Pickleball uses a rating system to rank pickleball players from beginners to experts. Ratings go from Level 1.0 (beginner) to Level 5.0 (top players). For more help understanding the game take a look at Pickleball Rules Made Easy. Pickleball skill ratings are used primarily to match players in league or tournament play. Even if you don’t play in tournaments it is useful to know your rating. Knowing your rating will let you speak knowledgeable about your game, find players with whom you are equally matched, and helps you improve your game by showing you what skills to improve.
So what are the pickleball skill ratings and what do they mean regarding your skill level?
Official pickleball skill ratings remove “relativity” and “political” influences. But politics exists even in pickleball ratings! A definite advantage of official ratings is that they are more objective; however, they aren’t without limitations.
Ratings for pickleball are usually given as a 2-digit or 4-digit number. An individual’s skill level is determined by how well they can execute different shots, such as the forehand, backhand, serve, dink, third shot, and volley, as well as their ability to understand strategy. Ultimately, every aspect of how you play the game is considered when determining a rating.
What are the different pickleball ratings?
Two-digit ratings are legacy ratings. Club and league play is usually done with these ratings. In 2019, the 4-digit rating went into effect. Tournaments are played using this system, which is based on the Elo rating. These ratings change after each match.
USA Pickleball Ratings
Here is the breakdown of the 2-digit skill rating by USA Pickleball (the full definition can be found on the official website):
- New player with understanding of the game and rules.
- Can hit the ball back and forth a bit
- Learning to serve
- Fails to hit easy balls frequently
- Beginning to learn the basic rules such as scoring, lines, sideouts, etc.
- Sustains short rallies
- Makes basic strokes such as forehand, backhand, volley, and can serve the ball
- Understands court positioning and doubles rules
- Can sustain longer rallies but not a fast pace
- Makes most easy shots including backhands, but still needs some work
- Able to approach the non-volley zone and hit volleys.
- Aware of dinks. For quick definitions check out our glossary of terms
- Good understanding of the rules
- Struggles to cover the entire court
- Has a onsistent serve and returns medium-paced balls reliably.
- Able to make all basic strokes. Lacks control when trying to place the ball.
- Attempts lobs and dinks with limited success.
- Consistent control and placement of medium-paced shots. Able to return fast-paced shots with slightly less success.
- Improved control and placement of the ball.
- Needs more shot variety.
- Can play aggressively at the non-volley zone.
- Anticipates opponent’s shots.
- Learning the strategy of doubles play.
- Consistent both forehand and backhand strokes.
- Can use spin with some success.
- Can occasionally force errors when serving.
- May lose rallies due to impatience.
- Uses the dink and drop shot successfully.
- Demonstrates 3rd shot strategies.
- Aggressive net play in doubles.
- Full understanding of the rules.
- Beginning to master placement and spin.
- Beginning to master 3rd shot choices.
- Good footwork and positioning.
- Adjusts game style to account for opponent’s strengths/weaknesses and court position.
- Good shot selection. Does not force shots.
- Serves consistently and can vary speed and spin.
- Good court positioning. Anticipates opponent’s shot.
- Mastered all shot types.
- Excellent shot anticipation.
- Accurate shot placement.
- Forces errors. Limits their own unforced errors.
- Mastered dinks and dropshots.
- Mastered 3rd shot strategy.
- Mastered different strategies and can vary play style.
- Raw athletic ability is often what separates 5.0 players from the rest.
Chances are you have an idea of where you fall within the rating system. If you’re new to the game you can get some ideas on how and where to play in our Beginner’s Guide to Pickleball