It all started in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Two dads, Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell, were looking for something to entertain their children. They had a badminton court, but no badminton equipment. They improvised, experimenting with table tennis paddles and a perforated plastic ball. As they played with their kids, they made some adjustments, like lowering the net to hip height, while a friend, Barney McCallum, fabricated better wooden paddles. A new sport was born.
Joel’s wife, Joan, said she invented the name ‘pickleball’ because it reminded her of a ‘pickle boat’, a term used in rowing to indicate a team made up of second-rate, mismatched rowers. A more popular, but most likely fake, story says the game was named after Pickles, the Pritchard’s dog, who ran around fetching the balls that bounced off the court.
For many years, pickleball remained mostly confined to the American Northwest. It’s popularity really exploded during the COVID-19 Pandemic. It was probably the perfect time to discover its merits. Pickleball is an open-air sport that allows people to exercise and socialize while remaining distanced. The equipment is cheap, it’s easy to learn, and it can be played anywhere, since one can set up a makeshift court in a backyard or on a driveway.
Although pickleball was first popular among seniors, it is now enjoyed by people of all ages. In 2023, it was the fastest-growing sport in the US for the third consecutive year. There are now more than 10,000 pickleball facilities in America, used by millions of players. And it is also becoming popular in other countries, such as Canada, Australia and the UK. Impressive for a sport that a couple of dads invented to entertain their bored children.
1) Have you ever played one or more racket or paddle sports (such as tennis, table tennis, badminton, squash…)? Describe your experiences and what you like or dislike about this sport or sports.
2) Have you ever ‘invented’ a sport or a game by yourself or with your friends? Describe your invention and how and why you invented it.
(Image: nataliakuzina, 123rf.com)