Pickleball Player Posing with Ball and Paddle
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18 Fun Facts You Didn't Know About Pickleball

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Pickle Ball
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Pickleball Primer

With a weird name and a growing fanbase, pickleball has experienced an unprecedented boom in the past couple of years, expanding its footprint from retirement communities to public spaces across the country. It has even caught the attention of star athletes and a Fortune 500 company — inspiring them to invest in the sport by buying their own pickleball teams. But what exactly is it? Similar to other paddle sports, pickleball involves teams of singles or doubles hitting a ball over a net to score points, but there's plenty more to know about this rising sport. 


Related: Celebrities Who Were Surprisingly Good Athletes

Anheuser Busch Brewery, Fort Collins, Colorado
RiverNorthPhotography/istockphoto

Anheuser-Busch is Buying a Team

As pickleball continues to gain in popularity, even Fortune 500 companies are starting to take notice, with Anheuser-Busch becoming the first to purchase a major league Pickleball team. The league recently said that the brewing company is buying a team that plans to start playing in 2023. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but a representative for the league told CNBC that the going price for a pickelball team is in the seven figures. For its part, Anheuser-Busch said it plan to be hands-on owner, including choosing players and sponsors. 


Related: 13 World-Famous Stadiums Where You Can Still Catch a Game

Tom Brady #12
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Tom Brady Is Buying a Team, Too

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback has had a busy year, announcing his retirement in February, only to take it back a few days later, and finalizing his long-rumored divorce from Gisele Bündchen. Now the veteran football player is following in the steps of other celebrity athletes in finding a love for pickleball. Brady, 45, and former No. 1 tennis player Kim Clijsters joined an ownership group to buy an expansion team for the 2023 Major League Pickleball season. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but MLP founder Steve Kuhn said he was "thrilled" that the group has signed on as the league looks to grow the appeal of professional pickleball.


Related: 17 Biggest American Sports Scandals

LeBron James
LeBron James by Keith Allison (CC BY-SA)

LeBron James Is a Fan

The Lakers forward is putting his money behind pro pickleball. James, along with his business partner Maverick Carter and fellow NBA players Draymond Green and Kevin Love have joined forces with other investors to buy a Major League Pickleball expansion team, which has yet to be named but is said to be worth seven figures. And if you're wondering, all of the investors are said to play pickleball, too. The deal won't be the billionaire basketball player's first investment in sports ownership — he's also a partner in Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club, an English soccer team.


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Pickleball
Pickleball by Michael & Sherry Martin (CC BY-NC-ND)

It’s One of the Fastest Growing Sports in America

It’s true — in 2021, The Economist dubbed pickleball the fastest growing sport in America. As of February 2022, more than 4.8 million people were playing the sport, which, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, is roughly double the number of players from five years ago. Some have credited the pandemic for its rise in popularity, as more people searched for ways to exercise outside.

Senator Joel M. Pritchard
Wikimedia Commons

Pickleball Was Born in 1965

Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington state, and Bill Bell, a businessman, dreamed up the sport one day during the summer of 1965. The friends had returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, after a game of golf, and found their restless families in need of something to do. So they picked up a couple of pingpong paddles and a plastic ball and started hitting it around on an old badminton court. Pritchard, Bell, and another friend, Barney McCallum, came up with the official rules shortly thereafter.

Senior men playing paddleball, hitting ball
kali9/istockphoto

It’s a Hybrid of Three Different Sports

A pickleball court has the same dimensions as a badminton court, though the service lines and net lines are slightly different. The net height is different, too — a pickleball net is 34 inches high in the middle, while a badminton net is 5 feet in the middle and a tennis net is 3 feet in the middle. There are many similarities in objectives, though — players, either singles or doubles, try to hit the ball over the net, with the serving team scoring a point if their opponents fail to return the ball. Comparisons have been made to pingpong as well, as pickleball paddles resemble pingpong paddles, albeit slightly larger ones.

Pickleball paddle and balls by net.
Bill Oxford/istockphoto

What’s With the Name?

There are two dominant stories floating around about pickleball’s name. Pritchard’s wife, Joan, said she came up with the name because it reminded her of a pickle boat, a term referring to the last boat to cross the finish line in a race — the idea being that the boat was comprised of a hodgepodge of leftover rowers, and that pickleball is a mashup of tennis, badminton, and pingpong. Another prevailing story is that the game was named after the Pritchard’s dog, Pickles, a cockapoo. Though this version is a more heartwarming story, it’s been debunked a few times, since Pickles didn’t come into the family’s life until after the game was invented. More likely: Pickles the dog was named after pickleball. 


Pickle Ball
LPETTET/istockphoto

You Can Even Get ‘Pickled’

The name extends to a number of situations on the court. “Picklers” are die-hard pickleball fans, and servers sometimes shout “Pickle!” to let others know they’re about to serve. But you definitely don’t want to get “pickled,” which is when a team scores zero points throughout the entire game. Embarrassing!

Young Adults Playing Pickleball
RichLegg/istockphoto

There’s a Kitchen on the Court

Well, sort of. The kitchen encompasses an area 7 feet from the net on each side of the court extending to the sidelines. A player cannot stand in the kitchen — or even on the kitchen line — if they are volleying the ball to the other side without letting the ball hit the ground first. In order to hit the ball out of mid-air, they must be standing outside of the kitchen. However, if the ball hits the ground first, players are able to stand inside the kitchen and return the ball to the other side. 


Pickleball Action - Mixed Doubles 1
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You’ll Also Hear the Word Dink a Lot

No, that’s not an insult. A dink is the term used to describe a soft shot that just barely clears the net and lands in the opponent’s kitchen. Similar to a drop shot in tennis, it forces your opponent to lunge for the ball before it bounces a second time.


Pickleball History
Washington State Legislature

The First Known Pickleball Tournament Was Held in 1967

Just two years after it was formed, the first official pickleball tournament was held at the ​​South Center Athletic Club in Tukwila, Washington. Competitors were mostly college tennis players. David Lester won the men’s singles, while Steve Paranto came in second.


Pickleball
Wikimedia Commons

Courts Can be Found in All 50 states – and Overseas

By 1990, pickleball was being played in every state across the country. According to the USA Pickleball Association, there are now more than 38,000 known courts in America, which can be found on places2play.org. The game has even spread worldwide: The International Federation of Pickleball lists organizations in Canada, Spain, India, France, Scotland, Singapore, and a handful of other countries. 


Pickleballs on court
Jennifer Smith/istockphoto

There Are 2 Types of Balls Used in Pickleball

Pickleball features two types of balls depending on the court. Outdoor balls are harder and heavier than their indoor counterparts, and have 40 holes drilled into them. Those playing on indoor courts use indoor balls, which are softer, textured, and have 26 holes drilled into them (indoor balls can also be used outside, though outdoor balls are only used outdoors). They react differently to the courts, too: Outdoor balls are louder and harder to spin, while indoor balls are softer and easier to control. 


Pickleball Padle
Amazon

The Paddle Has Changed Over the Years

In its original days, pickleball paddles were made entirely of wood, much like pingpong paddles. Though you can still get affordable, wooden pickleball paddles, higher-end paddles are now made of graphite or composite materials. Players can also decide whether they want to use an elongated paddle or a wide-body paddle; the latter is the most common of the two, and generally suitable for beginners.


Pickleball
©TripAdvisor

The Largest Pickleball Tournament Is Held in Naples, Florida

Called the ​​Minto U.S. Open Pickleball Championships, this is the largest pickleball tournament in the world, drawing thousands of competitors and even more spectators. Since it first launched in 2016, the tournament has been held at East Naples Community Park in Naples, Florida, where it utilizes more than 60 courts — the largest permanent pickleball facility in the world. Other major tournaments include the Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships and the Jigsaw Health Tournament of Champions.


Ben Johns with his mixed doubles partner, Simone Jardim, after winning gold together.
Ben Johns with his mixed doubles partner, Simone Jardim, after winning gold together. by Hanniniana (CC BY-SA)

Professional Pickleball Players Can Make Good Money

As with most sports, there are elite pickleball players who have turned playing the game into a full-time job. Salaries range from $20,000 to $250,000, with a lot of that money coming from gear sponsorships. Tyson McGuffin, Catherine Parenteau, and Benjamin Johns are a few professional pickleball players to keep an eye on. 


Pickle Magazine
ebay

There Are Magazines Dedicated Entirely to Pickleball

You know pickleball is a growing sport when a new pickleball magazine comes out as the magazine industry shrinks. InPickleball debuted in late 2021 and profiles players, pickleball news, gear, and more. But it’s not the only pickleball publication out there: Pickleball Magazine launched in 2016 and serves as the official magazine of the USA Pickleball Association, highlighting tips and techniques, tournament schedules and results, and facilities of the month.


Diverse Group Playing PIckleball
RichLegg/istockphoto

Pickleball’s Demographics Are Changing – and Fast

For a while, pickleball was seen as a sport that catered to an older set, because of its popularity within retirement communities and low-impact qualities. But its recent rise is changing the face of the game. According to a 2021 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, 33% of core players — those who play eight or more times a year — are 65 and above, but 34% of casual players are between the ages of 8 and 34. Meanwhile, the percentage of players who are 54 and younger grew to 46% from 40% between 2016-'20. In short: Pickleball may not be a young person’s game just yet, but it’s certainly getting younger.