Explained | What is pickleball, the sport that has taken the U.S. by storm? 

Despite its name, pickleball has nothing to do with pickles

February 26, 2022 08:22 pm | Updated July 25, 2022 05:16 pm IST

The game is usually played as singles or doubles using paddles and a plastic ball with holes. 

The game is usually played as singles or doubles using paddles and a plastic ball with holes. 

The story so far: With 4.8 million players in the U.S., pickleball is now the fastest-growing sport in the country. According to the U.S. Pickleball Association, the sport has grown 39.3% in the past two years.

What is pickleball?

Pickleball incorporates components of tennis, table tennis, and badminton all into one. It can be played both indoors and outdoors, with standard court size the same as a badminton court or a modified tennis court.

The game is usually played as singles or doubles using paddles and a plastic ball with holes.

The U.S. Sports and Fitness Industry Association reported 1,193,000 college graduate pickleball participants in 2020. The sport grew 21.3% from 2019 to 2020.

Watch :2021 US Open Pickleball Men’s Singles Highlights

Currently there are around 10,000 places to play the sport in the U.S. Hotel chains like Marriott have also started providing venues to play pickleball on their properties.

From amateur events, the sport is now transitioning into well-structured professional leagues as well. The 2022 National Championships will be held between November 5 and November 13, 2022 in Holy Hill, Florida.

What is the history of sport?

Despite its recent popularity, pickleball is not a new sport. It was invented in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. These residents of Bainbridge Island in Washington, U.S., came up with the sport to entertain their children who were bored of their usual summertime activities.

The first permanent pickleball court was created in 1967, and by 1990, the sport was being played in all 50 U.S. States. The U.S. Pickleball Association was established in 2005.

How did the sport get its name?

Joan Pritchard, wife of Joel Pritchard, is credited for coming up with the name of the sport after pickle boat – a rowing crew that is thrown together from available rowers – since the sport was a mix of rules “thrown together”.

A few rumours have also alleged that the sport was named after Pickles, the family dog of the Pritchards. This, however, was proven to be incorrect since the dog was born in 1968, three years after the sport was invented.

What are some big names that love the sport?

Among the 4.8 million Americans that play the sport are actors George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio, socialite Kim Kardashian, and philanthropists Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates.

Watch | What is Pickleball?
A video on pickleball, a sport that has gained a lot of popularity in India. | Video Credit: The Hindu

Is pickleball a thing in India?

Pickleball is fairly new in India, and Sunil Valavalkar is believed to be the first person to introduce the sport in the country. Mr. Valavalkar first played pickleball in Canada in 1999 and then again in 2006, when he brought back paddles and balls to India. He started giving demonstrations in Mumbai and noticed that it interested the public.

Pickleball is now played across 16 states in the country, with the All-India Pickleball Association at the helm of the affairs. There are around 3,000 registered pickleball players in India.

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