The Wacky Sport of Pickleball Invades Northeast Wisconsin

pickleball in Wisconsin

Have you heard of it? If not, you will soon. Pickleball, one of America’s fastest growing sports, has found its way to northeast Wisconsin.

A combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong gives us a great new way to compete that is quickly picking up attention across the world (Pickleball Spain is an actual thing). The USAPA even states that the number of places to play has doubled since 2010, and there are places to play in all 50 states. I guess you could say it’s kind of a big dill.

But before we get into the nuts and bolts of the tournament, allow me to introduce you to the sport that has been exploding across the country, and give you a little peek into its history. It wouldn’t be kosher if I didn’t.

The History of Pickleball

Pickleball inventor, Joel Pritchard

Pickleball inventor, Joel Pritchard

Created in the mid-1960s, Pickleball started at the home of Joel Pritchard of Bainbridge, Washington. He and a few friends relished the idea of giving their kids something unique and different to do for the afternoon, so they attempted to start a game of badminton.

After no one could find the shuttlecock, they decided to use a wiffle ball instead. This put a new twist on the game, and after they fashioned some paddles out of plywood, the bread and butter of the concept of Pickleball was born.
So, why did they name it Pickleball? The world may never really know.

No one has ever been able to agree on which story is correct. The most popular tale claims that it came from the name of the family dog: Pickles. Although the press seems to have favored it through the years, the Pritchard children reject that story and state that their dog came along two years after Pickleball was created.

The second story comes from Joan Pritchard herself (Joel’s wife). She says that she named it after the losing boat in rowing races: the pickle boat. The pickle boat was often comprised of leftover oarsmen, and this fact reminded her of the hodge-podge origin of Pickleball.

How the Game Works

Most people catch on to the rules pretty quickly, and are able to start playing in as little as 15 minutes.
The court is about ⅓ of the size of a tennis court, with a lower net. There’s also a 7-foot section in front of the net called the “non-volley zone.” This rule is meant to prevent players from executing smashes from that area.

The official ball used in game play is just like a wiffle ball, only smaller. The tinny, popping sound of a pickleball hitting the paddle is actually one of the first things that grabbed my attention. (Think: Swedish Chef popping popcorn). You might think that it sounds easy, but because the ball doesn’t bounce nearly as high, it can be a challenge.

The racquets are between the size of a ping-pong paddle and a tennis racquet, in a rounded-rectangular shape (real life comparison: looks exactly like a cutting board I have in my kitchen).

You can play singles and doubles. Scoring is somewhat similar to volleyball or tennis. Only the serving team can score – and you play to 11 – but must win by two points.

There’s also something called “the double bounce rule.” It requires the team receiving the serve to let the ball bounce once before serving, then the serving team must also let the ball bounce once. After that – it’s fair game and players can volley back and fort until a point is scored.

Those are the basic rules. But there is more to it. Check out a more complete Rules Summary from the USAPA, or if you really want to get into it you can read all the Official Rules of Pickleball – as governed by the International Federation of Pickleball.

Want to get in on it? Statewide, Wisconsin boasts over 90 places to play, including Fish Creek, Sturgeon Bay, Green Bay and Oshkosh. There is even a Pickleball Wisconsin Facebook Page, and website, and they are waiting for you to get off your gherkin and join in the fun! You’ll have your chance in September. That’s when Green Bay will host a pickleball tournament.

Event Details

  • What: Northeast Wisconsin Pickleball Tournament
  • When: Saturday, September 6, 2014
  • Where: Edison Middle School
  • Cost: $10 per pickleball player
  • Website: Visit for more info

Grab your friends and head to Northeast Wisconsin’s pickleball Northeast Wisconsin’s Pickleball Tournament! You have until August 22nd to register.

Think outside the jar and try it for yourself, or at least get out and cheer on the pickleball participants. Tell them Peter Piper sent you.

Watch These Videos to Find Out More About Pickleball


  1. Sounds like GREAT family fun! It should be an added tournament to our family’s summer long weekend at the beach. Between Ladder ball and Pickle, we’d be busy! But, perhaps there can be some more “winners” too. I think the kids should begin training now! LOL!

  2. Just a note to inform everyone that the finest pickleball courts in NE WI. are at Maxwelton Braes Resort in Baileys Harbor, WI. Recentally constructed & lined last fall, these courts offer a game on a smooth surface using portable nets. Everyone is invited to play. The number to call 920-839-2321. Regular play takes place every Mon & Fri. at 1PM. Wed play is at 9AM. Please feel free to join in at any time.

    • Jamie Steinbrinck says

      Thanks for the info, Jim! Sounds like some nice, new courts that need to be broken in. 🙂

      And Amy – Pickleball would be awesome to add to the mix. We definitely would have room for a court!

  3. Sue (Klaubauf) Bodilly says

    My brothers and I played thought we invented this in the late 70s. We played with wooden cutting boards as our paddles and tennis balls on a concrete playing surface and made up rules as we went along! We called it paddleball. We just didn’t know how to market the sport, lol. I love this sport and have begun to play regularly in Green Bay – Edison courts. Come join us! If you ever played tennis, racquetball or badminton, you will easily pick it up. If you haven’t, come try it, anyway!

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