Pickleball Craze: When Did Pickleball Start? - NinjAthlete Skip to content

Pickleball Craze: Your Guide to History, Play, and Choosing the Perfect Paddle

Pickleball stands out as a sport that combines ease of access with depth of strategy and community, appealing to a broad audience.

Uncovering the Origins of Pickleball

origins of pickleball

Did you know pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the US?

But the sport's unique name and combination of elements from other racquet sports might have you scratching your head.

Let's dive into its surprisingly simple origin story.

When did pickleball start?

history of pickleball

Pickleball was born in the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Three dads—Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum—decided to create a fun backyard game for their bored families.

They improvised using what they had on hand: a badminton court, ping-pong paddles, and a perforated plastic ball.

Initially called a funny name, the game was later renamed after Pritchard's dog, Pickles, who loved to chase stray balls.

Pickleball's Rise to Popularity

pickleball fastest growing sport in US

While it started as a simple family activity, pickleball steadily grew in popularity. Its easy-to-learn rules and social nature make it accessible to people of all ages and skill levels.

The sport gained further momentum with the formation of the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) in 1984, paving the way for organized tournaments and official rules.

Today, pickleball boasts millions of players across the globe.

Can you play pickleball on a tennis court?

can you play pickleball on a tennis court

Absolutely! The adaptability of pickleball is part of its charm. You can easily convert a tennis court into a pickleball playing area with some temporary measures.

Here's what you need to do:

Lines and Markings

  • Kitchen Line: The most important modification is marking the pickleball 'kitchen' lines (also known as non-volley zones) 7 feet from the net on each side of the tennis court. Use painter's tape or cones for temporary markings.
  • Pickleball Baseline: You can either use the existing tennis baseline or create a temporary pickleball baseline closer to the net.
  • Sidelines and Centerline: The tennis court's existing singles sidelines and centerline work perfectly for pickleball.

The Net

Ideally, you'll want to lower a tennis net to the official pickleball net height of 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches at the center.

If you can't adjust the net, just focus on keeping your serves and returns low during play.

How to Choose the Best Pickleball Paddle

how to choose a pickleball paddle

Now that you understand the basics, let's get you equipped! One of the key pieces of gear for pickleball is the paddle.

Choosing the right one can significantly impact your gameplay. Here's a breakdown of important factors to consider:

Paddle Materials

  • Wood: The classic and most affordable option. Wood paddles are heavier but offer good power.
  • Composite: This material is strong, durable, and provides a good balance of power and control.
  • Graphite: The lightest and most responsive option. Graphite paddles offer excellent control and feel, but tend to be more expensive.

how to choose the best pickleball paddle shape

Paddle Weight

Paddle weight is usually measured in ounces. Choose a weight that suits your playing style and strength:

  • Lightweight (under 8 ounces): Ideal for players favoring control, maneuverability, and quick reflexes at the net.
  • Midweight (8-10 ounces): Offers a great balance of power and control, making it the most versatile option for all-around play.
  • Heavyweight (over 10 ounces): If you prioritize power and a heavy ball feel, a heavier paddle might be right for you.

a guide for choosing a pickleball paddle

Grip Size

Grip size is essential for comfort and control. To find the right size, hold the paddle as you would in a match and place your index finger between the top of the grip and your ring finger.

There should be just enough room for your finger to fit.

Other Considerations

  • Price: Pickleball paddles range from affordable to high-end. Start with a budget-friendly option and consider upgrading as your skills advance.
  • Paddle Shape: Some paddles have a traditional shape while others are elongated, offering greater reach.
  • Brand Reputation: Research reputable brands known for their construction and quality.
  • Try Before You Buy: If possible, test out different paddles to get a feel of what works best for you.

Start Your Pickleball Journey

start your pickleball journey

Pickleball's welcoming community and addictive gameplay make it an easy sport to fall in love with. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Find a Place to Play

Many community centers, YMCAs, and parks offer dedicated pickleball courts. You can also check out the USAPA website for a directory of places to play in your area.

basic rules of pickleball

Learn the Basics

If you're a beginner, take some lessons or watch online tutorials to learn the fundamentals of serving, returning, and the basic rules of pickleball.

Join a Group or League

Pickleball is inherently social! Joining a group or league is a great way to meet new players, improve your skills, and have some fun competition.

pickleball tips

Ready to Hit the Court?

Pickleball is a sport that embodies the spirit of play at any age or skill level. So grab a paddle, find a court, and let the good times roll!


start your pickleball journey 

Whether you're a newcomer looking to understand its roots, a tennis player considering converting your court for pickleball, or an experienced player refining your gear choices, the world of pickleball offers a welcoming and engaging community.

As the sport continues to grow, it remains anchored by its inclusive spirit and the joy it brings to players worldwide.

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