Pickleball is a game that came about in the early 1960s when students at the University of Washington combined elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. The word pickle comes from the game’s original name, “Wallyball,” a play on one of its inventors’ names: William P. Berreman. The word “wally” is a synonym for a crazy person. The other inventor was Frank Huttle, whose nickname was “Hut.” The term “pickle” refers to the fact that, like pickles, both can be sour but are still delicious.
In 1968 it was first played outside of Seattle, Washington, in a public park in Vancouver, Washington. It became popular in the 1970s when affordable long plastic pickleball paddles with holes were invented. In the 1980s, it was popular among tennis players playing at the University of Washington and the nearby Bothell High School. Pickleball got its name after a girl who played in Vancouver wanted to call it “Wallyball,” but someone else beat her to it with the name “Pickleball.” A few years later, as pickleball spread worldwide and became popular in parts of Europe and Australia, the word was getting back to Washington State that “Pickleball” wasn’t a good name, so that’s what it became.
Pickleball has become so popular that it is now being played in public parks in more than 36 states, as far away as California, Hawaii, Colorado, and Florida.
It is played on a smaller court than traditional tennis (a badminton-sized court with low net height). Still, the rules are based on those used by the founders of governing bodies United States Pickleball Association (USAPA) and the World Organization of Pickleball (WOPI).
The USAPA, incorporated in 1989, has more than 42,000 members and offers a certified ranking system. The WOPI is the international governing body led by the International Federation of Pickleball.
The official rules manual of the USAPA-USPBA states that: “Pickleball may be played as a singles competition or doubles competition.” A doubles match is played with two people playing together against each other. The players alternate serving and striking service. Each player is given five serves during a match. They are given one point for winning a serve and the same for winning a rally. Play consists of five sets, with each set consisting of 21 points. The first player or team to reach seven points wins a set.
The official rules manual of the USAPA-USPBA also states that: “A player or team shall win by two points.” Each game is played with no more than 10 minutes of play. The first player or team to score 21 game points wins the game. This rule differs from the USAPA-USPBA official rules manual because it provides a margin of error.
Older people commonly play pickleball, and it is also famous as an activity for Church groups, as it does not require any specialized athletic ability or extreme endurance. It has been used successfully with people with physical disabilities, including people with Parkinson’s disease and severe arthritis.