News  →  View Story

What Is Pickleball?

What Is Pickleball?

Take a gander at the 41 sports programs the AAU offers each year.
Volleyball… Basketball… Baseball… Inline Hockey… Table Tennis… Pickleball…
Wait, what? Pickleball. What an odd name for a sport, huh?
There is a ball involved – a plastic ball that looks very similar to a wiffle ball – yet, sadly, there are no pickles in play. Really makes you wonder why it’s called pickleball in the first place.
Registration for the inaugural AAU National Indoor Pickleball Championships opened today, so we’re taking the opportunity to provide the scoop on all things pickleball, including the origins of the sport’s unique name:
History of the Game
After playing golf one Saturday during the Summer 1965, Joel Pritchard, congressman from Washington State, and Bill Bell, a successful businessman, returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, Wash. To find their families sitting around with nothing to do. The property had an old badminton court, but Pritchard and Bell couldn’t find all the equipment.

They improvised.

The two friends started playing with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. At first, they placed the net at badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. But they soon discovered the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and lowered the net to 36 inches. The follow weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. Soon, the three men had created rules, relying heavily on badminton and keeping in mind the original purpose: to provide a game the whole family could play together.

In 1972, a corporation was formed to protect the creation of the new sport.
How to Play
Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines several elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. It is played on a smaller, badminton-sized court with a modified tennis net. The paddle used is smaller than a tennis racket but larger than a ping-pong paddle, and the plastic ball used looks very similar to a wiffle ball.

Check out the video below to watch the game in action.

Growth of Pickleball
The sport of pickleball, believe it or not, has exploded in popularity. The number of places to play in North America has more than doubled since 2010, now totaling more than 4,000 locations on the USA Pickleball’s Places to Play map. The growth of the sport is attributed to its popularity within community centers, physical education classes, YMCA facilities and retirement communities.

In June 2016, the AAU announced a partnership with the USA Pickleball Assocation that landed an educational exhibition of the sport at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Detroit, Mich.

The AAU will host its first indoor and outdoor national championship event this year. The AAU National Indoor Pickleball Championships will be held at Orlando Sports Center on Aug. 15-19 (registration is open now!) and the AAU National Outdoor Pickleball Championships will take place in Punta Gorda, Fla. in November.

Why is it Called Pickleball?
The question you’ve all been waiting for – why it is called pickleball? Truthfully, no one really knows for sure. Joan Pritchard, Joel’s wife, has stated that the game was so named because it reminded her “of the Pickle Boat crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”

Others have stated that the name resulted from the Pritchard family dog, Pickles. Rumors suggest that Pickles would often chase after balls they used to play the game.
Ultimately, nobody really knows. Your guess is as good as ours.

For more information, visit



«February 2018»

What Is Pickleball?

Registration for the inaugural AAU National Indoor Pickleball Championships opened today, so we’re taking the opportunity to provide the scoop on all things pickleball.
Read more

AAU Pickleball Serves First-Ever Event in Florida

The AAU Englewood Chill Blast Pickleball Tournament made history this weekend as the first-ever pickleball event hosted for AAU members. (What the heck is pickleball?!) More than 180 athletes from 11 states and Canada – ranging from age 19 to 75 – competed on Florida’s west coast as part of the Florida Pickleball League.

Read more

Best Bats to Use at AAU Baseball Nationals in 2018

Are you in the market for a one-piece or two-piece bat for your upcoming AAU season? Would you rather have an end-loaded or balanced weight distribution? Composite or alloy barrel? That can be a lot to take in. Thankfully, though, our friends at Eastbay are here to help with the best BBCOR baseball bats of 2018.
Read more

Ask an Expert: AAU Alum Lauryn Williams (Part 2)

Once every two years, the greatest athletes from around the world represent their countries with pride and compete to etch their names in the history books. This massive event is truly a spectacle, and there may be no one better equipped to break down what it takes and what the stage feels like more than AAU alum Lauryn Williams. 
Read more

Remember When... Dwyane Wade Visited ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

Back in 2010, before Wade and his buddy LeBron James joined forces in South Beach for the Heat, Wade joined Mickey Mouse and played a special 3-on-3 basketball game with athletes in town for the 16U AAU Girls Basketball National Championships at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort.

Read more


Upcoming events Events RSSiCalendar export