement of the net is quite low it can be played by people of all ages and abilities. Normal ping pong paddles can be used to play pickleball but specialized pickleball paddles are also manufactured for the game.

The right size of the court is very crucial or this game. If you are new at the game and you are playing in a relatively larger court, then you can have problems in properly serving the ball and maintaining a volley. You can either play in a tennis court or a pickleball court that has been specifically been made for the game and follows the exact dimension of court needed for a good and competitive pickleball game.

The game can be played in pairs (double) or one on one (singles). The rules for both the doubles and singles are quite similar. Both the teams play on opposite sides of the net. Both the sides have to play till the opposing team commits a fault which in return causes the deduction of the score of the team. Unlike tennis and badminton, pickleball has a long list of faults.

Where did pickleball get its name from?

The proper origin where the name came from has never been confirmed because two different stories have been narrated by the founders of the game. One of the stories is related to a dog whereas, the other one is based on a boat. Both the versions have been used by in different interviews but the exact inspiration behind the name is still not sure between the two.

Story 1: Pickleball was named after a dog.

A cockapoo puppy was adopted by the daughter of Joel Pritchard’s and a neighbor from another neighbor who was giving away giving away puppies for adoption. The dog was named Pickles. Now, the dog developed a habit of running away with the plastic waffle ball by picking it up with its mouth, whenever the families were playing the pickleball game. Hence, the game was named after the dog according to some sources.

The McCallum family, who was also one of the very first players of the pickleball game stated that the game was definitely named after the dog. According to them, the family cheered with excitement the first night the funny name was decided for the game.

Story #2: Pickleball was named after a pickle boat.

The second inspiration behind the name as stated by the Pritchard family is a pickle boat. According to them, Joan, who was Joel’s wife, was a competitive rower. The name was decided to be pickleball because it reminded Joan of a pickle boat.

Joan herself mentioned in West Virginia News and the Sentinel newspaper that she rowed crew, back in college. At first, she herself was not aware that the term ‘pickle boat’ existed, but after some research, she came to know that pickle boat was the name given to the weakest and mismatched crew boat out of all.

Out of both the stories, the dog story is the least reliable because it was stated by both Joan Pritchard and her daughter Peggy Pritchard Olsen that the dog ”Pickles” was adopted around two years after the game was first invented. Joan Pritchard told new and sentinel that pickles was not a part of the family when the game was first invented and that the game wasn’t named after the dog but the in fact, the dog was named after the game.

It was also confirmed by Pritchard’s daughter, in 2005, that the game wasn’t named after the dog as the dog wasn’t even present until years after the game was invented. So, the game wasn’t named after the dog in-fact it was the other way around.

According to a few accounts, pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in US. However, some pickleball players think that the main reason the sport is lacking proper attention is that the name of the game sounds very childish. To gain more widespread acceptance, the name of the game should’ve been something that is similar to the name of other racket games like badminton, tennis, and squash.


Whether you like to believe the story of the dog or find the story of the pickle boat amusing, one thing we know for sure is that pickleball game is just as interesting as the name of the game. It is a game that can be enjoyed by both adults as well as children.

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