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History of the game

Pickleball, a unique and popular paddle sport, has an interesting history that traces back to the mid-1960s. The game was created by Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington State, USA, along with his friend Bill Bell and their families. The origins of the game can be attributed to a desire to find a fun and engaging activity for their children during a summer gathering.

A dog named Pickles...?

The first game of pickleball was played on a makeshift court using handcrafted paddles and a plastic ball. The story goes that the Pritchard family had a dog named Pickles, who had a habit of running off with the ball, thus inspiring the name "pickleball."

Another origin story suggests that the name derives from "pickle boat",  a rowing term used to describe a motley crew of rowers put together at random to compete in races. Joan Pritchard, was a competitive rower and the sport reminded her of a "pickle boat" because it was played by those "leftover" from other sports.

As the game gained popularity, the creators established formal rules, marking the beginning of its organized development. Pickleball quickly spread across the United States, particularly among retirement communities, recreational centres, and schools. The United States Pickleball Association (USAPA) was founded in 1984 to promote the growth and standardization of the sport.

Over time, pickleball underwent various developments and refinements. The equipment evolved from homemade paddles to specialized paddles made of lightweight materials like graphite and composite materials. The ball design also improved, with the introduction of perforated plastic balls designed specifically for pickleball.

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The growth of the game

The popularity of pickleball has expanded beyond the United States, with enthusiasts around the world embracing the sport. International pickleball organizations and federations were established to govern the sport globally, leading to international competitions and tournaments.

In recent years, pickleball has experienced a surge in participation, attracting players of all ages and abilities. The sport's inclusive nature, adaptable rules, and social aspects have contributed to its widespread appeal. Pickleball has become a staple in recreational facilities, community centres, and even professional sports venues.

It is estimated that around 10,000 players play the game at the moment in the UK. Pickleball England is aiming for 25,000 members by 2025.

An Olympic sport?

As the sport continues to grow, advancements in technology and increased recognition are driving further development. Pickleball is constantly evolving, with innovations in equipment, rule adaptations for different settings, and efforts to promote inclusivity and accessibility.

Overall, the history of pickleball showcases its humble beginnings and subsequent rise to becoming a beloved sport worldwide. Its continuous development and expanding community highlight its enduring appeal and potential for future growth and recognition.

Some are promoting pickleball as a future Olympic sport. Who knows? Maybe one day! 

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