Pickleball Skill Level Definitions

Effective May 13, 2015 (revised May 7, 2015)

The following skill level sets are a guide for evaluating your own level and determining which round-robins you should play in. They were developed utilizing both existing guidelines listed by the USAPA (usapa.org) and from input from other pickleball clubs. This is a work in progress and we expect to continue to modify these descriptions, given input, at least once a year.

The club will use this information to develop training clinics and for seeding tournament players. Note: Excepting only events which require a USAPA-or club-approved rating level, you self-rate for all other non-rated events. (The large majority of round-robins are events.) This means you make your own decision about what level you should play in, in existing non-rated events, using the guidelines to assist in making that decision.

The purpose of rated events is to insure a consistent and competitive level of play for all players within that event as much as possible. Therefore we request that you do NOT sign up for a tournament or club event higher or lower than your rated skill level if you have a rating. Thanks!

The following lists each skill level from 2.5 to 4.0+. It also adds specific detail about skills required to be at a given level. .


Also see the SKILLS ASSESSMENT WORKSHEET for additional player expectations

Note: Above the 2.0 level, all levels should be able to demonstrate most of the skills for their level plus most of the skills from preceding levels. Thus a 2.5 level player, for example, demonstrates most skills in the 2.5 level list as well as most skills in the 2.0 level list, and so on.

2.0 Skill Level

  • Has taken the Bend Parks and Rec beginners lesson (or demonstrates equivalent knowledge)
  • Moves around court in balanced, safe manner
  • Gets some serves “in”, perhaps not regularly
  • Realizes aspects of score-keeping, rules and where to stand on court during serve, receipt of serve, and general play
  • Has some basic stroke skills

2.5 Skill Level

  • Able to serve “in” more regularly
  • Knows two-bounce rule and demonstrates it most times
  • Knows where to stand on the court during serve, receipt of serve and general play
  • Is mastering keeping score.
  • Attempts to dink but not always effective at it
  • Working on their form for ground strokes, accuracy is variable
  • Can keep the ball in play longer
  • Sometimes lobs with forehand with varying degrees of success.

3.0 Skill level

  •  Knows the fundamental rules and can keep score
  •  Regularly gets serves “in” to mid-court or deeper
  •  Dinks mostly in opp. kitchen and is dinking lower over the net
  •  Able to sustain dinking in the game
  •  Using both forehand and backhand on returns and forehands on overhead returns
  •  Working at keeping the serve deep and return of serve deep
  •  Moves quickly towards the non-volley zone when opportunity is there
  •  Trying to make flatter returns (where appropriate)
  •  Aware of partner’s position on the court & moving as a team
  •  Developing more power and/or softness in their shots
  •  Somewhat a uni-dimensional player working at broadening their playing repertoire.

3.5 Skill level

  • Demonstrates a broad knowledge of the rules of the game
  • Gets a high majority of serves in deep & returns serve deep
  • Often hits to the weak side of opponent
  • Demonstrates strategies of playing during games
  • Actively works with partners in communicating, covering court, moving to net
  • With varying consistency executes: lobs, forehand/backhand ground strokes, overheads, net volleys, and sustained dinking
  • Some use of drop shots to get to the net
  • Specifically places shots rather than just hitting shots anywhere
  • Selective mixing up soft shots with power shots to create an advantage
  • Hits fewer balls out of bounds or in the net
  • Has a moderate # of unforced errors per game
  • Demonstrates ability to intentionally play in offensive mode
  • Self-correcting after play is over
  • Demonstrates extended periods of multi-dimensional play

4.0 Skill Level

  • Primarily plays in an offensive mode rather than reactively
  • Controls and places serves and return of serves to best advantage
  • Puts advanced playing strategy into the game, particularly in dinking
  • Consistently varies shots for competitive advantage, uses power shots selectively
  • Communicates and moves well with partner — easily “switches” court positions
  • Very comfortable playing at the non-volley zone. Works with partner to control the line, keeping opponents back and driving them off the line.
  • Can block hard volleys directed at them
  • Has good footwork and moves laterally, backward and forward with ease.
  • Hits overhead shots consistently, often as putways
  • Ability to change a hard shot to a soft shot
  • Consistently executes effective drop shots that are not easily returned for advantage
  • Can effectively poach
  • Hits a low # of unforced errors per game
  • Regularly demonstrates “anticipation of play”
  • Self-correcting during play
  • Consistently is a mult-dimensional player and/or is exceptionally dominate in a limited playing repertoire.

 4.5 – 5.0 Skill Level

  • Can regularly convert a hard shot to a soft shot
  • Exhibits patience in play at a superior level
  • Shows noticeably increased skills, a higher level of strategy, quickness of hands and movement, judicious use of power, superior placement of shots, superb anticipation of play, sustained volleying skills, superior put-aways —all with consistency
  • Makes very few unforced errors

Differences between 4.5 and 5.0 are subjective – but, generally, each of the four points above is even more pronounced at the 5.0 level.