How Did Pickleball Get Its Name? Mystery Revealed!

how did pickleball get its name

We LOVE pickleball. It is so much fun.

But have you ever been playing a game and wondered, “How did pickleball get its name?

Yeah, me too.

So we started to ask around and do our research. This is what we found out.

We’ve heard two stories…one is the dog story and that it was named after the family dog, and the other is that it came from boat racing or a “pickle boat”. Not exactly similar stories!

So which one is really true? The dog story or the pickle boat? It turns out there’s much more to these stories than meets the eye.

Let’s take a look at the fascinating origin of pickleball and answer the question, how did pickleball get its name.

How Did Pickleball Get Its Name?

The history of pickleball starts with three dads from Bainbridge Island, Washington in 1965.

Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum were looking for a new game to play with their families on vacation. Not having too many options, they pieced together what they could from the garage.

They had a wiffle ball, some table tennis paddles, and a badminton net. They set it up on their old badminton court, made up some rules and the game took shape from there.

This led them to create a brand new sport that combined elements of badminton, tennis, and ping pong. The game started to grow from here! Little did they know how popular this random game they created would become!

The origin story of how pickleball was created we can pretty much all agree on.

It’s the part of “how did pickleball get its name” that is up for debate.

The Two Stories on How Pickleball Got It’s Name

The Dog Story

Pickles the Dog
Pickles The Dog

The first story on why it’s called pickleball is that the name was derived from the Pritchard family dog, Pickles. While they were playing their game, Pickles would frequently chase after the balls during their pickleball game and run away with them. Hence, the game is Pickle Ball.

This story seems pretty cute and realistic, so we can certainly see why this is one of the favorite options for why it’s called pickleball.

But is Joel’s cute dog story true or is it just a funny story?

The Pickle Boat Story

Pickle Boat in Crew

The second version of why its called pickleball is that the name was inspired by boat racing.

According to this story, Joel Pritchard’s wife Joan Pritchard, had grown up an avid crew fan. She said the game reminded her of the “pickle boat” in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.

Essentially, the rowers who weren’t starting in the main race were all thrown together in these “pickle boats” to have their own race. She was using this reference since the game was thrown together with all sorts of leftover parts and pieces of other games to form one new game.

Interesting thought I guess. But again, is it true??

So Which Version Is True?

It turns out Joan’s version of the “pickle boat” is the true story.

The original name was Pickle Ball, which was then combined to “Pickleball” (one word) later.

I know I know, you are all bummed out that the dog story and the cute dog named Pickles isn’t true.

But, the good news is that there actually was a family dog Pickles! Yay Pickles!

But, the Pritchard family got Pickles a few years later after they named the game. So Pickles was named after the game, not the other way around!

He still liked to chase the balls though!

Pickleball’s Popularity

pickleball in central park

Pickleball’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years becoming the fastest-growing sport in the US with over 30 million people playing. It’s hard not to see (or hear) pickleball these days. It seems to be everyhere! Pickleball was even in a super bowl commercial!

With its light-hearted and fun name, it’s no wonder this game is so popular! Far greater than the Pritchard family could have ever thought. The pickleball community has become very close-knit and supportive of each other and the game.

Pickleball’s popularity can be attributed to a few factors. First, it’s an easy sport to learn and play, making it accessible to people of all ages and skill levels. The smaller court size makes it less intimidating than other racket sports like tennis.

Additionally, pickleball is a fun and social game that can be played both indoors and outdoors, making it a great way to stay active and connect with others in your community. Many people enjoy the friendly competition and camaraderie that comes with playing pickleball.

Another reason for its popularity is that it’s a low-impact sport, which makes it ideal for older adults or anyone recovering from an injury.

Finally, the equipment required for pickleball is relatively inexpensive compared to other racquet sports, which makes it more accessible for those on a budget.

Overall, the combination of accessibility, social aspects, low-impact nature, and affordability has made pickleball a popular choice for many people looking to stay active and have fun!

How Do You Play Pickleball?

pickleball volley
Anna Leigh Waters & Catherine Parenteau in a pickleball tournament

Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. To play, you need a pickleball court (which is smaller than a tennis court), paddles, and a pickle ball (which looks like a wiffle ball). Here are the basic rules:

  1. The game starts with an underhand serve that must land in the diagonal service court on the opposite side of the net.
  2. After the serve, both teams hit the ball back and forth over the net until one team fails to return it properly.
  3. The ball must bounce once on each side before players can start volleying it in the air.
  4. When serving, you only get one fault per turn. A fault occurs when you don’t hit the ball over the net or if it lands out of bounds.
  5. Points are scored by winning rallies only by the serving team; games are usually played to 11 points.

There are some more advanced rules and strategies to learn as well, but those are the basics!

Where Can You Play Pickleball?

There are many places where you can play, including community centers, parks, schools, and sports clubs. More and more places have dedicated pickleball courts but you can also play on tennis courts!

The good news for us pickleball fanatics is that pickleball courts are popping up everywhere so we have more and more places to play.

You can always get a portable net and set up a court on any open space you can find too!

To find a place to play near you, check the USA Pickleball Association places to play for local pickleball groups or facilities that offer the sport. You can also ask around in your community to see if anyone knows of any good spots to play this competitive sport.


The fun story of how Pickle Ball got its name is quite fascinating, and it turns out to be true that the game was named after the pickle boat in boat racing. Pickles the dog may not have been the inspiration for the game’s name, but he certainly played an important role in making it a hit with families everywhere!

Whether you are playing at your local park or on vacation with family and friends, pickleball is sure to provide hours of fun.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your bag and get ready to play one of America’s favorite sports – Pickleball!

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