If you are interested in learning about the evolution of this game, make sure to check this detailed timeline on the history of pickleball.
History of Pickleball Origin
Pickleball origin is undoubtedly considered the fastest-growing game, which was originally designed to spend a productive yet enjoyable family time. This sport was initiated by three people traveling with their family, from where it gained massive popularity across the globe.
Over the years, a number of notable publications have also been made by joint ventures of different organizations with USAPA.
Although it remains largely similar to badminton sports, there are simple nuances in the rules and structure. If you are particularly interested in getting to know more about this game, follow this comprehensive guide on the history of pickleball. So, dive right in for more.
Timeline of Pickleball: Recorded History
The recorded history of pickleball can be traced back to 1965 when Joel Pritchard, who was the then-congressman from Washington State returned during the summer and found the family doing nothing. At that time, he was accompanied by his friend Bill Bell who was a successful businessman at that time. After being idle for much time, they decided to play badminton in the old court that was available on the property.
However, they soon realized they were out of the set of rackets and went on to improvise the game with the ping-pong ball set. For the play, they used ping-pong paddles and a set of balls while using the badminton net with a height of 60 inches which is generally used in volleyball.
After playing for an entire time, they came to a realization that the ball bounces remarkably well on an asphalt surface and they lowered the net to 36 inches to further make it more playful.
After playing for around two weeks in a row, they introduced the game to Barney McCallum who is generally known to have designed the rules for the game.
He was further accompanied by three men who crafted the rules, however, the rules largely remained influenced by badminton. The original goal of the game was to engage the entire family, so they can spend their time productively in an outdoor game.
During this time, it is known that the first permanent court was established at Joel Pritchard’s friend and neighbor (Bob O-Brian) house, in the backyard.
In 1972, all these men gathered to design a corporation for the protection of the creation of this new sport. It primarily dealt with tournaments and rules which were to be followed by the players, while keeping the spirit of the game.
Similarly, just after three years, the National Observer magazine came up with an article published about the game which was followed by another article on the rules of the game, titled ‘America’s newest racquet sport’ in 1976, by Tennis magazine. This was primarily responsible for making the sport hugely popular among players and the general public.
In addition, in the later half of the year 1976, the first-ever pickleball tournament across the globe was held at the South Athletic Club in Washington.
During the game, David Lester won the entire round of Men’s singles whereas Steve Paronto came in second place. It is equally worth noting that the majority of the players were tennis players from community colleges who weren’t the best in pickleball.
They also used large wood logs shaped like paddles to practice with soft plastic balls which was not the best option.
After two years of the first known tournament came the first-ever book on the sport. This book was titled ‘The Other Racquet Sports’ and it was published in 1978. The manuscript had a detailed account of the rules and structure of the gameplay so that people can become aware of the sport.
Sir William came back as the initiator of the game and organized some popular tournaments in Washington. This attracted many audiences and players, making it the highlight of the evolution of pickleball as an active sport.
Moreover, in 1984, the USAPA, also known as the United States Amateur Pickleball Association was gathered to record the growth and advancement of the game on the national level. For this purpose, a book was published in March of the same year. Sir Sid Williams was chaired as the first Executive Director and President of the organization.
He served a total of four years, from 1984 to 1986 which was succeeded by Frank Candelario who served up until 2004.
During the same year, the first-ever known pickleball paddle was made from composite material. It was designed by Arlen Paranto who was a Boy-based industrial engineer.
For the most part, the construction material used in the paddle was a combination of fiberglass and honeycomb panels that are generally used for commercial airline floors.
Following this, he was responsible for making a 1000 set of these graphite and fiberglass paddles which were then sold to Frank Candelario.
As late as 1990, pickleball as a national game was being played in almost fifty states, which was quite successful for a new sport.
Just after one year, Pickleball Inc. was established to manufacture unique balls for the game, by using a custom machine for intricate and detailed drilling purposes.
Unfortunately, in 1997, Joel Pritchard, the pioneer of the game died at the age of 72. He was the Lieutenant Governor of Washington State and served from 1988 to 1996. He is still remembered as the father of the game as he was directly connected to the development and birth of pickleball in recorded history.
For users across the globe, the first-ever internet online website for pickleball was designed in the year 1999. This website was particularly to supply all the equipment, information, and related products, making it convenient for players to access the products conveniently.
The turn of the 21st century marked the addition of this game to the Olympics which remained another highlight in the evolution process of this sport. This game was introduced in the Arizona Senior Olympics, facilitated by Earl Hill. This Olympics tournament was, for the first time, played at the Happy Trails RV Resort in AZ and Surprise.
It was usually between a total of 100 players and was recorded as the largest event in the history of the pickleball game. In the next year, it increased the number of players to 300.
In addition, in North America alone, a total of 39 places were being played, which were listed on the internet website dedicated to the pickleball game and rules. These can be divided into a total of 10 states, 3 provinces in Canada, and other individual courts for the gameplay. Following this, the game was also included in the World Senior Games in Huntsman for the first time. Under the umbrella of this organization, the game was played in St George every year, in the month of October.
Similarly, under USAPA, another corporation was created, with Mark Friedenberg who served as the first president. He also chaired the first Board of Directors in this organization. Here is a list of other board members that were seated in this corporation;
- Steve Wong as vice president
- Fran Myer as secretary
- Lela Reed as treasurer
- Phil Mortenson as general counsel and grievance
- Erne Perry and Pat Carroll as a leader of the marketing team
- Carole Myers and Earn Hill as members and ambassadors respectively
- Dennis Duey as a leader of the rules committee
- Steve Wong as webmaster
Here, Steve Wong, who serves as the former USAPA webmaster created another website. This web was designed to create awareness about the game among the general public. It soon became a non-profit corporation, on July 1.
This step further helped in legitimizing the game as it consolidated all the entries and made them go through USAPA, providing players with a reliable source to play through.
If we talk about the current times, this website is titled places2play.org.
Another pioneer of the pickleball game, Bill Bell passed away at the age of 83.
Just after this, Dennis Duey, who was heading the USAPA rules committee, published a rulebook, titled “The USA Pickleball Association Official Tournament Rulebook’.
It came out on May 1, 20018 that provided a comprehensive account of the rules that were originally designed for the game. During this period, the game was further included in the NSGA National Senior Games Association, for the first time.
As late as 2008, this game was being played in North America at almost 420 places, under the umbrella of and through the USAPA website. It is worth noting that this game has been legitimized as of yet.
These places include a total of 43 US states, 4 Canadian provinces, and other 1500 individual courts. However, these are only places under USAPA and don’t include private courts that are placed in backyards.
Here, another highlight was ABC’s Good Morning America which gave out media exposure.
In 2009, USAPA organized the first-ever national tournament for all ages. This event was to be played in Buckeye and Arizona in the month of November. The tournament invited a total of 400 players, from several Canadian provinces and 26 US states. The USAPA also established a grant program in 009, for the purpose of creating new websites for young players. By the end of 2013, this Grant had a total of 1400 new websites for emerging players.
To further progress the game of pickleball on an international level, the IFP also known as the International Federation of Pickleball was established under USAPA. This organization, as of now, is titled as if pickleball.org.
Just after two years, in January 2013, Justin Maloof was placed in the position of Executive Director, by USAPA. This organization included a total of 4071 members, after rebranding it with a new and creative logo. This logo used a primary color scheme, which is largely compatible with the US national sports governing bodies.
Yet again in 2014, the USAPA came up with a new and user-friendly website for pickleball. This game channel was designed to include professional groups in the media limelight.
For the first time, USAPA became so large that it exceeded 10000 members in the organizational structure. Similarly, the ambassador meeting was held in CA Tahoe City for the first time. As per the SFIA Sports and Fitness Industry Association, across the globe, a total of 2 million players were present at that time.
Yet with another published book, USAPA, and author Mary Littlewood came together to produce a new book for beginners. This manuscript was titled ‘Pickleball Fundamentals: Master the Basics and Compete with Confidence.
Similarly, this year marked the evolution of pickleball to Casa Grande which was previously only limited to Buckeye, AZ. As per the data, the website suggested that the game had a total of 10,000 courts which was increased to 12,800 during this year.
Just after one year, the USAPA members reached a number of 17000 which also led to the creation of the national referee certificate program. Similarly, during the same time period, Pickleball magazine published a colorful printed and digital publication. This magazine was given at a discounted price for a mailed subscription.
In addition, again, the first-ever US open pickleball championship was launched in Naples, FL. This tournament included a televised broadcast on the national channel CBS Sports Network.
As per the Place2play data, a total of 4600 locations were used to play the game. Moreover, the organization selected St Jude’s children and partnered for a charity match. In the end, another event during this year was the creation of SSIPA, also known as the Super Senior International Pickleball Association.
This organization partnered with USAPA and organized a number of pickleball matches during the year.
The year 2017 marked the initiation of the USAPA volunteer ambassador program. This included a total of 1500 members and used 5900 locations as court, as suggested by place2play.org. Under this group, the regionals were expanded from 8 to 11. Just after this, the ASBA American Sports Builders Association partnered up with the USAPA for another publication.
This book was titled, ‘Pickleball Courts– a Construction & Maintenance Manual’ which included a number of technical tricks and a comprehensive account of the game so that players are aware of the courts and facilities available. In addition, another joint venture between USAPA and IPTPA (International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association) launched a hall of fame.
This included a number of big names, including Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, Sid Williams, Billy Jacobsen, Arlen Paronto, and many others.
This championship venture included a total of 1300 players for which a total of two-hour segments were held. This event was further televised nationally on the CBS sports network. At the end of the year, the USAPA membership program surpassed 22,000 people which was extraordinary growth in this decade.
This year, the USAPA exceeded 30,000 members. Here, the data from place2play suggested that the proximate locations counted a total of 7000, while all the courts make up a total of 21,000 venues across the USA. During this year, USAPA ventured into another joint venture to launch sports tournament player ratings, also known as UTPRs.
Similarly, young authors like Jennifer Lucore and Beverly Youngren publish another historical book, titled, ‘History of Pickleball, More Than 50 Years of Fun’.
This was followed by Desert Championship LLC, which was designed with a renowned tennis Garden in India. For this tournament, a total of 2200 participants were included which was also broadcasted live for 17 hours on ESPN3. All in all, the cash purse for this gameplay was $75,000.
In the same year, the USAPA Facebook team also broadcasted a number of live matches. This was uploaded on the official National championship page which made up a total of 1.5 million viewers. Similarly, the addition of Fran Myer, Robert Lanius, and Earl Hill was made to the Pickleball Hall of Fame.
This year, USAPA expanded the staff of the Pickleball Association, including the Recreation program leaders, marketing officers, and head of communication. The Industry Association further launches a report which suggests that the game is the fastest growing across the globe, having a total of 3.3 million participants. During this year, another pioneer of the pickleball game Barney McCallum passed away at the age of 93.
Another highlight of this year remains the improvement of spectator position in the game. This was done through the national championship at Margaritaville, for which a VIP lounge and live video screening were placed. This engaged a number of audiences from across the globe.
This year, other additions to the hall of fame were made, including Dan Gabanek, Jennifer Lucore, Steve Paronto, and Enrique Ruiz. in the end, the USAPA members exceeded 40,000.
After having a number of improvements over the years, the organization rebranded the game which was made more compatible with other sports governing bodies and the mandate of the game. It further included an upgraded website, a new logo, and some rule adjustments.
The website was also updated to achieve worldwide recognition. Here, Stu Upson was established as a full-time CEO of the Pickleball Association.
Finally, in 2021, the members of USAPA reached a milestone of 50,000 and at the end of the year, this counted a total of 53000 members. It recorded a 43% increase which remains the fastest growing game across the globe. The organization further invested in the staff infrastructure and improved the spectator position.
It also signed a number of contracts with national television channels, including Vanity Fair, Forbes, the New York Times, and much more.
Frequently Asked Questions
The first fun fact about the game is that it was initiated to enjoy family time during trips while enjoying an active game by people who were enjoying the trip at that time. In addition, it can be played outside as well as inside courts. Similarly, it is the fastest growing game across the ball, legitimized by USAPA.
If we talk about the original objective of the pickleball game, it was initiated to enjoy family time during trips while enjoying an active game. The first major rule here is that the ball is to remain inbound. Similarly, the net is set at 35 inches, which is 5-inches less than that used in badminton. Finally, the server cannot land in the no-volley zone in the court.
It primarily remains subjective because of the large process of evolution of the pickleball game. The initiation of the game can be traced back to 1965 and credited to Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell, who were a congressman and a businessman at that time. Similarly, Barney McCallum joined in the game and organized a number of tournaments for players.
Well, considering the recorded history of the game, it was established in 1965 by three people who were on a trip with their family and had nothing to do. These three people were Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum who became really interested in the power play. Soon, they initiated some tournaments which led to the development of the pickleball game.
In the end, the Pickleball timeline has undoubtedly been considered a fast-growing game, which was originally designed to spend a productive yet enjoyable family time. This sport was initiated by three people who were enjoying a family trip which soon transformed into one of the most played games across the globe. Soon enough, it was recognized by USAPA and had a number of broadcast tournaments on the national and international levels.
Finally, if you are particularly interested in learning about the history of this game, make sure to check this detailed timeline on the history of pickleball.
Oliver Parker is a recognized authority in the world of pickleball, renowned for his in-depth knowledge of paddles and shoes. With years of expertise on and off the court, he provides invaluable guidance for players of all levels. As a seasoned player, Oliver has not only honed his skills on the court but also conducted rigorous testing of equipment, providing readers with meticulously researched reviews and recommendations.