By John Swartley

As all of you readers know I write my newsletters mainly as an excuse to research something that interests me. My niece and nephew, Mary and Randal invited Barb and me to watch them play Pickleball on a Pickleball court a couple of blocks from our house. We took our lawn chairs and spent a pleasant evening watching them and a court full of people of all ages enjoying a fun sport anyone can play.

Almost every day as I scan my Google headlines on my iPhone there is some article about Pickleball. Looking for something to research, Pickleball sounded interesting.

After a golf game in the summer of 1965, Joel Pritchard, (left photo), and Bill Bell (right photo), returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island Washington to find their families sitting around without anything to do.

The property had an old badminton court, (below photo,) but they could not find any Badminton equipment. They did find a set of ping pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball, probably a Wiffle ball invented in 1953.

They found the plastic ball bounced well on the asphalt and they lowered the net down to 36 inches. The whole family enjoyed playing the game.

The following weekend neighbor, Barney McCallum, (left photo,) joined them and they set rules of play relying heavily on Badminton. Barney saw the potential of the game and started a small side business of making balls and paddles for his McCallum Envelope Company.

As the game seemed to mushroom in the area and across the country, Barney created Pickle-Ball Inc, incorporated it in 1972 and is now the grand-daddy of all the Pickleball manufacturers.

In 2023 there were 2,855 different paddles manufactured by 736 different companies.

Joel’s wife Joan had been a competitive rower in the past and was familiar with the term “pickle boat”. In competitive rowing, different positions in the boat have different strengths and specialties, and the best and fastest boats always had a crew of specialists in their strongest position. A “pickle boat” was a boat manned by leftover rowers of assorted specialties that didn’t always line up to their natural crew assignments or were less experienced. These boats were usually the slowest and would come in last in races. The last boat is called the “pickle boat” because in fishing fleets, the last boat to return to port would stay out and use brine to pickle the catch. Since the game of pickleball was played using assorted leftover components from other games like Badminton and Ping Pong, the Pritchards decided to call the game pickleball, after the pickle boats that were made up of leftover rowers. (My thanks to for the origin of the Pickleball name source.)

In 1972, Joel and several friends incorporated Pickle-Ball Inc to protect their invention. The first Pickleball tournament was played at the South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington.

The United States Amateur Pickleball Association, (U.S.A.P.A.) was organized to perpetuate the growth and advancement of pickleball on a national level in 1984. The first rule book was published in March of 1984.

By 1990, Pickleball was being played in all fifty states. In 2001, the game of pickleball was introduced for the first time in the Arizona Senior Olympics through the efforts of Earl Hill. The tournament was played at Happy Trails RV Resort in Surprise, AZ and drew 100 players. It was the largest event ever played to that point. Over the next few years, the event grew to nearly 300 players.

In 2008, there were 420 places to play in North America as listed on the USAPA website. This represents 43 States and 4 Canadian Provinces and about 1500 individual courts. This does not account for those places that are adding courts at private homes. ABC’s Good Morning America aired a live, in-studio segment on pickleball that included a brief demonstration. This was the first mass media exposure to the sport.

USA Pickleball membership numbers reached the 70,000 mark in February of 2023, after a nearly 30 percent increase in membership growth in 2022. In its 2023 Topline Participation Report, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) named pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America for the third year in a row. According to the report, pickleball is now up to a total of 8.9 million players in the United States over the age of six years old, an increase from 4.8 million in 2022.

In 2016, USA Pickleball designed a set of rules for Para-Pickleball players for them to play in their wheelchairs.

The popularity of pickleball has spurred the growth of investors and sponsors. As a result, two pro pickleball tours were independently formed in 2019, and a professional pickleball league, the Association of Pickleball Professionals was formed in 2021. In 2022 there was 32 tournaments in five countries. Each tournament drew 800 players with prize money totaling over 2 million dollars.

When the hard pickleball paddle strikes the hard ball, it produces a sharp popping sound. The constant sound during play has generated conflict between pickleball court owners and nearby property owners. The noise, combined with the rapid rise in pickleball’s popularity, has produced some intense backlash against the sport in communities across the United States. The backlash has not slowed down the growth of Pickleball worldwide.

A Wiffle ball was the original ball used when the game was invented. USA Pickleball (USAP) and the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) have since adopted specific ball standards unique to pickleball. Balls must be made of a durable molded material with a smooth surface and must have between 26 and 40 evenly spaced circular holes. They must weigh between 0.78 and 0.935 ounces (22.1 and 26.5 g) and measure between 2.87 and 2.97 inches (73 and 75 mm) in diameter. Tournaments sanctioned by the USAP and IFP must choose from a list of preapproved balls found on the USAP and IFP websites.

For sanctioned games, USAP and IFP paddle size standards say the combined length and width of the paddle shall not exceed 24 inches (0.61 m); the length cannot exceed 17 inches (0.43 m). There are no requirements regarding thickness or weight. The paddle must be made of a non-compressible material and the surface of the paddle must be smooth. Paddles used in sanctioned tournaments must be on the list of preapproved paddles found on the USAP and IFP websites.

Search the list for your favorite pickleball paddle.

According to, in Springfield MO, there are 11 different locations with 38 courts (as of today 06/23/24). Some are located inside, and some outside. Some are part of the Springfield Park Board centers, Churches, Golf Courses, Boys and Girls Clubs, ETC. Meador Park is the largest in Springfield and has lit courts for night games.

The weekend of June 21st through the 23rd 2024, they were holding the Queen City Open at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield. The Cooper complex has 12 indoor tennis courts and 17 outdoor lit courts. There were no Pickleball courts, so they used yellow tape to mark the boundaries of the Pickleball courts and added temporary nets on each court, ending up with 24 Pickleball courts for this tournament.

There were 434 participants with ages ranging from 10 to 80+ years old competing for the many prizes. Mary and I decided to go watch for a while, it was very interesting talking to the players about how they enjoyed the games.

There are several levels of Pickleball depending on how good you are. The higher-level players are very competitive and serious when they play. (Probably not what Joel and Bill had in mind back in 1965 🙂 .


There are several combinations of sets, women’s doubles, men’s doubles, men and women’s doubles, men’s singles, women’s singles, and men and women’s singles. (I could have missed some).


Note the yellow tape extending the normal tennis court for the Pickleball court.


This photo is of the men’s 80+ set.

Women’s Doubles

The photo below is Mary and Randall playing their nephews, Matthias and Jacob enjoying Pickleball as Joel and Bill intended. A fun game, no pressure, to be played by all ages and abilities. With the astounding growth of the game, I believe Joel and Bills dreams of the game has been accomplished!! Another fun project, thanks for reading it, Swartley