It is amazing to see the progression and growth of pickleball over these 55 years.
Watch an interview with co-founder Barney McCallum as he discusses the inception of pickleball:
“From day one, we fought the idea of big people, powerful people, domineering the game. This put every size and shape, right into it. . . . We wanted to achieve balance among the players.”
The depth of the non-volley line, the underhand serve, and the double-bounce rule (ball must bounce once on each side for the serve and the return) all came out of trying to achieve balance between players and to make it fun for everyone.
Most of those initial rules have not changed throughout the years, but updates occur occasionally to match changing conditions. Initially, many pickleball courts had tight boundaries or obstacles that hindered the serve, therefore the sport originally allowed you to serve with one foot within the baseline. Sometimes situations occur and rule clarifications need to happen, like specifying that you may only use one paddle while playing (11.O.), or you need to have a least one foot on the ground while serving (4.A.3).
Until Arlen Paranto developed the first composite paddle in 1984, most paddles were made of wood. In comparison to today’s paddle, these were heavy and made it harder to control the ball. Today we have the choice of hundreds of options as manufacturers now market paddles of differing shapes, lengths, weight, and composition.
I find it interesting that the basic game hasn’t changed much in its 55 years. We need to give the founders a lot of credit to their personal commitment to develop a game balanced for all people.
In the next installment of Fifty-Five Years Of Pickleball, we talk about the amazing growth this sport has seen in recent years.
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