history of Pickleball

History of Pickleball – 1965 to 2024

Pickleball fans may discover the captivating History of Pickleball. It’s the fastest-growing sport in the United States, from its intriguing origins to its current status in the sports world.

View More: What is Pickleball Sport?

Who invented Pickleball?

Most people never know that two friends, Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell, invented this entertaining game of Pickleball. Joel was a Congressman in Washington, and Bill Bell was his Golf buddy and successful businessman. They had little effort from other people while formulating the game.

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Fun Journey Through the History of Pickleball

However, you know that Pickleball was inaugurated in the backyard of Joan Pritchard and Joel in Bainbridge Island, Washington. However, the invention region is Washington for the Pickleball invention. 

  • 1965

One summer Saturday after a round of golf, Joel Pritchard, a congressman, and Bill Bell, a successful businessman, came back to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, WA.

Joel Pritchard
Pickleball history

Finding their families with nothing to do, they discovered an old badminton court on the property. With no badminton equipment, they improvised, using ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball.

Initially, they set the net at the height of a badminton net, but as they played, they found the ball bounced well on the asphalt, so they lowered the net to 36 inches.

The next weekend, Barney McCallum joined in, and the three men created rules, drawing inspiration from badminton. Their main goal was to create a game for the whole family to enjoy together.

  • 1967

The initial permanent pickleball court was built in the backyard of Joel Pritchard’s friend and neighbor, Bob O’Brian.

Read it: Why Is It Called Pickleball?

Original Pickleball Court
  • 1972

An organization was established to safeguard the development of this innovative sport.

  • 1975

The National Observer released a piece on pickleball, and this was succeeded by a 1976 feature in Tennis magazine discussing “America’s latest racquet sport.”

  • 1976

In the spring of 1976, the inaugural pickleball competition worldwide took place at the South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. David Lester emerged as the Men’s Singles champion, with Steve Paranto securing the second position.

A notable aspect was that numerous participants, primarily college tennis players, had minimal familiarity with pickleball. Interestingly, they practiced using sizable wooden paddles and a plastic ball similar in size to a softball.

Helpful Guide: Where to Buy Pickleball Paddles

  • 1978

The book titled “The Other Racquet Sports” was released, featuring information about pickleball.

From Backyard Game to National Sensation
  • 1982

Sid Williams, a pioneer of pickleball, started playing and arranging tournaments in the state of Washington.

  • 1984

The United States Amateur Pickleball Association (U.S.A.P.A.) was created to support pickleball nationwide. The first rulebook came out in March 1984.

Sid Williams was the first Executive Director and President, serving from 1984 to 1998. After him, Frank Candelario took over until 2004.

Arlen Paranto, a Boeing Industrial Engineer, crafted the first composite paddle using materials from commercial airline panels. He made around 1,000 paddles from fiberglass/honeycomb and graphite/honeycomb materials before selling the company to Frank Candelario (Reference).

  • 1990

Pickleball had spread to every state (around 50 states) in the United States.

  • 1992

Pickle-Ball, Inc. produced pickleballs internally using a specialized drilling machine.

  • 1997

At the age of 72, Joel Pritchard, who served as Washington State’s Lieutenant Governor from 1988 to 1996, passed away. However, he is likely more widely recognized for his role in the creation of pickleball.

  • 1999

The inaugural pickleball website, Pickleball Stuff, was launched to offer players information, equipment, and products.

  • 2001

Pickleball made its debut in the Arizona Senior Olympics, thanks to Earl Hill. The tournament, held at Happy Trails RV Resort in Surprise, AZ, attracted 100 players, making it the largest event at the time. In the following years, the event expanded to nearly 300 players.

  • 2003

The Pickleball Stuff website lists 39 places to play in North America, including 10 states, 3 Canadian provinces, and around 150 courts.

Pickleball was introduced first in the Huntsman World Senior Games which was held annually in St. George, Utah, in October.

  • 2005

A new organization for pickleball was formed, known as the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). Mark Friedenberg became the first president and key roles were assigned to individuals on the Board of Directors:

USA Pickleball Association (USAPA)
  • Vice President: Steve Wong
  • Training: Norm Davis
  • Grievance: Phil Mortenson
  • Treasurer: Lela Reed
  • General Counsel: Phil Mortenson
  • Membership: Carole Myers
  • Marketing: Erne Perry (later followed by Pat Carroll in March 2006)
  • Ratings and Rankings: Mark Friedenberg
  • Secretary: Fran Myer
  • Newsletter: Jettye Lanius
  • National/International Relations and Ambassador Program: Earl Hill
  • Rules: Dennis Duey
  • Webmaster: Steve Wong
  • Tournaments: Barney Myer

Steve Wong, the former USAPA Webmaster, created the first USAPA website, which went live in March. The website’s popularity increased as pickleball gained more fans, and new features were added.

On July 1, USAPA officially became a Non-Profit Corporation. The association collaborated with various websites to consolidate their “Places to Play” links into the USAPA database, creating a reliable source for players to find playing locations. Today, this consolidated website is known as places2play.org.

  • 2006

Bill Bell, one of the original creators of the sport, peacefully passes away at the age of 83.

  • 2008

The USAPA Rules Committee, led by Dennis Duey, released the official tournament rulebook on May 1, 2008. Pickleball made its debut at the National Senior Games Association.

There are now 420 places to play listed on the USAPA website, covering 43 states and 4 Canadian provinces with around 1500 courts. ABC’s Good Morning America featured a live, in-studio segment on pickleball, including a short demo, marking the sport’s first exposure in mass media.

  • 2009

The initial USAPA National Tournament for players of all ages happened in Buckeye, Arizona, from November 2-8, 2009. Almost 400 players from 26 states and various Canadian provinces participated in it. USAPA also started the Grant Program to help players create new sites, resulting in over 1,400 new locations by the end of 2013.

  • 2010

To support the sport’s global growth, USAPA created the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) and its website (ifpickleball.org).

  • 2013

In January, Justin Maloof became the first full-time Executive Director of USAPA. The year kicked off with a record 4,071 members. USAPA also got a fresh new look with a rebrand, featuring a new logo and red, white, and blue colors to match other national sports governing bodies in the U.S.

  • 2014

Exciting news for pickleball enthusiasts, USAPA has introduced a new and easier-to-use website. Additionally, Pickleball Channel has been launched, marking the first-ever professional media group dedicated to the sport.

  • 2015

In a big achievement, USAPA has reached over 10,000 members for the first time. The first-ever USAPA ambassador retreat took place in Tahoe City, CA, bringing members together. The Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) reports that there are now just over 2 million pickleball players.

USAPA, along with author Mary Littlewood, collaborates with Human Kinetics to create a new book for beginners called “Pickleball Fundamentals,” helping players master the basics. After 6 years in Buckeye, AZ, the USAPA National Championships moved to Casa Grande, AZ. The number of courts listed on Places2Play hits a significant milestone. These are enhanced from 10,000 and end the year at 12,800 for both indoor and outdoor courts.

  • 2016
  • USAPA Members: USAPA now has over 17,000 members.
  • Referee Certification: USAPA introduces a national certified referee certification program.
  • Pickleball Magazine: Pickleball Magazine is launched as the first full-color, professional print and digital publication. USAPA members get a free digital copy and a discount on subscriptions.
  • US Open Championships: The first US Open Pickleball Championships took place in Naples, FL, featuring the first nationally televised broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
  • Places2Play: More than 4,600 locations are now listed on Places2Play.
  • Charitable Partner: USAPA selects St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital as its national charitable partner.
  • SSIPA Creation: The Super Senior International Pickleball Association (SSIPA) is formed and partners with USAPA, sanctioning all their tournaments.
  • 2017
  • USAPA Ambassadors: More than 1,500 volunteers are part of the USAPA Ambassador group.
  • Places to Play: Almost 5,900 locations are listed on Places2Play.
  • Regional Expansion: USAPA increases the number of regional events from 8 to 11.
  • Pickleball Construction Book: USAPA teams up with ASBA to create the first official pickleball construction book, providing details on building and maintaining courts.
  • Pickleball Hall of Fame: USAPA and IPTPA established the Pickleball Hall of Fame, with inaugural inductees including Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and others.
  • National Championships Record: The USAPA National Championships set a new record with over 1,300 players. A 2-hour segment of the event airs nationwide on CBS Sports Network.
  • Membership Growth: USAPA’s membership has doubled in two years, reaching 22,000 by December.
  • 2018
  • USAPA Membership: More than 30,000 people are now part of the USAPA (USA Pickleball Association).
  • Pickleball Courts: There are nearly 7,000 courts at Places2Play locations and around 21,000 courts across the U.S.
  • Tournament Player Ratings: USAPA teams up with Pickleballtournaments.com to create the first-ever results-based tournament player ratings (UTPRs).
  • Professional Pickleball Registry (PPR): USAPA partners with PPR, a part of PTR. In the first 6 months, PPR certifies over 1,000 new pickleball instructors.
  • Historical Book: Two USAPA members, Jennifer Lucore, and Beverly Youngren, write and publish the first historical book about pickleball, titled “History of Pickleball, More Than 50 Years of Fun!”
  • National Championships Move: USA Pickleball partners with Desert Champions, LLC, and moves the National Championships to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California. Over 2,200 participants register, and the event is aired on ESPN3 and ESPNEWS. It also offers the highest cash purse in pickleball history ($75,000).
  • Online Presence: USAPA’s Facebook team broadcasts live matches of the National Championships, reaching over 1.5 million viewers.
  • Hall of Fame Inductees: The Pickleball Hall of Fame welcomes Earl Hill, Fran Myer, and Robert Lanius as inductees.
  • 2019
  • Growth of USA Pickleball Association: The USA Pickleball Association expanded its team as part of its growth plan, hiring key staff members like Hope Tolley, Managing Director for Recreation Programs; George Bauernfeind, the inaugural Chief Marketing Officer; and Karen Parrish, responsible for Competition and Officiating.
  • Pickleball’s Growth in the U.S.: According to the 2019 report from the Sports Fitness Industry Association, pickleball continued to surge in popularity, becoming one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S., with a significant 3.3 million participants.
  • Barney McCallum’s Passing: Barney McCallum, one of the sport’s founders, passed away at the age of 93.
  • Enhancements in National Championships: The Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships focused on improving the spectator experience, introducing features like a VIP lounge and live video screens outside the stadium court. The event successfully drew nearly 28,000 fans.
  • Pickleball Hall of Fame Inductees: Notable individuals, including Dan Gabanek, Jennifer Lucore, Enrique Ruiz, and Steve Paranto, were inducted into the Pickleball Hall of Fame.
  • USAPA Membership Growth: By the end of the year, the USA Pickleball Association achieved an impressive milestone with almost 40,000 members, showcasing a remarkable 1,000% growth rate since the start of 2013.
  • 2020
USA Pickleball

USAPA became USA Pickleball, and it brings this sport in line with other US sports governing bodies and our national championships. The rebrand features a modern logo and updated website to enhance USA Pickleball’s global image as the official pickleball organization in the U.S. In December, Stu Upson became the first full-time CEO of USA Pickleball.

  • 2021

USA Pickleball Membership hit 53,000, a 43% increase from the previous year, marking the organization’s largest growth year. The 2021 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships, with over 2,300 players, became the world’s largest tournament.

However, USAP expanded its staff to nearly 20 members and gained significant media exposure, featuring in national segments on NBC’s The Today Show, CNBC, BBC News, Live with Kelly and Ryan. Stories were also published in top-rated publications, including The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Forbes, Allure, The Boston Globe, The Economist, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Parade, and Axios.

  • 2022

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) labeled pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America for the second year in a row in its 2022 Topline Participation Report. The 2022 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships featured nearly 2,300 registered players, including professionals competing for $150,000 in prize money. The Indian Wells Tennis Garden hosted a record-breaking 5,522 fans on Championship Sunday, marking the largest pickleball attendance ever.

In 2022, “pickleball” became a major trend in the U.S., receiving extensive media coverage from both domestic and international outlets.

  • 2023

In February 2023, USA Pickleball membership reached to 70,000, marking a nearly 30 percent growth in 2022. The SFIA declared pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America for the third consecutive year in its 2023 Topline Participation Report. The report reveals a substantial increase, reaching 8.9 million players aged six and above in the United States, up from 4.8 million in 2022.

Additionally, in March, the 2023 USA Pickleball National Championships, presented by the PPA Tour, were announced to take place in Dallas this November by USA Pickleball and the Professional Pickleball Association.

Ongoing Popularity of Pickleball

Pickleball is currently experiencing a rise in popularity, with nearly 11,000 locations featured on the USA Pickleball’s Places2Play map. Its widespread appeal is seen in community centers, PE classes, YMCA facilities, and retirement communities. The sport’s growth extends globally, with new international clubs forming and national governing bodies established on various continents.

Ongoing Popularity of Pickleball

Although the founders, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, are no longer with us, Barney attended the Nationals Championships in November 2013 and the 2018 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships. Witnessing the sport’s progress brought tears to his eyes. Barney’s presence provided insights into the history, rules, and the sport’s name origin.

The incredible rise of pickleball is a true underdog tale. It starts as a spontaneous game on a lazy summer day, it has evolved into a globally beloved sport. From the first wiffle ball echoes on a court to its roots over 50 years ago on Bainbridge Island, pickleball’s journey is truly remarkable.

Enjoy for Related Information: When Did Pickleball Start

Bill Gates’s Association with the Pickleball History

Bill Gates, whose father was close to Pickleball pioneers Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and Bill Bell, has a deep connection to the sport. The Gates family lived near the Pritchard home and even established a Pickleball court at their own residence. Bill Gates himself has been a regular player for over 50 years, sharing his experiences and photos from various Pickleball courts.

Gates emphasizes the game’s popularity, attributing it to a “low barrier to entry” with simple and easily understandable rules. He believes Pickleball is accessible to players of all ages, promoting quick learning of the game. Bill Gates also highlights the convenience of accessing information about Pickleball history and rules through online tutorials and YouTube videos, making learning the sport easy and accessible.


Active player estimates reached 3.3 million in 2019, a 10% increase from 2016. As of 2021, the International Federation of Pickleball oversees 58 member countries. In 2022, there are over 8,000 pickleball locations in the United States.

Pickleball was created as a playful solution to entertain children. After golfing, friends Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell improvised a game on their old Badminton court to cure their kids’ boredom, leading to the invention of Pickleball as a fun and engaging family activity.

“Pickleball is excellent for mental and emotional well-being. It provides a wonderful chance for social interaction,” says Jones. Playing outdoors also offers an enjoyable way to enjoy fresh air. Jones highlights that pickleball is a superb means of building community.

While Gates expressed tennis as his “major hobby,” he revealed playing pickleball for five decades. He finds the competition between tennis and pickleball amusing, stating that both sports are incredible.

Final Thoughts 

However, the Pickleball sport was discovered out of boredom when two friends tried to curb it. Their simple merging game evolved into their routine family sport to curb boredom. Later, further people were added to their gameplay and established the game rules.

However, the History of Pickleball is about playing the game and establishing a more reliable game. Moreover, the Pickleball game made substantial growth in the USA and then in other states as well. It’s the time to pick up the hot pickleball action and be on cloud nine. 

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