Long before technology changed the way we lived our lives, people went outside. There was no social media, fewer channels on television and a thing called face-to-face conversation.
By today’s standards, it must’ve been a wild time to be alive. Just imagine leaving the house and being unable to get in touch with anyone unless you could find a pay phone. As the parents of today say, “We were outside from sunrise to sunset.”
In between using cars, mailboxes and other landmarks as bases for baseball or Wiffle ball, being outside was a way to experiment and invent. That’s how the sport of Pickleball — America’s fastest-growing sport — was created, long before things like TikTok, Xbox and Playstation occupied our time. Without that level of imagination, time could almost stand still. Making up things to do was a necessity.
Unlike other sports, pickleball is a weird name. There isn’t a ball-shaped pickle being used and most of the time, the ball isn’t even green. Not everything can be easy to figure out the meaning of like basketball.
If you are wondering about the origins of this popular sport, The Sporting News explores how pickleball got its name way back in 1965.
Why is it called pickleball?
As the story goes, pickleball was invented on a badminton court following a round of golf on a summer Saturday in Washington state. Joel Pritchard, a state representative at the time and later a congressman, and his neighbors Bill Bell and Barney McCallum were looking for badminton equipment to occupy their families' time.
Unable to find any, the group opted for ping-pong paddles and a Wiffle ball. In an interview with ESPN, Pritchard’s son Frank said he was sour about living a boring life in Washington, which ended up being the true motivation behind inventing the game. The next challenge for the group was figuring out what to name their new discovery.
There are two versions of how the sport’s name was created, but only one that has stood the test of time. The popular — but rejected — version is that the game was named after the Pritchard’s family dog, Pickles.
As for the true origin of the sport’s name, it is said that Pritchard’s wife, Joan, named it after the pickle boats in crew, also known as rowing. That boat would often be the least competitive boat in the race, with a crew that was thrown together at random. It makes for a fitting name since the game was born out of using leftover equipment from other sports.
According to a report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), Pickleball is now up to 8.9 million players over the age of 6 in the United States. That is an increase from 4.8 million in 2022.
A league, Major League Pickleball, was created in 2021, indicating the true growth of a sport that has been on the rise since it started 58 years ago.
Turns out, pickleball ended up being more than a sport used to occupy students' time in gym class and had absolutely nothing to do with pickles.
It’s actually a pretty big dill in America now.