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What is Pickleball?

December 7, 2022
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what is pickleball
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I’m sure you’ve heard of pickleball by now. It’s hard not to when it’s one of the fastest growing sports in America. But why is that? Where did it come from? And with a name like that, you might just be wondering, ‘What is Pickleball?’

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in America and is accessible to athletes of all ages and ability levels. The only equipment necessary is a ball and a paddle and the PicklePlay app makes it easy to find courts, clubs, and other players.

Let’s start with a history…

In 1965 on Bainbridge Island, WA, Joel Pritchard, a Washington State congressman, and his friend, Bill Bell, went to work finding a way to keep their two families entertained one afternoon. An old badminton court rested in the Pritchard’s backyard, and after Pritchard and Bell scrounged up some ping-pong paddles and a plastic ball, they invented the game we know today as pickleball.

As they continued playing, Pritchard’s neighbor, Barney McCallum heard about the game. Together, Pritchard, Bell, and McCallum, created rules for the sport. As they brainstormed how to structure this new game, they didn’t waver from the original catalyst of the sport, keeping it as a game that the entire family could enjoy together.

Pickleball players discussing the game

There has been some debate as to the origins of the game’s name. A rumor claimed the Pritchards named it after their dog, Pickles. Joel Pritchard later confirmed his wife, Joan, coined the name. The assortment of equipment Pritchard and Bell had thrown together that afternoon reminded her of crew races. The pickle boat is the final boat in a crew race, and the crew members who don’t start all pile into this last boat to finish the race.

Throughout the years, pickleball gained traction and recognition as a sport. Organized tournaments began popping up across Washington State, and eventually around the country. By 1990, players were competing in every state across the nation.

Today, the game can be played in either singles or doubles on a court 44 x 20 feet. The net height is 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches in the center. On either side of the net, the court has both right and left service areas and a seven-foot, non-volley zone in front of the net, known as the “kitchen.”

Pickleball court

The only equipment needed to play is a paddle and pickleball. Play starts with an underhand or drop serve cross-court into the server’s box. Both the serve and the return must bounce. After that, either team can volley the pickleball. Volley continues until there is a fault (the ball double-bounces, goes out of bounds, or hits the net or a player anywhere other than below their paddle side wrist).

In the non-volley zone, a player cannot hit the ball while in the kitchen. This includes standing or running into the zone from the momentum of hitting the ball. Points are only scored on the serve. The receiving side cannot score a point.

The growth of the sport in America is largely due to its popularity within community centers, PE classes, YMCA facilities and retirement communities, according to Pickleball USA. This resonates with Pritchard’s motive behind the game, to keep it as one enjoyed by families, or in other words, community.

Pickleball players congratulating one another after a game.

The growth and accessibility of the sport makes it easy to get involved in. Players and courts are located all around the country and the world, as well as a number of gear distributors for equipment. On the flip side, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. The PicklePlay app gives players access to this worldwide network. For those just getting started and trying to make connections, or for veteran players looking for competition and courts around the country, the PicklePlay app helps you find courts, tournaments, and events happening locally and around the country. It also connects you with other players who are looking for a match.

Now you know the basics. Go ahead, grab a paddle.

Download the app today on IOS or Android to find courts, events, and tournaments!

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JustPaddles also offers deals on paddles and gear through Pickleplay:

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