Sport began inauspicially 50 years ago on Bainbridge Island outside Seattle

Original pickleball court. Photo courtesy USA Pickleball Association

By Staff Reports

It all started with a few bored families, some improvised equipment, and a weekend of experimentation on a backyard court on Bainbridge Island outside Seattle.

Congressman Joel Pritchard, businessman Bill Bell, and their families were looking to occupy themselves one Saturday afternoon when they discovered an old badminton court on Pritchard’s property.

Lacking proper equipment, they grabbed some ping pong paddles and a plastic ball and started batting it back and forth over a standard badminton net.

The group found the ball bounced perfectly on the blacktop surface. Over the course of the weekend, volleys turned into grounded strokes and the net slowly dropped to accommodate rallies and spins. They were onto something fun.

The following Saturday, their friend Barney McCallum joined the backyard game. Strategizing ways to refine it, the three men drafted official rules — borrowing heavily from badminton. The intent was pure and simple— provide entertainment the entire family could enjoy together.

Little did those Bainbridge Island families know their casual backyard pastime would turn into pickleball — one of the fastest growing sports in America and a new favorite for recreational and competitive players of all ages.

More than 50 years later, that perforated plastic ball is still drawing families together, just as pickleball’s inventors imagined.

This story was generated by Claude, an AI assistant created by Anthropic, using information from