What is Pickleball?
Find out how a simple game in the garden turned into one of the fastest growing sports in the world.
What is pickleball?
Fast becoming one of the most popular racket sports in the world, pickleball brings together some of the best elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis, into a fun and exciting game for people of all ages and abilities.
Played on a court the same size as a badminton court – and using a shorter tennis-style net – players use paddles to hit a plastic ball between one another. You can play as both singles and doubles, and it’s a great way to exercise with friends and family or meet new people.
While there are many similarities with tennis, there are some key differences. For example, the ball has to bounce once on each side before you can volley and you can’t play volleys from inside the kitchen sink (a marked out area close to the net).
When was pickleball invented and by who?
Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum, who were looking for a game that their kids could play together. Combining badminton nets, table tennis bats and a wiffle ball, the three men created the first iteration of what would go on to become pickleball.
However, the name ‘Pickleball’ is said to have come from two potential sources. Joan Pritchard, Joel's wife, said that she named the game after the "pickle boat" in crew, which is a boat that is made up of the leftover oarsmen from other boats. Meanwhile, McCallum said that the name came from Pritchard's dog, Pickles, who would chase the ball and run off with it.
The first court was later built in 1967 in Pritchard’s backyard before the first tournament took place in 1976 at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington.
When did pickleball turn professional?
Pickleball became a professional sport in 2019 with the formation of two tours – the Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) and the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA).
The APP is the only tour that is sanctioned by USA Pickleball – the US governing body of the sport. In 2023, the APP has 16 different tournament locations, in addition to its International and Collegiate, and boasts some of the best players in the world, including Salome Devidze, Hunter Johnson, Simone Jardim and Andrei Daescu.
The PPA on the other hand is an independent tour that contracts some of the top pro players to compete exclusively in PPA events in the USA. The 2023 calendar includes 25 tournaments with each evnt categorized by the number of ranking points on offer to the winners. The PPA Tour includes players such as Anna Leigh Walters, Anna Bright, John Collins and Ben Johns.
In 2021, Major League Pickleball was launched in Texas, consisting of eight teams that include players from the APP and PPA. The league has continued to grow with 16 teams in the 2023 competition, with many global sports stars, including Naomi Osaka, Nick Kyrgios, LeBron James, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady, investing in expansion teams.
Why is pickleball popular?
It’s simple – pickleball is easy learn, fun to play and is a great way to exercise.
One of the fastest-growing sports in the world, pickleball is suitable for people of all ages and abilities and is a very social activity that you can play with family and friends, while also giving you the opportunity to meet new people.
The game is exciting, challenging and offers a good workout. In fact, one 30-minute game of pickleball can burn up to 300 calories.
When was pickleball first played in the UK?
In the UK, pickleball clubs started to form around 2011 and the sport has continued to grow ever-since.
It’s estimated that in 2023 there are around 270 pickleball venues and 7000 players in the UK, with the game only expected to grow further in the coming years.