Are you ready for some pickleball?
The fastest-growing sport in the country now has multiple leagues competing for fans and dollars — and with each other.
Written By: Chris Smith
When Joel Pritchard died in October 1997, obituaries for the former congressman and lieutenant governor of Washington dutifully noted the highlights of his four-decade career in politics and how he “exemplified civility and bipartisanship.” Buried amid those marks of a public life well lived was usually a passing reference to what may yet prove to be Pritchard’s true legacy: He invented pickleball.
Legend has it that in 1965, Pritchard and some other fathers vacationing on Washington’s Bainbridge Island were looking for a way to keep their families entertained. He devised a game that was sort of a hybrid of tennis, badminton and ping pong and could be played by all age groups.
While Pritchard’s political career soon took off — he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 1972 — his invention did not. An official pickleball rulebook was not published until 1984, and the governing body of the sport, USA Pickleball, wasn’t formed until 2005. It’s likely that until just a few years ago, most Americans had never even heard of the game.
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