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Pickleball Skill Level Definitions

Feb 19, 2017

Pickleball Skill Level

Help Me Understand My Pickleball Skill Level!

Knowing your numeric pickleball skill level can be a bit tricky when starting out. Read on to find out more regarding pickleball skill level definitions to see where you fit. This article will provide you a good idea of where you rank. From there the best test is simply playing a variety of players, understand their skill level, and seeing how you stack up! You may think you're a 3.5 but find you're actually very competitive against a 4.0 player.

It is important to be honest with yourself and your opponents about your true skill level. As your skills advance continue to climb to higher skill level matches. And if time slows you down drop down a notch. 

Without further ado here are is a guide to pickleball skill levels:


Level 1.0

  • New player with limited knowledge of the game


Level 1.5
  • Learning the rules of pickleball, scoring, and generally how to play the game
  • Learning how to serve
  • Developing ability to hit a forehand
  • Unable to execute simple shots with regularity
  • Have taken a beginner lesson or two


Level 2.0

  • Has participated in novice and beginning skills practice
  • Can navigate the court in a controlled and safe manner
  • Able to get serves "in" on a semi-regular basis
  • Understands aspects of score-keeping, rules and where to stand on the court during serve, receive of serve, and general play
  • Has some basic stroke skills, backhand, forehand, volley but has obvious weaknesses
  • Understands basic positioning concepts in doubles play


Level 2.5

  • Able to serve “in” fairly consistently
  • Knows the 'two bounce rule' (i.e. each team must play their first shot off the bounce) and demonstrates it most times
  • Knows where to stand on the court during serve, serve receive and general play
  • Is mastering keeping score
  • Aware of the soft game and occasionally tries to dink
  • Working on form for ground strokes, accuracy is variable
  • Makes longer lasting slow paced rallies
  • Sometimes lobs with forehand with varying degrees of success
  • Beginning to approach the non-volley zone to hit volleys
  • Court coverage is weak but is improving
  • Knows fundamental rules and can keep score 


Level 3.0

  • Working to keep the serve and serve receive deep
  • Moves quickly towards the non-volley zone when opportunity is there
  • Trying to make flatter returns (where appropriate)
  • More aware of their partner’s position on the court and moving more as a team
  • Developing more power in shots
  • Beginning to attempt lobs and dinks with little success and doesn’t fully understand when and why they should be used
  • Demonstrates improved skills with all the basic shot strokes and shot placement but lacks control when trying for direction, depth or power on shots 


Level 3.5

  • Demonstrates a broad knowledge of the rules of the game
  • Gets high majority of serves “in”
  • Able to serve and return serve deep
  • Hits to the weak side of opponent often
  • Demonstrates more strategies of playing during games
  • Works better with partners in communicating, covering court, moving to net
  • With varying consistency executes: lobs, forehand/backhand ground strokes, overheads, net volleys, and sustained dinking
  • Starting to use drop shots in order to get to the net
  • Knows when to make some specific placed shots in the game
  • Working on mixing up soft shots with power shots to create an advantage
  • Hits fewer balls out of bounds or in the net
  • Dinks mostly in opponents' kitchen and dinks lower over the net
  • Able to sustain dinking in the game
  • Has a moderate number of unforced errors 


Level 4.0

  • Has good mobility, quickness, and hand eye coordination
  • Poaches effectively
  • Knows when to use and can accurately place lobs
  • Creates coverage gaps and then consistently hits into these gaps
  • Play quite consistently in all phases of the game
  • Anticipates opponents shots resulting in good court position
  • Primarily plays offensively
  • Controls and places serves and return of serves to best advantage
  • Puts strategy into play in the game
  • Consistently varies shots to create a competitive advantage
  • Works and moves well with partner – easily switches court positions when required
  • Very comfortable playing at the non-volley zone. Works with partner to control the line, keeping opponents back and driving them off line
  • Can block volleys directed at them
  • Has good footwork and moves laterally, backward and forward with ease
  • Uses strategy in dinking to get a put-away shot
  • Consistently executes effective drop shots
  • Demonstrates 3rd shot strategies: drop shot, lobs and fast paced ground strokes
  • Hits a low number of unforced errors 


Level 4.5

  • Able to regularly convert a hard shot to a soft shot. Good blocking of power shots
  • Has the ability to impact spin on the ball in a meaningful way that disrupts opponents
  • Exhibits high degree of patience even during prolonged rallies
  • Shows noticeably increased skills, a higher level of strategy, quickness of hands and movement, judicious use of power, superior placement of shots, anticipation of play, sustained volleying skills, superior put-aways – all with consistency
  • Understands strategy and can adjust style of play and game plan according to opponents strength and weaknesses and court position
  • Beginning to master dink and drop shots
  • Makes very few unforced errors 


Level 5.0

  • Mastery of all pickleball skills and strategies
  • Can effectively play "hard or soft" game and has superior pace and control on wide variety of shots
  • Can successfully counter and adapt to different strategies employed by opponent
  • Stays calm and reliable in stressful situations
  • Supreme athletic ability, quickness, and agility separates these players


There you have it. May you have lots of fun along your journey to being a level 5.0 pickleball player!

There is also a helpful series of USAPA Skill Assessment sheets that can be found at the following link:


See you on the court pickleball friends! 

1 comment

  • Jason Campbell
    Aug 28, 2017 at 06:43

    Thank you for the valuable information on this subject. I find these explanations useful as I continue to increase my understanding of the sport.


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