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How a Special Sport Came to Be and Got Its Funny Name

Some of the most popular sports today have histories that stretch back for hundreds of years. The sport of golf, for example, has been played in essentially the same form for centuries. With other well known modern sports like football being evolved forms of much older ones, many sports have especially impressive lineages to boast of.

On the other hand, some of the most appealing and accessible sports have far less history behind them. The popular backyard game known as “bags,” for instance, is a relatively recent innovation. Another sport that combines the speed-limited volleys of badminton with an even more accessible complement of rules has surged to an impressive level of popularity in the fifty years since its invention.

An Entertaining Afternoon for One Family Turns into a Global Phenomenon

When former U.S. Representative Joel Pritchard returned home from golfing one day in 1965, he and his partners found their family members waiting around in boredom. Determined to ensure that the pleasant weather would not go unappreciated, all present started brainstorming about something to do.

They decided that a few leisurely hours of badminton would entertain the many who were present, but were unable to find the shuttlecock needed to play the game properly. When one member of the party discovered a wiffle ball lurking in the corner of a shed, the first foundations of a brand-new sport were formed.

Piecing together some simple wooden paddles from the available materials, the backyard athletes decided that the badminton net would need to be lowered, as well. Before long, they were all enjoying the back-and-forth action that has come to be appreciated by so many since.

A Funny Name for an Especially Fun Game

All that remained was to give the new sport a name that would appropriately convey its spirit and informal nature. Although reports differ as to where the word arose from, all agree that the new sport quickly came to be called pickleball.

One story holds that the appellation derives from an old fishing term, with the last craft in a line being known as the “pickle boat.” Another has it that the sport was named in honor of a family dog who enjoyed seeing it played. In either case, the game has since gone on to liven up the relaxing afternoons of countless other families.