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Sick Trx Singles is a great way to practice doubles with only two people. We play this instead of half-court singles because it takes the handicap out of half-court singles. Sometimes people tape off part of the court or don’t allow around-the-post shots. 

Here’s how it works: Each player stays on the same side of the court that their score dictates. If I’m even, I’ll be on the right side of the court; if I’m odd, I’ll be on the left side of the court. My opponent does the same and, therefore, we get all four angles in one game.

The other difference is that around-the-post shots are legal and don’t have to land in the square you’re in. Sick Trx Singles 100 percent mimics doubles—with just two people—so you can get a great workout in a short amount of time. 

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50 Years in the Making

In the world of sports, there are very few games that have evolved from such an amalgam of unrelated things as pickleball. Credited to State Representative Joel Pritchard (who also represented the Washington state in Congress from 1973 through 1985 before becoming the state’s lieutenant governor, a position he held until his death in 1997), pickleball started off as a way to pass the time on a boring, rainy Seattle afternoon.

During the summer of 1966, Joel Pritchard and his best friend, Bill Bell, were returning home late from a morning of golf, having promised their children they would come back early to their summer homes on Bainbridge Island and find some things to do that would be interesting to them. When they arrived and found the children upset with them, Joel stated that when he was young, kids made up their own games. As a result, he promised he could make up something new that they would enjoy.

Attempting to set up a game of badminton on a home court, Pritchard and Bell could not find the shuttlecock. Not to be deterred, the friends searched a nearby shed for anything they could play with. They retrieved some plywood, and Joel drew the pictures of two paddles. They then cut out the paddles and headed for a store to buy the perfect ball for the game. They tried everything, but not finding an answer.

Along came a young neighbor, Dick Greene, who was carrying a plastic bat and a whiffle ball. The inventors asked to borrow the whiffle ball and found it was perfect for hitting over the net, which Pritchard had lowered from 60" to a hip height of either 36" or 28" (depending on the version told).

Soon after, they introduced the game to friend Barney McCallum and neighbor Dick Brown. McCallum, Pritchard and Bell wrote down the first official rules of the game. Barney McCallum is the last surviving member of that trio of inventors. Now in his 80s, he remembers the early days well. With less than three months left of summer on the island where Pritchard’s vacation home was located, people quickly adopted the game.

McCallum said, “We started playing this game in July and August. Labor Day closes a lot of things up, and that’s what happened with pickleball.”

David McCallum, Barney’s son, remembers the birth of the game from a much younger perspective.

“As a 10-year-old at the time, nobody was being that diligent about taking down the history of how things happened,” he said. “I was one of those kids who was always fascinated by the adults. I paid attention to what was going on with them, with the kids down on the beach, and what was going on with this game. The adults, they took to it right away. The parents invented it. It was a bunch of 40-year-olds dinking around with this thing and it was curious to me that they were all playing this new game and liking it.”

The younger McCallum recalls that, in its infancy, it appeared that pickleball might be the solitary highlight of a bygone summer—a game that came and went only to be remembered with a smile.

“I don’t think anybody intentionally took it off the island after the summer ended,” he said. “It was a neat activity to keep adults busy. That first year, there wasn’t much activity regarding pickleball off the island.
I can remember my dad working on paddle designs a few times, but that was it.”

The following summer, however, the courts were swept off, the nets put back up and the paddles came back out, McCallum said.

“I’m not sure anyone thought that it would happen,” he remembers. “That second year was when it started to move off the island. People realized that this was fun and great recreation and exercise.”

Next, a nearby family on the island built a court and used it to entertain a lot of their guests. The circle grew, and local gyms in the Seattle region started picking it up as well.

“I was an envelope manufacturer,” Barney McCallum said. “But I took it on myself to supply people with the things they needed to play. People called me for balls or paddles. They referred me to friends. There was no vision that this thing would grow into what it is today. If we thought this would be huge back then, people would have written it off as whiskey talk.”

As word spread about the game and players became more and more enthusiastic about it, the media started to take notice of this “craze” coming out of the Pacific Northwest.

“The publisher of our main newspaper in Seattle told a guy at a newspaper in New York about [pickleball], and he came out here and interviewed me,” Barney McCallum said. “I arranged games and he played and went back home. He called me from New York later asking how much a starter set cost. He called a second time and asked me if I was prepared to fulfill a lot of orders. I said, ‘Yes.’”

However, at $29.50, McCallum wasn’t quite prepared for the response the newspaper article generated. Checks from all over the country started flooding into his envelope factory, which was the address he used for pickleball merchandising. McCallum said
he got out his handsaw and started making paddles. He also said he and Pritchard decided at that point to get a copyright on the concept and a business was born.

“For the first 10 years, everybody wondered if it was going to die off and go away,” said David McCallum.

“We could not have made it without the support of free rent or a lot of capital,” Barney McCallum said. “What I sensed about the game was that it was a winner.”

While the rules of the game were set in stone pretty much as soon as the McCallum family returned home from their summer vacation that first year, as time when on, Barney McCallum did refine certain aspects of the sport, namely the paddles.

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