How Did Pickleball Get Its Name?

Have you ever thought about How Did Pickleball Get Its Name? It is quite a strange name and most people laugh when they hear the name first. But this unique game is a fast-growing game that is played by over 2.5 million people in the US and has leagues and tournaments all across the globe. Due to the fast popularity of this game, the name has become quite common now.

How Did Pickleball Get Its Name?

When Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and a few other neighbors returned after a golf outing, They planned a new game to play seeing their family members are bored down to pass time during summer time woes. 

As it was a boring long day, Pritchard’s property had an old badminton court but they could not find enough rackets for a full game so they started to play using spare wiffle balls and ping pong paddles. With these new tries, the new brand-new game “pickleball” was born.

They started to find new rules so that they could improvise the game further. First, they tied the same net height of 60 feet but later they decreased the height to a few inches as the waffle ball didn’t bounce higher in the net.

During this time, there were not many rules in this new game and later they introduced their new play game to another family friend.  They created the game for the sole purpose of spending time with their family.

In 1967, Two years later, Joel Pritchard constructed the first exclusive permanent pickleball court in his close family friend and Pritchard’s neighbor’s backyard. Building a dedicated play area for pickleball made this game a loveable pastime. As the game started gaining popularity in Pacific North Steam, in 1972 a corporation by the name Pickleball, Inc. was created to help interested game players buy their equipment and enjoy playing the game.  In 1967, Two years later, Joel Pritchard constructed the first exclusive permanent pickleball court in his close family friend and Pritchard’s neighbor’s backyard. Building a dedicated play area for pickleball made this game a loveable one.

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Pickleball Name Origin Story

The two different versions of the name come from the Pritchard family (boat story) and the McCallum’s (dog story).

Story #1: The dog Pickles

One lovely neighbor gave Joel Pritchard’s daughter a free puppy. “Pickles” is the name given to the dog by the Pritchard’s family members.

When playing the new game, the new dog pickle had the habit of picking the ball in his mouth and bringing it to the court.

 The McCallum family, who are very fond of their dog, named the game after their dog. The browns family also agreed that they named the dog according to their pet’s name, they are the first makers of the pickle game.

They gave documentation that they were sitting in the living room of the Pritchard cabin one night and they named the game “pickleball” and cheered with excitement hearing the new name of their favorite pastime.

His son Jim Brown has registered in many places and the game was named after his dog’s name.

Story #2: The Pickle Boat

The second version of the name is given by the Pritchard family. Joel’s wife Joan Pritchard’s family is very fond of boats as she is a rower and so she named the game pickleball in remembrance of the pickle boats. Pickle boats are nothing but the mismatched boats. She has also written in the Parkersburg, West Virginia news and sentinel newspaper claiming that she rowed pickle boats during her college. 

There is a small confusion in the dog story. As Joan Pritchard and their daughter Peggy Pritchard have recorded, they got the dog only after a few years of inviting the pickleball game. So, there is a difference of two years between the game and the dog brought home.

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Joan Pritchard informed in the interview that Pickles was not there on the scene for two years. They had a plan to buy a pet dog and name it a pickle in the future.  so, the game was named after the future pet dog. The dog was named after the game name.

Pritchard’s daughter was questioned in an interview about the naming of the pickleball over their dog in 2005. She confirmed that the game came first and then the dog. So, the dog was named with the reference to their Favorite game and not vice versa.

Joel Pritchard who is the founder of the pickleball game is also a famous politician.  He was a two-time governor of Washington and he was a six-term U.S. representative. “Washington State Secretary of State Oral History Project” is the oral biography of his life.

The “Washington State Secretary of State oral history project” is about political life but he added the basic starting story of the pickleball invention to it. Friends and family asked him to stick to the other side of the story as that looked more attractive, so he maintained that the game was named after his pet dog. This story is famous till now and makes the pickleball game name unique.

Some fans thought that the “pickle boat” story was not cute like the “puppy” story. So that was a decision made early on to make the dog story famous in the sport’s history rather than the boring rowing story. Due to the interesting conversation in contradicting two stories in the early history of the game, many fans felt that they were happily discussing the dog and boat story and enjoyed the goofy name of their favorite name.

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While the sport is fast growing, in the initial stage, people felt that the goofy name may give the feel of childishness preventing the growth. Few are least bothered about its childish name as they are busy getting ready for a serious pickleball tournament.

In another interview, Joel Pritchard mentioned that they considered “Tenny Pong” as a possible name. 

It is up to the player option, whether to believe in the story of Pickle Dog or the Pickle Boat Row story. But we need to thank Joan Pritchard for the name that made the game so popular. Even though there is confusion about the name of the game, we need to be thankful to Joel Pritchard and his family and friends for creating a new fun game. 

This game is very famous and fast growing even after its invention 50 years ago.  The name pickleball cannot be modified as its history now. Also, the entertaining nature of the game and the interesting fun element in the name made the game peculiar. Why are you waiting?? Join the pickleball game now and get addicted to it.

Ready to give pickleball a try? Check out these Pickleball tips for beginners.