Do you want to know more about the different Pickleball skills Levels or maybe you want to assess where you may fall in the pickleball rating spectrum.
There are eight official pickleball skill levels, from 1 to 5.5+ that can be used for beginner, intermediate, and advanced players.
As a new player, you will start at level 1 and slowly progress based on your ability, as well as your willingness to put in the time to practice and establish solid technique and strategies.
The unofficial skill levels that describe where you are on your pickleball journey are essentially: beginner and you progress to being an intermediate player and, finally, an advanced player.
But it’s often useful to know your numerical rating such as in the case that you want to be a tournament player.
Consequently, tournaments are also the best place to obtain a rating. Do you best to self rate by getting input from higher level players or USA Pickleball ambassadors so that you enter the appropriate level for your skill.
You will obtain a rating based on your performance in tournament play. This is thanks to the fact that most other players at the tournament will alrady have a rating so the system can assess how you stack up based on how well or poorly you do against the competition.
What are the Pickleball Skill Level Ratings?
There are two types of pickleball rating systems currently in use, a 2-digit legacy rating system and a 4-digit rating system.
The two systems run side-by-side but the 4-digit rating system is used by USAPA (USA Pickleball Association) to calculate the rating of each tournament player based on their performance in each match.
This pickleball rating system is called the “USPA Tournament Player Rating” (UTPR).
The UTPR runs from 1.000 to 6.999 and you move up or down in increments of 0.001. The system is based on the ELO rating system and is self-correcting.
Each player’s rating changes with the outcome of each match. The winner takes points from the loser and, over time, each player will reach the correct rating for their skill level.
Are you ready to learning more about the official pickleball rating levels?
1.0 to 2.0 Skill Rating
These are ratings for beginner players who are new to the game. They may know the rules but they’ve likely not played a complete game without help from others. They are still trying to grasp the rules well enough to play correctly. It’s possible that these players are new to sports.
With a bit of playing experience, players advance to a level 2.0 where they are now a little more skilled than a complete newbie. They can serve successfully some of the time and can sustain a rally for a few shots.
They still miss fairly often and have a high number of unforced errors. Their stroke weaknesses and court position may need some development.
You can expect a player at level 2.0 to know more about the rules. They can keep up with the scoring and understand the basics of groundstrokes despite not having the level of technique necessary to execute them well.
They can use a variety of strokes, such as the forehand and backhand. They’ll also be more adventurous and attempt to volley closer to the net.
They can get the game started by serve the ball successfully. They’ll also start to appreciate where on the court they should be in relation to their teammate and the opposition.
They will know the rules applicable to doubles, specifically scoring, but may not be winning much as they are still very close to the beginning of learning the game.
2.5 Skill Rating
By the time a player reaches a rating of 2.5, they have spent a bit of time on the court and can rally as well as return most of the easier balls without a fault.
They’re also better at rallying and can keeping score.
They have a much better basic understanding of the non-volley zone and the rules that apply to it. They will return balls played into the non-volley zone and avoid faulting by stepping over the non-volley line when returning the ball out of the air.
They generally start to make less basic rules errors.
3.0 Skill Rating
These players know and understand the basic pickleball strokes. They can maintain a rally as well as serve and keep the momentum of the game going. They are much quicker around the court and when returning offensive shots.
They may know where they want the ball to go but not have the technique yet to get it there each time.
It is at this level that players start to think about learning some of the more tricky shots, such as overhead shots, lobs and dinks. Lobbing the ball over their opponent’s head to force them to the back of the court will provide them with a new shot with which to improve their game.
They may try for a dink into their opponent’s non-volley zone. This low momentum shot takes skill to accomplish and is much more difficult for their opponent to return. Their shot selection will open up the opportunity to play a slightly more strategic game.
It is at this time that a player may consider entering their first tournament.
3.5 Skill Rating
Players at this level have an above-average level of play and have more control over the ball. They are comfortable with medium-paced shots but may struggle a bit with fast-paced shots. It is still not unusual for them to miss or mishit these shots.
Players will have a good knowledge of the game at this level and be able to handle new shots and techniques. They’ll start to master the backhand and will be serving well.
They mix up their game play with the ability to rally for extended periods and can make use of the non-volley zone strategically. They use soft shots such as dinks and drops more extensively.
They can anticipate where soft shots will land and are better able to play doubles matches. Their basic understanding of the fundamentals of doubles play as well as being aware of what their partner is doing is increased.
They are able to start using pickleball strategies to improve their game and have an understanding of stacking.
4.0 Skill Rating
As a level 4 player, a player will be on the verge of mastering the game of pickleball. They have both the timing and the control to play a variety of shots and are comfortable playing confidently. They vary their game and can make their opponents move to areas of the court that they can take advantage of.
This is where players up their spin game. They will confidently start to impart top spin and backspin to their shots, causing the ball to behave erratically when it hits the opposing team’s side of the net.
Players will now be better able to judge their opponent’s ability and will look for weaknesses to exploit. They can dink successfully, play drop shots, and also judge their ability to reach a dink or play the soft game.
These players can work together with their doubles partners so that their combined game is better. They start to bring out the best in their teammates with the ability to control their positioning on the court.
They will also know when to break the traditional patterns of play to bring about an advantageous court position.
4.5 Skill Rating
Level 4.5 skills are an extension of what players have learned at level 4.0, just better. The fundamentals are there, as is the footwork and the basic shots. All of this is executed with a greater level of consistency and accuracy. They can spin the ball successfully at will and can manipulate their opponents using their improved technique.
They are better able to exploit their opponent’s weaknesses & overcome their strengths and play more strategically. Their serves are well-controlled and consistent. Their ability to control the speed and power of their shots will have their opponents guessing.
They have developed a broad knowledge of the game and are working hard to master it.
Their doubles play is now more intuitive, with the ability to anticipate where their partner will play the ball as finely tuned as their ability to spot what their opponents are going to do. As in chess, these players now play 1 or 2 steps ahead of the game.
5.0 Skill Rating
At level 5.0, players have reached a point where their ability to play shots is fully mastered. Both the length and depth, speed, spin and power of each shot are measured carefully and the return is anticipated well in advance.
The ability to anticipate and adjust their game means these players are rarely caught off guard and can force errors from their opponents. Applying spin to their shots is second nature and skills like their 3rd Shot strategies are deployed with much more variety and careful selection leading to good outcomes more frequently.
Those players with a natural athletic ability will succeed more easily as their quickness, natural agility, and ball sense will help to overcome less naturally talented players.
This is where additional practice and dedication will help those players who are perhaps not as agile nor as athletic as their opponents.
For anyone that is not limited by some kind of permanent physical disability, this level of play can be achieve with planning, dedication and a consistent executed training regimen.
Footwork, the ability to change direction and control one’s balance, is key for success at this level.
5.5+ Skill Rating
Players at this rating are the consistent tournament winners. They are on top of their game, being patient and cunning while forcing errors from their opponents and not committing unforced errors themselves.
It is often that players at this level are successful through superior natural athleticism.
How Do You Determine Your Skill Level In Pickleball
Club, league and pickleball tournaments require a rating, either a 2-digit or 4-digit number. This is to ensure that you are matched with players of similar ability and skills. Tournament directors keep a close eye on the rating system and monitor the official ratings and pickleball rankings of top players.
While tournament players’ ratings are set by the association in terms of the UTPR system, club, and league players rate according to their self-assessment in terms of the guidelines mentioned above, as well as the guidelines of larger pickleball clubs.
For an enjoyable game, it is important that you have an accurate pickleball rating.
Beginner Vs Intermediate Pickleball Player
Beginner pickleball players are classified as those who fall within the 1.000 to 2.999 rating. On the lower spectrum of this range are the players new to the game and are just learning the basics of playing pickleball as well as how to score.
In the higher range of this spectrum are what one might call “advanced beginners” who are beyond these basics. They play according to the rules and keep score independently but still have a lot to learn both in terms of hitting shots with good technique and playing with smart strategy. They make lots of unforced errors.
Intermediate players tend to be rated between 3.000 and 3.700. They have a slightly better understanding of the game and can hold their own on the court.
They have not yet mastered the game but have played enough to be able to reach most shots and return shots quite quickly. They are also able to serve reliably and maintain a rally.
Ratings play an important part in the game of pickleball, as they help to match players with others of a similar skill set and ability.