Pickleball Gains in Popularity During Pandemic

By Alice Sun
Alice Sun
Alice Sun
January 14, 2022 Updated: January 14, 2022

Amid the last two years of the pandemic, pickleball has grown in popularity for many households as a way to ward off the pandemic blues, get some exercise, and have fun all at the same time. 

The sport combines elements of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. The game can be played both indoors and outdoors, doubles and singles, and by all ages and all skill levels.  

According to The Economist, pickleball is the “fastest growing sport in America.” 

There are currently about 30 locations in Orange County—including parks, sports facilities, and housing developments—that have pickleball courts. 

The Newport Beach City Council voted to construct a new pickleball court at the Newport Ridge Community Park at the end of last year. And the “Tustin Winter Classic Pickleball Tournament” starts Jan. 15 and runs through Jan. 17. 

Los Angeles County also has seven locations

Created by Joel Pritchard, a politician from the state of Washington, and his friend Bill Bell, the origin of pickleball begins with friendship and love for the family.

The story goes that when Bell stayed at Pritchard’s home, back in 1965, they had hoped to play badminton as a family activity, but could not find a full set of rackets. 

Ultimately, Pritchard and Bell used ping-pong paddles and a plastic ball on a badminton court—and the first notion of what would become “pickleball” was born. 

Later, the two introduced their new game to their friend, Barney McCallum, and the three then created the rules together. 

Two years later, the first permanent pickleball court was built in the backyard of another friend of Pritchard’s, according to the USA Pickleball Association. 

By 1990, the sport had grown in popularity nationwide and was present in all 50 states.  

But why the name “pickleball?” 

There are many theories behind the sports’ name, but the most well-known was that Pritchard’s wife, Joan—a former rower—thought the sport reminded her of a “pickle boat,” otherwise known as a weak and mismatched crew boat team. 

However, according to McCallum, the sport was named after Pritchard’s dog, Pickle. 

Alice Sun