Why do they call it Pickleball?

It goes without saying that a sport that goes by a name like Pickleball will raise questions on its nomenclature. The first thought that any person would get is if at all the sport has got anything to do with pickles. Indeed, there is no relation with pickles. In order to make things clear about the sport’s name, let us revisit the tale that laid the foundation of Pickleball.

Former Lieutenant Governor of Washington, Joel Pritchard, along with his friends Bill Bell and Barney McCallum were enjoying golf at Bainbridge Island. Now to begin with, the year was either 1963, 1965 or 1966. According to Pritchard’s wife, Joan, it was 1966 but according to Joel and Bill, it was 1963. But why is the year so important? We will soon realize it.

After the game of golf, the trio saw their families bored at the island. They decided to play badminton but were unable to find a shuttlecock. So they decided to use a perforated ball and lowered the net. It was McCullum who went to a nearby shed and fabricated wooden paddles with a bandsaw located in the basement. This was how the first ever pickleball prototype was made. But then when did they name the sport?

According to the official pickleball handbook by the USA Pickleball Association, the Pritchards owned a dog named “Pickles.” Whenever the ball came his way, he would take the ball and run away with it because it was “Pickle’s ball.” Thus came the name Pickleball.

But the account of this dog tale has ever since been questioned and various accounts of family members on the island has put in doubt the authenticity of this version. To quote Joel Pritchard’s son, Frank Pritchard, “Nobody remembers how it came to be called ‘pickleball,’ but I think somebody needed a reason why it had that name and the dog story sounded good and eventually stuck .”

In fact, Joel Pritchard himself said the following in an interview – ” We needed a nutty name like Pickle-Ball, but, no, the dog was named after the game. A reporter came through and was doing a national story on the game, and somebody told him that story. Everybody said, “Shut your mouth. It’s a good story. It works better, leave it alone.” It’s like a lot of stories.”

Even though the McCullums were steadfast to the dog story, Joel’s wife Joan and their daughter Peggy threw some more light on this story.

Joan – “Somehow the idea the name came from our dog Pickles was attached to the naming of the game, but Pickles wasn’t on the scene for two more years. The dog was named for the game, but stories about the name’s origin were funnier thinking the game was named for the dog.”

Peggy (2005) – “It was not named after the dog because we didn’t get the dog until years after the game started. The dog was named after the game.”

The second tale is the boat tale. Less magnetic than the cute puppy tale but with lesser flaws compared to the dog tale. A pickle boat is a term used to denote a weaker, slower, mismatched crew boat in a race. Joel’s wife, Joan, was herself a rower. It was she who suggested the name of the game a Pickleball as it reminded her of pickle boat. This version of the story has been published in Parkersburg, West Virginia News and Sentinel newspaper.

The dog tale is much more famous since it fits the jigsaw puzzle. But the dull sounding boat tale is in fact a tale with lesser stains on its authenticity.

People call pickleball with all sorts of names. These are some of the names used for pickleball game:

  • Sportspickle
  • Tennis with wiffle ball
  • Game pickle
  • Sport with wooden paddle
  • Pickle tennis
  • Tickle ball game
  • Game like tennis
  • Prickle ball
  • Pickle pong
  • The new Ping-Pong
  • Pick-a-ball sport

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