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Washington State Sport

Photo by Brendan Sapp on Unsplash

A Sport That's Taking Washington by Storm

Pickleball, a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, has been gaining popularity in recent years. It's a game that's easy to learn but difficult to master, making it accessible to players of all ages and skill levels. In Washington, Pickleball has become more than just a game; it's a community that's bringing people together and promoting physical fitness and mental wellness.

Origins and Official State Sport

Pickleball was invented in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington, and his friend Bill Bell. They were looking for a game that could be played by their families on a badminton court, but with a lower net and a smaller court size. They improvised with materials they had on hand, including a perforated plastic ball and wooden paddles. The game was an instant hit and quickly spread to other parts of the country.

Pickleball was officially recognized as the state sport of Washington on March 28, 2022 thanks in part to the efforts of the Washington State Pickleball Association (WSPA). The WSPA is a non-profit organization that promotes the sport through tournaments, clinics, and outreach programs. Pickleball has become a source of pride for Washingtonians, who see it as a reflection of their state's values of innovation, inclusivity, and community.

Rules, Equipment, and Terminology

Pickleball is played on a court that's roughly the size of a badminton court (20 feet wide and 44 feet long). The net is 36 inches high at the sidelines and 34 inches high at the center. The game is played with a perforated plastic ball (similar to a Wiffle ball) and paddles made of wood or composite materials. The rules are similar to tennis, with a few key differences:

  • The serve must be underhand and made diagonally across the court.
  • The ball must bounce once on each side before players can hit it in the air.
  • The non-volley zone (also known as the "kitchen") is a 7-foot area on either side of the net where players cannot hit the ball in the air (except on the volley).
  • Games are typically played to 11 points, with a two-point margin of victory.

Pickleball has its own unique terminology, including "dinks" (soft shots that barely clear the net), "lob" (a high, arching shot), and "third shot drop" (a shot that lands softly in the non-volley zone).

Growth and Popularity in Washington

Pickleball has exploded in popularity in Washington in recent years. According to the WSPA, there are now over 20,000 registered Pickleball players in the state, with more than 200 dedicated courts. The sport has become a fixture in many parks and community centers, with players of all ages and backgrounds coming together to play and socialize.

One of the biggest events on the Washington Pickleball calendar is the Bainbridge Cup, a tournament that attracts players from across the country and around the world. The tournament is held on Bainbridge Island, just a short ferry ride from Seattle, and features both amateur and professional divisions. The Bainbridge Cup has helped to put Washington on the map as a Pickleball destination and has contributed to the sport's growing popularity.

Profiles of Prominent Players, Coaches, and Enthusiasts

To get a sense of what makes Pickleball so special in Washington, we spoke with some of the sport's top players, coaches, and enthusiasts.

Jennifer Lucore

Jennifer Lucore is a professional Pickleball player and coach who has won numerous national championships. She's also an ambassador for the sport, traveling around the country to promote Pickleball and teach others how to play. For Lucore, Pickleball is more than just a game; it's a way of life.

"I love the social aspect of Pickleball," says Lucore. "You can play with people of all ages and skill levels, and you always come away with a smile on your face."

Lucore is also a big proponent of the health benefits of Pickleball. "It's a great workout that's easy on the joints," she says. "Plus, it's a lot of fun, so you don't even realize you're exercising."

Steve Paranto

Steve Paranto is the president of the WSPA and a longtime Pickleball enthusiast. He's seen the sport grow from a niche activity to a statewide phenomenon.

"It's amazing to see how Pickleball has taken off in Washington," says Paranto. "We have players of all ages and skill levels, from kids to seniors, and everyone is welcome."

Paranto believes that Pickleball's inclusivity is one of its biggest strengths. "It doesn't matter how old you are or how good you are," he says. "As long as you're willing to learn and have fun, you can play Pickleball."

Karen Parrish

Karen Parrish is a Pickleball coach and the founder of Pickleball Rocks, a company that sells Pickleball gear and promotes the sport through social media and events. She's also a cancer survivor who credits Pickleball with helping her stay mentally and physically strong during her treatment.

"Playing Pickleball gave me a sense of normalcy during a really tough time," says Parrish. "It helped me stay active and connected to other people, which was so important."

Parrish believes that Pickleball's social aspect is one of its biggest draws. "It's a great way to meet new people and make friends," she says. "Plus, it's a lot of fun, so you always leave feeling good."

Social and Health Benefits

Pickleball is more than just a game; it's a way to promote physical fitness, mental wellness, and community building. Studies have shown that playing Pickleball can improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase social connectedness. It's also a great way to get outside and enjoy the beautiful Washington scenery.

For many Pickleball players, the sport has become a way of life. They look forward to playing with their friends and fellow enthusiasts, and they take pride in being part of a growing community.

Controversies and Criticisms

Like any sport, Pickleball is not without its controversies and criticisms. Some people have complained about the noise that Pickleball courts can generate, especially in residential areas. Others have argued that Pickleball is taking away resources from other sports and activities.

The WSPA acknowledges these concerns but believes that Pickleball can coexist with other sports and activities. They encourage players to be respectful of their neighbors and to work with local officials to find solutions that benefit everyone.


Pickleball is a sport that's taking Washington by storm. It's a game that's easy to learn but difficult to master, and it's bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together. Whether you're a seasoned athlete or a first-time player, Pickleball offers something for everyone.

So why not give it a try? Head to your local park or community center and see what all the fuss is about. Who knows? You might just discover a new passion and become part of the growing Pickleball community.