Pickleball is quickly becoming a famous sport because of its beginner-friendly playstyle and interesting gameplay. But one question that constantly plagues the minds of new players is: what’s the relationship between pickleball and pickles?
Why would a game about hitting balls with paddles be named after a fermentation process for fruits and vegetables?
Don’t worry. We pickleball experts have got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about pickleball and pickles—all in one article.
History of Pickleball
Although pickleball has only started gaining popularity in recent years, the sport actually originated in the summer of 1965. Joel Pritchard—a congressman at the time—and his friends Bill Bell and Barney McCallum were in Pritchard’s cabin on Bainbridge Island, Washington, with their children when they noticed that everyone was bored and had nothing to do.
The group decided to play badminton on an old badminton court, but they couldn’t find a shuttlecock or racquet. Improvising, they chose some ping pong paddles and a plastic ball to play with instead. This was the start of pickleball as we know it today.
Because of how much everyone—kids included—enjoyed the game, they decided to make the first permanent pickleball court in the backyard of Pritchard’s neighbor and friend, Bob O’Brian. This dedicated court marked the transition of pickleball from a family game to a new sport, which eventually evolved into the nationwide craze it is today.
History of Pickles
Pickles, on the other hand, had a much earlier start. Some 4,000 years ago, Mesopotamians started experimenting with preserving their cucumbers in acidic brine. While the cucumbers did end up being preserved, their taste would also alter as they absorbed the acidic juices.
The reason pickles are closely associated with cucumbers (even though pickling is technically a process of fermentation) is because, for the longest time, cucumbers were the only vegetables being pickled.
Now, 4,000 years later, there are tons of pickled fruits, vegetables, and cuisines around the world.
The Relationship Between Pickleball and Pickles
So, how do pickles and pickleball relate to each other? What is the relationship, and why is it important?
To be frank, they have nothing in common. Yes, you heard that right. It’s nothing about the color or the process of the game or pickling. The term “pickleball” actually has two well-known origin stories.
The first story is that “pickleball” was named after Joel’s adopted dog, Pickles, who got into the habit of picking up the wiffle ball whenever the families played. This popular theory has been officially debunked since Pickles was actually born 3 years after the invention of pickleball. In fact, Pickles was named after pickleball—not the other way around.
According to Joel Pritchard himself, the new sport was named “pickleball” because of his wife, Joan Pritchard. Joan was a competitive rower in the past, and she came up with the name “Pickleball” because the game reminded her of a “pickle boat”, which is a team of rowers made up of all the oarsmen who weren’t picked to join the winning teams.
The term basically refers to a weaker, mismatched boat crew. At the time, pickleball players consisted of the families’ children, grandparents, and parents, all possessing varying levels of skills. So, Joan thought the name was apt.
Could You Play Pickleball with Pickles?
But what if pickleball and pickles DID have something in common?
Could you play pickleball with pickles? Can you even hit a pickle strong enough to let it land on the opposite side of the court without having the pickle smash itself into a thousand pieces? What would happen if you used a pickle as a paddle instead?
These are silly questions, yes. But as dedicated pickleball players, we’ve decided to answer them today!
Can you use a pickle as a pickleball paddle?
Theoretically, you should be able to use a pickle as a pickleball paddle. Pickled cucumbers are generally sturdy, especially if they’re fresh from the store and haven’t been opened in the last 7 to 14 days. Add this to the fact that you use light, plastic balls to play pickleball, and you honestly can throw a good serve using a pickle.
The only problem that comes to mind here would be holding the slippery pickle. Oh, and managing to hit the ball despite using such a thin “paddle”.
Can you use a pickle as a ball in pickleball?
Can you replace the lightweight, plastic wiffle ball with a pickle in pickleball?
Yes, but only once. Unfortunately, no pickle will survive getting hit by a paddle that’s strong enough to send it flying over tens of feet. At best, you’ll be left with a stinky paddle, two pickles lodged in separate directions, and tons of pickle juice sprayed all over the person serving.
Do Pickles Make a Great Pickleball Snack?
If you actually managed to read through this article and got a kick at the satirically-written, factual review on pickles and pickleball, then keep your eye out for this section. We’re back to being serious!
Yes, pickles do make a great pickleball snack. Pickled cucumbers are high in sodium, meaning they have tons of electrolytes—the same electrolytes found in energy drinks like Gatorade, Red Bull, and more. Outside of that, pickles make a great snack because of their incredibly sour taste that will wake you up and help you focus momentarily on your match.
Just make sure you don’t eat too many pickles, though. You don’t want to pace the court and run around on a stomach full of pickles. You’re practically begging to cough it all up. Trust us—you don’t want to vomit out pickles. They taste better coming in than they do going out.