Can you remember the first time you heard of the game called “pickleball?” I do, and also recall wondering what the heck the game was. Now, it is Washington’s official state sport as of March 28 when Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill making it such. He traveled to the unlikely birthplace of the sport to sign the bill: Bainbridge Island.
Way back in 1965, then-Washington state Rep. Joel Pritchard (later a congressman and lieutenant governor) and his friend Bill Bell finished a golf game and were looking for a backyard game for the families to play. Pritchard had a badminton court on his property on Bainbridge Island, but could not find enough badminton equipment for the bunch to use. Improvising, they gathered some ping-pong paddles, a whiffle ball, and started batting the ball back and forth over the badminton net. From that humble beginning, the fastest-growing sport in the United States sprouted.
Pritchard and Bell introduced their newly created game to their friend Barney McCullum, and together the three created rules for their game. Two years later they built a permanent court in the backyard of another friend, Bob O’Brian. As the game gained steam around the Pacific Northwest, Pickleball Inc., was founded in 1972 further legitimizing the sport.
The name “pickleball” seems to have a dual origin. Pritchard’s dog whose name was (you guessed it!) Pickles joined in the frolic by snatching the ball while in play and running off with it. Hence, Pickle’s ball. However, Joan Pritchard says she started calling the game pickleball because the cobbled together nature of the game reminded her of the “pickle boat” in crew racing where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.
According to USA Pickleball Association, there are several reasons the game is “highly contagious.” It is easy to learn, appropriate for players of all ages and skill levels, a great social activity, healthy exercise for mind and body, and a “wonderful alternative for older players who used to play tennis, but have physical limitations such as hip, shoulder, knee, or other joint problems.” A recent convert from tennis to pickleball told me her draw to the sport: “It’s the ease and action. In tennis, usually the most hits on one point are three. In pickleball, it’s nine.”
Pickleball is popular in the Methow Valley, with courts available in the winter at the Methow Valley Community Center and the elementary school. In the warmer seasons, tennis courts around the valley and the Winthrop Rink also have pickleball lines. Here in Mazama, there is a pickleball court available for use by anyone at the Mazama Community Club. For information, see Methow Valley Pickleball on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other news in Mazama: Alan Fahnestock reports that the funding for the fire hydrant project has reached its goal and further donations are not needed at this time. That’s certainly a successful outcome for another much-needed community project.
Looney Creek came calling very early this year with the warmer temperatures and snowmelt.