You probably know that in the summer of 1965 pickleball was invented on Bainbridge Island, off the coast of Seattle, Washington. Today, pickleball continues to be the fastest growing sport in the world and is loved by millions and millions of players throughout the world.
BUT DID YOU KNOW… several times throughout the history of the game, pickleball could have died. There was little activity, no one spreading the word and the fun—poof—it could have been gone, just like that. Here are four big Game Changers that kept our sport alive:
#1: 1975 Full-Page Newspaper Story in The National Observer
“What sports needs is a great leveler, a game in which victory doesn’t favor the player who is fastest, tallest, brawniest, youngest or even the most athletic. Stifle the snickering. Pickleball isn’t funny. It’s fun.” The article explains how to get a starter set for pickleball at home. The newspaper article even touches on “The Proper Uniform,” which teasingly says, “Women should wear tennis shoes, orange body suit, puffy polka-dot hat, and dark glasses. Men should wear tennis shoes and cut-offs.” So funny!
Founder Barney McCallum did share with us, “If you had to point to one thing (that promoted pickleball
beyond our area), that article was it!” And we can just picture Barney explaining the women’s uniform with his mischievous smile.
#2: Trade Shows
In conjunction with 1972’s passing of Title IX (gender equality in education and athletics), which had to be implemented by 1978, pickleball was presented at sporting trade shows trying to share what the game was and how organizations could order the equipment. This led to having a booth at several yearly trade shows including School & Education, Parks & Recreation, and campgrounds.
#3: The Composite Paddle
Arlen Paranto invented and produced the first composite pickleball paddle in the early 1980s. The paddle was made from scrap material from Boeing Aircraft, where he worked. He also crafted and invented an edge guard (which is still used today) to protect the core and layers of the paddle from delamination. No more wood paddles! These new composite paddles were much lighter and easier to maneuver, and created new buzz about the game.
#4: Sid Williams and the USAPA
Sid Williams ran many, and the only, tournaments in the 1980s, giving pickleballers the competition they craved. He founded the first USAPA in March 1984 in Tacoma, Washington, which stood for United States Amateur Pickleball Association. His persistence and dedication laid the foundation for today’s tournaments and USAPA, which recently updated its name to Sid Williams USA Pickleball.
Now you can have peace of mind like us, knowing how our favorite sport survived and that it’s alive and well—and will live forever.
Excerpts from the book “History of Pickleball – More Than 50 Years of Fun!” where these game changers, and more, are explained in depth, including the whole story of our wonderful