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How Pickleball Was Named: The Controversy Behind the Name

pickle boat crew rowing

There are many stories about how Pickleball got its name, but two of the most popular ones are The Pickle Boat Story and the Dog Story. We’ll analyze both stories to see which one is true. While doing that, we’ll also look at how pickleball was established in 1965. So stay tuned as we try to figure out how pickleball got its name!

Table of Contents

The Dog Theory

Some sources say pickleball was named after the family dog, “Pickles”. But if Pickleball was established in 1965, then for the dog story to be true, Pickles must have been born on or before 1965. During the summer, the Pritchards invited their family friends, Dick and Joan Brown, who came along with their children, to stay over for the summer. That summer, the children got two puppies from a neighbor who gave them out for free. The first dog was named Pickles, while the second was named Lulu.

The Crew Boat Theory

The Pickle Boat story is widely believed to be the real truth behind the naming of the pickleball game, maybe because it was supported by both Joel and Joan Pritchard. Joan, who attended Marietta College, which had a competitive rowing team, was a lover and big-time supporter of the school’s college teams.

The game’s name, Pickleball, was inspired by Joan’s days in college and the crew “pickle boats”. A pickle boat is a thrown-together crew of available rowers. The sport itself is played with a hodge-podge of badminton, ping-pong, and tennis equipment and rules all thrown together. As such, Joan was credited with naming the game “Pickleball” after the pickle boats she used to see during her time at school.

Are Dog Stories More Fun?

According to Joel Pritchard, the dog theory was created to make the naming story of the game more fun. However, even some founding families have argued otherwise that the sport was named after the dog, Pickles. Some people may find the dog story more touching, but I believe the pickle boat story is more interesting and representative of the sport’s origination than the dog one.

You Decide Which Theory is the Real Pickleball Name Origination

After analyzing both stories, we will have to agree with the Pritchards, along with many other credible sources, including Joel Pritchard’s biography, which claims his wife, Joan Pritchard, named the sport Pickleball. She named it Pickleball because she was passionate about rowing while in college.

Interestingly, the game of pickleball was named in 1965, three years before the family dog Pickles was found. This suggests the dog was named after the game more likely than vice versa.

But if you find the dog story more fun, you could stick to it. After all, the story was fabricated to make the naming story more fun and interesting.

Which story do you like best?


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