“It was a rainy day, we’ve all been through that,” recounts Ralph Munro, former Washington Secretary of State. “The kids were sitting around the living room with nothing to do.”
Boredom bred a devilish playground in 1965, when House Representative Joel Pritchard collaborated with Bill Bell and Barney McCallum to create a game designed to keep their children occupied—Pickleball. With wood-carved paddles and a whiffleball, the net was initially placed at a height to match the court’s badminton-specific dimensions. Lowered to 36 inches (34 in the middle) and met with painted perpendicular lines, today’s pickleball court has a much more tennis-friendly feel.
Legend holds that this peculiar sport earned its name from “Pickles,” Pritchard’s dog, but his wife insists that the name is instead derived from the mixed rowing crews found on pickleboats—a nod to the sport’s hybrid nature.
“We started hitting the ball around, though it was kind of fun,” says Bob O’Brien, one of those bored boys. “There were no rules of the game…and it just took off from there.”
Today, pickleball is most commonly played in a doubles format and employs familiar visual mechanics for those with a tennis background. An underhanded serve is delivered from one side of the court to the opposite service box, but only the serving team may earn points; the returners must break both members of the serving team before earning the right to serve themselves.