In this article, I’ll explain how pickleball ratings work and how you can advance through each level. First, I’ll start with a quick overview of the history of pickleball. Then I’ll explain the different pickleball associations and their rating systems. The focus of this article will be the ratings defined by the United States Pickleball Association (USPA). I’ll start with a snapshot of the levels, then go into more detail for each level. I’ll list the skills you need to master to move up to the next rating level.
A Quick History of Pickleball
Pickleballs were invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island – a short flight to Seattle. The three fathers credited with developing the games were Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell or Barney McCallum, whose children had lost the normal activity of summer. Pickleball is becoming popular in all parts of the United States. Its international growth continues with several European and Asian countries also opening new courts.
There are four different professional pickleball tours in the United States. The Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP), the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA), the USA Pickleball Association (USAP), and the Major League Pickleball (MLP). The USA Pickleball Association is a national-level membership group. There are two worldwide organizations for pickleball: the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) and the World Pickleball Federation (WFP).
USA Pickleball (USAPA)
USA Pickleball is the National Governing Body for pickleball in the United States. They provide players with official rules, tournaments, rankings and promotional materials. The board of directors and professional staff provide guidance and infrastructure to help with the growth and development of pickleball.
World Pickleball Rankings
The World Pickleball Rankings is the world’s best-selling pickleball ranking, which features the Pickle Ball Tournament Rankings. As a tournament management provider for all professional Tours (PPA & APP), USA Pickleball, and all major independent tournaments, pickledballtournaments.org offers a unique resurgence in tournament management. World pickleball rankings were officially approved by the American Pickleball League, the APP Tour, and the US Open Pickleball Championship.
USA Pickleball (USAPA)
USA Pickleball is the National Governing Body for pickleball in the United States. They provide players with official rules, tournaments, rankings and promotional materials. The board of directors and professional staff provide guidance and infrastructure to help with the growth and development of pickleball
Overview of USPA Player Rankings
You decide to go pro someday, but for this article, we are focusing on US players who play as amateurs. So we will explain how the USA Pickleball rankings work. The USPA Pickleball Rating system is a way of standardizing tournament results so that players can compare their skills against other players. The USPA Pickleball Rating system is used in US tournaments to rate players’ skill levels. The USPA Pickleball Rating system uses a 1-5 point scale, with 1 being the lowest level and 5 being the highest level.
How to Get Your Initial Ranking
If you have never played in a tournament or it has been longer than 3 years since you played, you get your initial ranking by being a member of USA Pickleball in good standing and rating yourself based on the official skill level definitions to determine your 2-digit skill level. USA Pickleball recommends asking for help from experienced players and instructors when rating themselves. Once you have the number, you add it to your PickleballTournaments.com profile.
If you play in tournaments, you will be a T-player. If you never participate in a pickleball competition, you will be an S-player.
1.0 to 1.5: You Are Just Getting Started
The 1.0 USPA Skill Rating is the lowest level of pickleball skill rating. This rating is for players who are just starting to play pickleball and have no other sports background. They may not know all the rules of the game yet.
Skills Needed to Advance to Level 2
- Understand the basic rules of Pickleball
- Know how to keep score
- Returns 4 out of 10 times forehand
- Returns 4 out of 10 times backhand
- Returns 4 out of 10 times volley
- Serve into the correct square 4 out of 10 times
2.0 to 2.5: Moving Past the Basics
The 2.0 USPA Skill Rating is the next level up from 1.0. This means that players who have this rating have started to become more familiar with the game of pickleball.
Skills Needed to Advance to Level 3
- Returns forehand 7 out of 10 times
- Returns backhand 7 out of 10 times
- Serves correctly 7 out of 10 times
- Sustains a dink rally with control
- Volleys 7 out of 10 times
- Understands proper court positioning
- Understands rules and can keep score
- Played in at least 1 tournament
3.0 to 3.5: Mastering Intermediate Skills
The 3.0 USPA Skill Rating is the next level up from 2.0. This means that players who have this rating are becoming more skilled at pickleball. They understand the rules and are beginning to develop some advanced skills.
Skills Needed to Advance to Level 4
- Serves with varying depth and speed
- Returns serves with varying depth and speed
- Consistent overhead shots
- Accurate in placing lobs
- Sustains dink rally
- Blocks and returns fast, hard volleys
- Controls NVZ (non-volley zone)
- Uses stacking effectively
- Has a broad knowledge of the rules of the game
- Identifies and exploits opponents’ weaknesses
- Plays competitively in tournaments
- Returns forehand 9 out of 10 times
- Returns backhand 9 out of 10 times
- Serves correctly 9 out of 10 times
4.0 to 4.5: Not Pro Yet, But Getting There
The 4.0 USPA Skill Rating is the next level up from 3.0. This means that players who have this rating are very skilled at pickleball. They understand the rules and have developed some advanced skills. Strategy, flexibility, and accuracy start to play a larger role in the required skill set.
Skills Needed to Advance to Level 5
- Mastered variety of serves
- Dependable forehand groundstroke
- Accurately directs the ball with the backhand
- Accurately dink with shot placement
- Changes the pace of dinks strategically
- Mastered the 3rd shot choices and strategies.
- Efficient footwork and effective use of weight transfer for improved quickness on court
- Adjusts style of play to the opponent’s weaknesses and court position
- Returns forehand 10 out of 10 times
- Returns backhand 10 out of 10 times
- Serves correctly 10 out of 10 times
When you reach the 5.0 ranking level, you have mastered pickleball as an amateur player. You can continue to improve your game by playing in more competitions. You may also want to start giving back the pickleball sport by instructing new players or directing tournaments. For completion, you may meet to travel to worldwide tournaments to find other players of your caliber.