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As in tennis and other sports, Pickleball players can work their way up a skill rating ladder and improve from  beginner to playing at advanced levels. Read on to learn the types of skills, strategies, and teamwork necessary at different levels of Pickleball skill ratings.

Skill Ratings
Image by Joan Azeka

2.0 Skill Level

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.

Image by Cameron Venti
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3.0 Skill Level

  •  Knows the fundamental rules and can keep score

  • Ÿ Regularly gets serves “in” to mid-court or deeper

  • Ÿ Dinks mostly in opp. kitchen and is dinking lower over the net

  • Ÿ Able to sustain dinking in the game

  • Ÿ Using both forehand and backhand on returns and forehands on overhead returns

  • Ÿ Working at keeping the serve deep and return of serve deep

  • Ÿ Moves quickly towards the non-volley zone when opportunity is there

  • Ÿ Trying to make flatter returns (where appropriate)

  • Ÿ Aware of partner’s position on the court & moving as a team

  • Ÿ Developing more power and/or softness in their shots 

  • Ÿ 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

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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 putaways

  • 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.

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