How did Pickleball get its Name?

pickleball paddle and balls

The origin of Pickleball and how its name came about is shrouded in mystery and urban legend. This game was invented about 60 years ago, and how it came to be called Pickleball is a hotly discussed topic worldwide.

Even the creators of what is deemed the quickest-growing sport in the United States have differing accounts of where the name ‘pickleball’ originated. However, one thing is certain: it has no relation with pickles.

So, how did Pickleball get its name? Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of the history of Pickleball, including who invented Pickleball. Read on to learn more.

Who Invented Pickleball?

Three fathers from Bainbridge Island, Washington, Bill Bell, Joel Pritchard, and Barney McCallum, are credited by Fox News as the game’s creators. As the legend goes, in 1965, the three were looking for a means to entertain themselves and their kids at Pritchard’s family home.

The three dads set a badminton match but couldn’t locate the shuttlecock. Instead of giving up, they tried out a Wiffle ball, then many other plastic balls, and finally settled on the Cosom Fun Ball.

The trio also experimented with various rackets, beginning with table tennis paddles and ultimately designing their paddles from plywood discovered in a neighboring shed. The parents came about with this innovation to show their kids new methods of spending their time. 

During this trial, they lowered the badminton net, and the formal pickleball court emerged. Thus, after considerable refinement, Pickleball was formed as a game for the entire family.

From there, Pickleball flourished, first to friends and relatives and then to a wider audience with the founding of PickleBall, Inc. This organization began manufacturing wooden pickleball kits and paddles to meet the increasing demand for the novel racquet sport. 

The corporation was founded in 1972 and later relocated from the Pacific Northwest to Florida, California, Arizona, and Hawaii due to warmer weather.

How Did Pickleball Get Its Name?

There are various explanations for how Pickleball received its name. Every variation has an engaging and persuasive tone. 

Let’s begin by discussing the more credible and authoritative tales confirmed by insiders to the sport. We refer to this as ‘The Dog Story.’

The Dog Story

Pickleball was created in 1965 on Bainbridge Island in the state of Washington. As per David McCallum, son of one of the game’s co-founders, Barney McCallum, two children, Paul Brown and Joel Pritchard, discovered a package of pups while walking along a path behind the church.

Jim Brown, son of Paul Brown, remembers that his dad and Joel Pritchard devised the game’s regulations and scoring system. At the moment, they didn’t have a term for the sport. 

group of friends playing pickleball

The Pritchard family selected a cockapoo puppy from the crate and named her Lulu. Conversely, the brown family’s dog was named Pickles.

David added that Pickles enjoyed running around and grabbing the ball when playing. As their neighbors became familiar with the game, the day arrived when both families agreed on the game’s name.

Once the Brown family visited the Pritchard family late at night to choose a name for the game, they had numerous choices, but none came naturally. After much thinking, Joel Pritchard’s wife, Joan Pritchard, named ‘Pickleball’ after their dog. The name resonated quickly with everybody.

This ‘Dog Story’ is the official version authenticated by Paul Brown, David McCallum, and the U.S. Pickleball Association. This story is also the most well-known and commonly believed account of the name’s origin because it is a charming and persuasive tale for marketing reasons. 

Nevertheless, there are other legends regarding the origin of the game’s name. These stories, too, have credible sources.

The Boat Story

The ‘Boat Story’ is confirmed by the game’s co-creator, Joel Pritchard. According to Joel, his wife invented the term, not after a dog but a boat.

Pickle in watersports refers to two distinct concepts. A pickle boat is the last to reach the finish line in a sailing competition. The second relates to the pickle boat in rowing, which is the boat pedaled by a duo of competitors whom nobody chooses and are paired together automatically.

The Pritchard and Brown families devised Pickleball by integrating other activities, including golf, table tennis, tennis, and more. You could claim that it relates to the game’s ‘remains.’ Thus, the rowing story is better connected to the genesis, as the ‘remainder’ pair also row the pickle boat.

Additionally, it is a coincidence that rowing was located directly behind the Pritchard’s cabin, where the family created the game. Throughout their stay at the cabin, Joan Pritchard acquired some rowing skills. Thus, the boat tale has sufficient coherence and plausibility to persuade us that this is the genuine origin of the word ‘Pickleball.’

Peggy Pritchard, daughter of Joel Pritchard, backs up this version of Pickleball’s origin. As per Peggy, the term was derived from rowing, and all legends that the name was derived from the dog are false because there was no dog until two years after the game’s inception. 

The dog’s name was borrowed from the sport since it constantly retrieved the ball from the bushes.

So, Which Story Is Accurate?

Most sports lovers and players feel that Pickleball’s name originated from rowing. As Pritchard’s wife named the game on all accounts, it is more logical to accept her explanation that the name was influenced by rowing. 

empty pickleball courts

Nonetheless, as the dog narrative is the official story that the United States Pickleball Association recognizes because of its commercial potential, it has garnered more votes as being the real story.

It is more than five decades since Pickleball’s inception, and memories could get hazy over time because there have been no official statements since then. 

Besides, both tales may be accurate, but the Pritchard family had a different viewpoint on the origin of the sport’s name from that of the Brown family. 

Checkout This Short Video for More on the History of Pickleball

Wrap Up

How Pickleball got its name is not as straightforward as some might assume. Many assert that it was named after the family dog, while others believe it was derived from a rowing or sailing phrase. 

Irrespective of what pickleball tale is accurate, the name perfectly reflects the sport’s random and quirky nature. The increasing accessibility of the game renders it a simple and inexpensive alternative for the entire family.

Related: Popular Retirement Communities in Florida with Pickleball Courts