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Pickleball officially becomes Washington’s state sport

A man gets ready to serve during a game of pickleball.

A man gets ready to serve during a game of pickleball.

LPETTET / Getty Images

Pickleball is now the official sport in Washington.

Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5615 on Monday afternoon during a ceremony at Bainbridge Island’s home ground, where the sport was invented in 1965. He was joined by community members Stu Upson – CEO of Pickleball USA – and State Senator John Lovick, sponsor of the bill.

Inslee began the ceremony by jokingly invoking the founders and saying that all are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights. “Among those rights are the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of pickleball,” he said. “Hail this sport, and sing its praise from the birthplace of the pickleball to the farthest reaches of the earth.”

Pickleball is a combination of other racket sports such as tennis, badminton and ping-pong. Players use a small racket or paddle to hit a perforated polymer ball – think whip ball – over a tennis-like net on a badminton-like court. But unlike other racket sports, players must let the ball bounce once before volleying, and each side of the court has a 7-foot zone that extends from the net where volleyball is not allowed.

It was invented by Seattle-born Joel Pritchard, who once served as Washington’s lieutenant governor and as the U.S. Representative for the state’s First Congressional District.

Hoping to entertain their bored families one summer afternoon, Pritchard and a friend tried to start a game of badminton on an aging court in Pritchard’s summer cottage, but were unable to find enough equipment. They improvised using a whip ball and pieces of plywood from a nearby shed.

It is unclear how the sport first grew in the Northwest Pacific, but what is clear is that it began to spread across the United States in the 1980s and 90s, when the region’s “snowbirds” brought the game with them to warmer states. during their annual trips to escape the area’s cold winter temperatures.

Now, pickleball is one of America’s fastest growing sports. The number of players in the United States increased by 21% between 2019 and 2020, and Pickleball USA estimates that more than 4 million people play at 8,500 locations across the country.

Many attribute the sport’s growing popularity to its availability. Inslee touched on this during his comments at Monday’s ceremony.

“This is a sport for the crowds, it’s a sport that everyone can play,” he said. “And I mean everyone.”

As the official state sport, pickleball joins the willow finch (state bird), steelhead trout (state fish), western hemlock (state tree), apple (state fruit), coastal rhododendron (state flower) and Walla Walla sweet onion (state vegetable) in the pantheon of state symbols.

Washington also joins several other states that have officially inaugurated recreational activities, including Alaska (dog sledding), Colorado (pack burro racing), Maryland (jousting), Minnesota (ice hockey), North Carolina (stock car racing), and California and Hawaii ( surfing). Texas, Wyoming and South Dakota have each made rodeo their state sport.

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