PICKLEBALL: America's Fastest Growing Sport

Starting October 12, if you’re walking the loop near Walla Walla Park in Wenatchee, and you hear what sounds like popcorn popping, that’s the sound of the fastest growing game in America. 

When I heard that the Chelan County PUD is going to be adding a few new pickleball courts at the park, the first thing I thought of was, this is going to be for people like myself who don’t wanna run around the court like in tennis. But apparently pickleball has been growing for years, but because of the pandemic, the game exploded with popularity as people were looking for a sport they can play in a small area like in their own backyard. Even country artist, Maren Morris and her bandmates play the game while on tour.

PUD spokesperson, Rachel Hansen, says there are teaming up with Wenatchee Pickleball Association to add up to 17 new pickleball courts within their park system.

So what is pickleball? It’s a sport played on a court much smaller than a tennis court, that combines many elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, and can even be played indoors. Although I think Carol Brady would not be happy about the Brady Kids playing ball in the house.

Pickleball is played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes….which is why there’s a weird (some say annoying) noise when the ball is hit or bounces.

When I started to do my homework on pickleball, I was surprised to learn that the game was actually invented in 1965 right here in the state of Washington, by three guys. Joel Pritchard (who would later become Washington’s Lt. Governor), Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, who lived on Bainbridge Island, just across from Seattle. The first known pickleball tournament in the world was held in Tukwila, Washington in 1976. And just this year, Governor Inslee signed a bill making pickleball the official sport of the state of Washington. 

But I needed to know, why is it called ‘pickleball’? Apparently co-creator Joel Pritchard’s wife Joan came up with the name because (see if you understand this), “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.” (What??) I think I like the other claim by one of the other co-creators of pickleball, Barney McCallum, who says the game was named after Pritchard’s dog….that’s right….Pickle. I wonder if Pickle’s bark sounded like the pickleball being hit by the paddle? 

If you’re looking to find out more about the hottest sports craze in the nation, check out the website usapickleball.org or visit the facebook page of the Wenatchee Valley Pickleball Club, and maybe I’ll see you on the new pickleball courts at Walla Walla Park in Wenatchee. Just follow the sounds that resemble corks being popped from bottles.

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