Blog Insight

Pickleball: Dog or Boat?

There are many stories about whether the fastest-growing sport in America, pickleball, was named after Pickles the dog (favorite family member of one of the inventors) who liked to chase the pickleball ball. Or whether it was named after the crew rowing boat that gets all the mismatched team members (called the Pickle Boat). Dog or Boat? More to come on this controversary below. 

According to The Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) in their annual 2023 Annual Pickleball Participation Report, 36.5 million have played pickleball at least once in the last year, there are over 10,000 places to play pickleball in the US alone, and pickleball is growing at an average rate of 158.6% per year. It is a stunning hockey stick of enthusiasm for the sport. Recently an NPR story about pickleball talked about putting pickleball courts in malls, adding to the activities like “mall walking.”  

But Pickleball is not just a senior sport. In fact, the latest research from the APP shows that “the average age of avid pickleball players is 34.8. More than 70% of avid pickleball players are between the ages of 18 and 44; 40% are between 25 and 34, and 18% are between 18 and 24.” 

Pickleball has a rich Northwest history. 

Pickleball, as most Seattleites know, was born on Bainbridge Island in Washington state in 1965. The game was started by three dads, Joel Pritchard, William Bell, and Barney McCallum, who were looking for activities to keep their summer vacation kids from getting bored. The first day ping pong paddles were utilized, but ended up breaking and were too small for the larger ball. That evening, Barney McCallum, a well-known solutioneer on Bainbridge Island, went to his bandsaw to create a larger, stronger paddle that would take this invented game to its next level. And so, the game, much as it stands today, was born. It was finally named the official sport of Washington State in 2022. 

DCG ONE and Pickleball 

Barney McCallum, of paddle fame, and McCallum Envelope were the origin entrepreneur and origin company of DCG ONE. Just like the Pickleball paddle itself, it all started in Barney McCallum’s garage. Barney invented a converting machine, which produced a self-mailer with a built-in perforation that separates the return envelope from the mailer, originally called the “Unit ONE.”  Since that lively garage in 1965, McCallum Envelope has been shaped by the coming together of many companies, commercial printers, direct mail and fulfillment, and marketing agencies to become what it is today: DCG ONE, a nationwide marketing services and solutions powerhouse.  

Our fabulous client, Babolat 

And if all that weren’t cool enough, The Agency at DCG ONE supports Babolat, a French racquet sports company, which has created a line of pickleball paddles for the pickleball enthusiast. Babolat’s paddles are loaded with technology that allow for maximum spin, power, and control, plus have super graphics to inspire the hippest of pickleball players. Susan DiBiase, general manager of Babolat USA, has been a proponent of pickleball from the beginning, “now that clubs and facilities are realizing new revenue streams from pickleball and can invest in infrastructure upgrades to tennis facilities, tennis players are seeing the benefits of peaceful co-existence.”  

Babolat is also the creator of two of the top selling tennis racquets worldwide, the Babolat Pure Drive, and the Babolat Pure Aero (the racquet of former world #1 Rafael Nadal and 2022 World #1 Carlos Alcarez). Babolat also is a leader in badminton and padel (a racquet sport that started in Spain, is huge in Europe, and gaining traction in the US) equipment worldwide. Check out all their racquets at the Babolat site:  

So…dog or boat?  

Joan Pritchard, the wife of Joel Pritchard, one of the founders of Pickleball, has been quoted as saying “The name of the game became Pickle Ball, after I said it reminded me of the Pickle Boat in crew where the oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.” Pickleball is a game that Is part tennis, part ping pong, part wiffleball, with rules made up as a hodge podge of a variety of sports. Pickles the Dog, reported by pickleball aficionados who have deeply studied this issue, was born after the sport was invented. But a late-breaking interview for this blog casts doubt on this conclusion: Betsy McCallum Kenney, daughter of Barney McCallum, who was there when it all started, says that Barney always maintained it was the dog that drove the name. “The records weren’t kept very well then, because who knew pickleball would become so famous?” said Betsy. 

The mystery remains unsolved. But we Seattleites will take it either way since we are famous for our state sport, pickleball, and famous for our University of Washington rowing team. Boys in the Boat is a great book by Daniel James Brown about how an unlikely group of young men during the depression went on to win the 8-man Rowing Gold in the 1936 Olympics. It is now an inspiring movie, directed by George Clooney. Dog or boat, we’ve got you covered!