What is Pickleball, and Why Is It Such a Popular Sport?

Pickleball, a unique and rapidly growing sport, has been captivating enthusiasts around the world with its blend of excitement, skill and camaraderie. Born out of a desire for an inclusive and enjoyable activity, pickleball has taken the athletic landscape by storm, enticing players of all ages and abilities. 

If you've ever wondered what pickleball is all about or why it has become such a popular pastime, you've come to the right place. In this blog, we will dive into the world of pickleball, exploring its origins, game rules and the myriad of reasons behind its soaring popularity. So grab your paddles, put on your court shoes and let's embark on a journey to unravel the fascinating realm of pickleball.

What Is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a paddle sport that has gained significant popularity in recent years, grabbing the attention of people of all ages and backgrounds. Combining elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis, pickleball is a fast-paced and exciting game played on a smaller court. The sport is enjoyed by millions around the world and offers a unique blend of athleticism and strategy.


When it comes to equipment, pickleball requires specific gear to play. Players use paddles that resemble oversized table tennis paddles to hit a plastic ball with perforations over a net. The ball used in pickleball is similar to a Wiffle ball, featuring small holes that reduce its speed and increase its maneuverability. As for the court, pickleball can be played on indoor or outdoor surfaces, and the dimensions are roughly a quarter of the size of a tennis court, with specific boundary lines and a non-volley zone near the net.

The History of Pickleball

According to USAPickleball.org, the origins of pickleball can be traced back to the mid-1960s when it was invented by Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum. The three friends wanted to play badminton, but they couldn’t find all of the equipment. So, they started playing with ping pong paddles and a plastic perforated ball. They eventually introduced it to their families. 

Initially, the game was played with simple rules and equipment, but it quickly gained popularity among their friends and neighbors. Barney McCallum, an influential figure in the game's development, contributed to its evolution. They experimented with different paddle designs and made adjustments to the rules, eventually establishing the basic frameworks of the game we know today. Why is it called pickleball, though? Well, that’s up for debate. The original story is that it came from the Pritchard family's dog, Pickles, who had a habit of chasing the ball and running off with it. However, according to a piece published by Pickleball Magazine in 2021, the story of the dog was made up. Instead “...the Bells and Pritchards were sitting around and made the decision to come up with a name for the game. Joan stepped up and said, ‘Pickle Ball.’ She then explained the reference to leftover rowers who would race for fun in local ‘pickle boat’ crew race competitions.”

Now matter how the game got its name, the word spread about the exciting new sport, and pickleball started to gain traction across the United States. The founders actively introduced the game to local community centers, schools and recreation clubs. Pickleball's accessibility, low physical demands and social nature made it appealing to a wide range of individuals from children to seniors. Its popularity continued to grow as people discovered the fun and engaging gameplay.

In the 1970s, the United States Amateur Pickleball Association (USAPA) was formed to provide organization and structure to the sport. It established official rules, equipment standards and tournament guidelines. “In 1976, the first known pickleball tournament in the world was held at South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington,” according to USAPickleball.org. 

Spread and International Recognition

Since then, pickleball has continued to spread globally, with various national and regional pickleball associations forming around the world. The sport gained recognition and inclusion in multi-sport events such as the World Games, the Senior Olympics and the National Senior Games. As more countries embraced pickleball, international competitions grew in scale and competitiveness, showcasing the sport's global appeal and fostering a sense of community among players from different backgrounds.

Today, pickleball is recognized as one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. Its humble beginnings on Bainbridge Island have led to a vibrant and thriving community of players, enthusiasts and organizations dedicated to promoting and advancing the sport. It’s now played in 63 countries, according to Picklevine.com.

How to Play Pickleball

To play pickleball, it is essential to understand the court setup, game rules and specific aspects such as the non-volley zone (NVZ). The pickleball court is similar to a badminton court, with dimensions measuring 20-feet wide and 44-feet long. It is divided by a net that stands at a height of 34 inches at the center. The court is marked with various lines, including the baseline, sidelines, non-volley lines and centerline, which helps determine inbound shots.

When it comes to serving, pickleball follows a unique underhand technique. The server must stand behind the baseline and make contact with the ball below the waist. You must also have the paddle head below your wrist joint. The ball must also go diagonally across the net. The receiver should have the ball bounce once before returning it, following the double-bounce rule. The server's partner must also allow the ball to bounce before joining the rally. 

During gameplay, players hit the ball back and forth over the net, aiming to keep it in play. The ball must clear the net and land within the boundaries of the opponent's court. Each team continues hitting the ball until a fault occurs or the ball goes out of bounds. Scoring in pickleball is based on side out scoring, but there has been debate about using a rally scoring method instead.

One important aspect of pickleball is the non-volley zone or "kitchen." This area is a rectangular zone that is seven feet from the net on both sides. The NVZ is marked by lines and serves the purpose of preventing players from volleying while positioned inside it. Players must have both feet outside the NVZ before they can volley the ball. 

Understanding the court setup, game rules and the non-volley zone is crucial to playing pickleball effectively. By following the specific guidelines and utilizing various shot techniques, players can engage in exciting and competitive matches while enjoying the social and physical benefits that make pickleball such a popular sport.


Pickleball has skyrocketed in popularity due to several key factors that make it appealing to a wide range of individuals. One of the primary reasons for its popularity is its accessibility and ease of learning. Pickleball is a sport that welcomes players of all ages and fitness levels. The rules are relatively simple to grasp. This inclusivity makes pickleball an attractive choice for individuals who may be new to sports or looking for a fun family activity.

Beyond the gameplay itself, pickleball's social and community aspects have contributed significantly to its popularity. The sport creates an environment that fosters friendships and a sense of belonging. Pickleball clubs, leagues and tournaments provide ample opportunities for players to connect with others who share a passion for the sport. Whether participating in casual games or competitive play, pickleball brings people together, nurturing a vibrant and supportive community. Additionally, pickleball offers notable health and fitness benefits, further boosting its popularity. 

Pickleball has taken the sporting world by storm, captivating individuals of all ages and backgrounds with its unique blend of accessibility, social engagement and health benefits. As players step onto the pickleball court, they find a welcoming community where friendships are forged and bonds are strengthened. 

Whether you’re brand new to pickleball or a seasoned veteran, having the right gear can be extremely helpful. So, be sure to check out LizardSkins.com for the best in pickleball paddle grips.

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