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Why Is It Called Pickleball? How Pickleball Got Its Name

If there is one thing about the sport of pickleball that people can agree on, it is that the name is weird.

For a sport that has nothing at all to do with pickles, you might be wondering how this sport got its name.

We wondered the same thing and did the research for you.

Keep reading to learn a bit of pickleball history that you can use to impress your opponents.

The Story Of Pickleball

Like most great things, the story of pickleball is a contested one.

In fact, there are two origin stories for pickleball and it’s difficult to say which of them is the truth.

But they both start in Bainbridge Island, Washington at the home of Joel Prichard, who went on to become a well known politician in Washington state.

pickleball balls on paddle

In 1965, pickleball got its start with Joel Prichard and Barney McCallum as the main creators with a few of their neighbors and friends.

According to Barney McCallum’s family, the name of the sport comes from a family pet – Pickles the dog.

Pickles was actually the family dog for Joel Prichard’s family during this period.

The often told story is that while the families played the game, Pickles the dog would retrieve the ball in mouth. 

Hence, they started calling the game pickleball.

According to Joel Prichard’s family, it was Joel’s wife, Joan, who came up with the name of pickleball.

Their story says that Joan, who was a competitive rower, came up with the name because it reminded her of a pickle boat.

In fact, this story actually seems to be the truth with several members of the Prichard family noting that Pickles the dog didn’t become a part of the family until a few years after they’d named the game pickleball.

And supposedly, Pickles the dog was named after pickleball the sport, not the other way around.

In fact, Pickleball Magazine did some digging and discovered that Pickles the dog wasn’t around until 1968, which was three years after pickleball was invented.

That means that Joan did name pickleball as a throwback to the thrown-together leftover non- starters in the “pickle boat” of crew races.

ALSO READ: Getting Started With The Sport Pickleball

pickleball paddle with ball

Final Word

As you can see, though their are two origin stories for how pickleball got its name, only one of those stories stands the test of time.

Sorry, Pickles the dog!

And what you might not know is that the game got its start due to boredom and the lack of proper badminton gear.

The Prichard home on Bainbridge Island in Washington state has a badminton court, which is what the very first pickleball game was played on by the Prichards and McCallums.

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