The history of pickleball-the fastest growing sport

When Was Pickleball Invented & Who Invented It?

It doesn’t matter where you are located in the United States, you most likely you know about the addictive game called pickleball. It’s all the rage! Seriously, folks. It’s super cool that the world’s fastest growing sport all started on the little Pacific Northwest island where I live.

I would love to see a big sign posted right when you get off the Bainbridge ferry that reads “HOME of Pickleball” . We should be proud that the fastest growing sport in America started right here!

The reason I love this story is that it’s so wholesome. The game wasn’t invented to make money; it was created from scratch as a activity the entire family can play together.

NBA Legends Are Even Getting In On The Game

NBA superstar LeBron James, Draymond Green and Kevin Love is expanding their sports portfolio – this time into the US’ new favorite pastime, pickleball!

MLP founder Steve Kuhn called the investment from the three basketball stars – who have nine NBA championships between them – a “watershed moment for pickleball.”

“Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the country, building communities in cities and towns all over the world,” Kuhn said.

When It All Began-The Summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island

In the summer months of 1965, (on Bainbridge Island 35 minutes from Seattle), the famous and popular game of pickleball was invented. Bainbridge Island is a very special place to me and it’s where Pickleball all started.

Joel Prichard, Bill Bell (congressman from Washington State and Bill Bell, successful businessman,), Barney McCallum, and their families spent summers on Pleasant Beach at the south end of the Island. The game was invented by accident, it wasn’t planned.

How Childhood Boredom Was The Impetus To Pickleball

When their children complained of boredom one summer day in 1965, Pritchard proposed they invent a new game.

With only a badminton net, ping pong paddles, and, a whiffle ball, the kids started to hit the ball around. The parents noticed that kids didn’t come back for a while so they went to investigate. The kids were having a blast hitting a wiffle ball around with ping pong paddles.

As the weekend progressed, the families discovered that the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and shortly after the net was lowered to 36 inches. The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. The three men established the rules, based on badminton. They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to create a game that the entire family could play together.

Barney McCallum Pickleball founder
Barney McCallum- One of the Pickleball Founders

In a voice recorded interview (available at the Bainbridge Historic Association) with Barney McCallum (he has now passed) he shared how he realized that the ping pong paddle wasn’t ideal so he used a band saw and cut a new wood shaped paddle made from plywood. Before he knew it, neighbors all over Bainbridge Island were using his paddles to play this new found game.

The game started on Bainbridge Island but quickly made it to Seattle and has never stopped growing since.

THe first pickleball paddle in the world
The original pickleball paddle- simple as can be

The Origin Of Pickleball

By 1967, the first permanent pickleball court was constructed in the backyard of Pritchard’s friend and neighbor Bob O’Brian. In 1972, a corporation was formed to protect the sport and in 1975, the National Observer wrote for the first time about pickleball. Tennis magazine followed this with an article about America’s newest racquet sport in 1976.

By spring 1976, the first known pickleball tournament in the world was held at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. Team ONIX’s Steve Paranto placed second and David Lester won Men’s Singles. Because this was such a new sport and players knew so little about it, at the time of the tournament, they practiced with large wood paddles and a softball-sized whiffle ball. 

In 1978 a book, “The Other Racquet Sports” was published and it covered instruction and info about pickleball. Four years later, Sid Williams began playing and organizing tournaments in Washington.

THe first pickleball court in America

The Addictive Game Keeps Growing

It’s remarkable to think about how fast the racquet sport has grown, Really!

With 4.8 million people now playing — nearly double the number from just five years ago, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. The sport is growing so fast nationwide that municipalities are working hard to meet the demand for pickleball venue — so many that USA Pickleball is putting together a toolkit for community planners with guidelines and cost estimates for building courts, which can range from $300 for a temporary net, equipment and tape to mark lines, to $30,000 for a permanent court.

Read more about why you should play pickleball here.

The Timeline Of The Development Of Pickleball

The first pickleball rule book was published in 1984 by the United States Amateur Pickleball Association, which committed to growth and advancement of the sport. Sid Williams served as the first executive director and president from 1984 to 1998. Frank Candelario followed him until 2004. 

Steve Paranto’s father Arlen Paranto, a Boeing Industrial Engineer, created the first composite pickleball paddle. Arlen used fiberglass and nomex honeycomb panels that the commercial airplanes used for their flooring and structural system. Arlen made 1,000 paddles from this fiberglass/honeycomb core and graphite/honeycomb core until he sold the company to Frank Candelario. 

the 1st pickleball court on Bainbridge Island
The famous court

By 1990 pickleball was being played in all 50 states. Two years later, Pickleball, Inc. manufactured pickleballs in-house with a custom drilling machine. By 1999, the first ever pickleball website launched called Pickleball Stuff.

In 2001, pickleball was presented in the Arizona Senior Olympics that recruited 100 players, which was the most substantial event to be played at that point. Later, events would begin growing to nearly 300 players. By 2003, Pickleball Stuff would list 39 known places to play in North America: 10 states, 3 Canadian Provinces, and 150 individual courts.

Pickleball history Graphic- info graphic

The USA Pickleball Association

In 2005, the USA Pickleball Association was established. Three years later, the USAPA Rules Committee published an official rulebook. Pickleball was included for the first time in the National Senior Games Association. Good Morning America aired a live segment on pickleball for the first mass media exposure for the sport. 

the founders of pickleball
Image from the pickleball channel

The first USAPA National Tournament was held in November 2009 and drew almost 400 players from 26 states and several Canadian provinces. 

Since then, pickleball has been exploding in growth and popularity with tournaments played by millions ranging from young to old all over the world. The USAPA has more than 40,000 members and it’s estimated pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States as participants reach around 3.3 million.

How Did Pickleball Get Its Name?

The first account is according to Joan Pritchard, Joel Pritchard, she started naming the game pickleball because the collaboration of various sports reminded her of the “pickle boat” in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of the other boats.

The second account from Barney McCallum says pickleball was named after Pritchard’s dog Pickles, who would chase the ball and run with it. Some believe Pickles was named after the game because he didn’t join the family until a couple of years after the game was created.

To learn more about the history of pickleball and for a complete timeline, visit


The first permanent pickleball court was constructed in the backyard of Joel Pritchard’s friend and neighbor, Bob O’Brian.


A corporation was formed to protect the creation of this new sport.


The National Observer published an article about pickleball followed by a 1976 article in Tennis magazine about “America’s newest racquet sport.”


During the spring of 1976, the first known pickleball tournament in the world was held at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. David Lester won Men’s Singles and Steve Paranto placed second. Many of the participants were college tennis players who knew very little about pickleball. In fact, they practiced with large wood paddles and a softball sized plastic ball.


The book, The Other Racquet Sports, was published and included information about pickleball.


Pickleball pioneer, Sid Williams began playing and organizing tournaments in Washington state.


The United States Amateur Pickleball Association (U.S.A.P.A.) was organized to perpetuate the growth and advancement of pickleball on a national level. The first rulebook was published in March 1984.

The first Executive Director and President of U.S.A.P.A. was Sid Williams who served from 1984 to 1998. He was followed by Frank Candelario who kept things going until 2004.

The first composite paddle was made by Arlen Paranto, a Boeing Industrial Engineer. He used the fiberglass/nomex honeycomb panels that commercial airlines use for their floors and part of the airplane’s structural system. Arlen made about 1,000 paddles from fiberglass/honeycomb core and graphite/honeycomb core materials.

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