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The Hidden History Of Pickleball

Plus where to play in North Texas
Photo: JennLShoots | Shutterstock

It's time to celebrate National Pickleball Day! The sport has become the new American pastime — everywhere you look, courts are popping up and friends are posting about it. But how did the sport become so popular? 

The game has actually been around since 1965, when one Saturday during the summer, Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington State, and Bill Bell, a businessman, were at Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, WA.  

With an existing badminton court on the property, Pritchard and Bell embarked on a search for badminton equipment. But they were unable to locate a complete set of rackets. Undeterred, they decided to make do with ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball, improvising their game and making the best of the available resources. At first, they placed the net at the badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. But as the weekend progressed, the players discovered the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and lowered the net to 36 inches. 

At the Pritchard home the following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game. The three men then collaborated to establish rules for the game, drawing inspiration primarily from badminton. Their aim was to create a game that could be enjoyed by the entire family. 

Now, families across the U.S. enjoy the game, especially in North Texas. 

 In 2021, pickleball was declared the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. by the Sport and Fitness Association. Deirdre Morris, a pickleball instructor, is credited with creating National Pickleball Day to encourage more people to play this sport.

USA Pickleball membership numbers reached 70,000 in February of 2023, after a nearly 30% increase in membership growth in 2022. In its 2023 Topline Participation Report, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) named pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America for the third year in a row. 

According to the report, pickleball is now up to a total of 8.9 million players in the U.S. over the age of six years old, an increase from 4.8 million in 2022. In March 2023, USA Pickleball and the Professional Pickleball Association announced that the 2023 USA Pickleball National Championships, presented by the PPA Tour, will be held in Dallas this November.

Where To Play In North Texas

There are several options for playing pickleball in Plano. The city is home to twelve indoor courts are available during scheduled open play times at Plano recreation centers, and 32 outdoor courts available at several PISD school sites and High Point Park Tennis Center

Indoor pickleball is also an option for hot days at Carpenter, Liberty, Oak Point and Tom Muehlenbeck Recreation Centers. Players must have a recreation membership or pay a daily fee.  

Frisco is also a pickleball-friendly city with multiple courts. The Frisco Athletic Center offers a $50 pass, worth 12 visits. The Grove at Frisco Commons has a free option for public play. Pickleball classes are also held at both locations. 

Allen’s pickleball scene is lively with five venues. Court availability is subject to change based on facility events and programming schedules. Players must bring their own net for outdoor courts, and courts are used on a first-come, first-served basis. 

If you’re hoping to snag a court and grab some food, Chicken and Pickle is the perfect spot. With locations in Grapevine and Grand Prairie, the restaurant and pickleball courts are sure to entertain.