Information on Pickleball

By Andy Joseph

Pickleball is a sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, table tennis and volleyball. It is played on a court with a hard paddle and a wiffle ball (a plastic ball riddled with holes). Founded in the 1960s by a Republican U.S. congressman, pickleball has been steadily growing in popularity.


Joel Pritchard (1925 to 1997) is credited with creating pickleball. Returning to his home at Bainbridge Island, Wash., after a game of golf with businessman Bill Bell, Pritchard and his friend found their families completely bored. Pritchard and Bell eventually responded by creating wood paddles to compensate for missing badminton rackets, and decided on a net across Pritchard family's badminton court at the height of around 36 inches to induce a fast-paced game. The ball they used was a perforated one that the participants allowed to bounce on the asphalt. The sport got its name from the Pritchard family's cocker spaniel Pickles, who kept running off with the ball whenever it came its way, thus making it "Pickles' Ball."


A game of pickleball is played to 11 points, with the winning team having a two-point advantage over the losing team. Similar to volleyball, players can only score points when serving the ball, and they can hit it in the air without letting it bounce (volley), save from a seven-foot area near the net called the non-volley zone. Every point won must be followed by the players of the scoring team switching sides of the court. Pickleball is especially designed to encourage groups of people, particularly families, to participate.


The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), a nonprofit organization, was formed in 1984 to promote the growth and development of pickleball--not only in the United States, but the rest of the world as well. It designs and revises the game's official rules, sets up tournaments and rankings, and distributes promotional materials.


In a June 2010 article from The Arizona Republic, USAPA spokesman David Johnson estimated that more than 60,000 people in the United States play pickleball. According to the USAPA website, as of June 2010, there are more than 1,500 pickleball courts across the United States and Canada. The sport has particularly gained popularity in retirement communities, where elderly residents use it as an exercise that is not too strenuous.


Some people note that pickleball has a simple, universal appeal. People do not need to be athletically gifted to play it, and it is much easier to pick up than many other sports. Writers in particular note that for all of Pritchard's achievements in the political realm--in addition to serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, he also became lieutenant governor of Washington and served in the state's Legislature--his creation of pickleball might be his greatest legacy.


About the Author

Based in the D.C. area, Andy Joseph works full-time as a data analyst and technical writer. He has been writing articles about technology, health, politics, music, culture and automobiles since 2007. His work has appeared in The Express, Congressional Report and Road & Track. He has a master's degree in journalism and technology management.

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