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Skill Level Definitions

Pickleball Skill Level Definitions

March 11, 2013


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 other pickleball clubs.


The club will use this information to develop training clinics and for seeding tournament players.  Note:  Excepting only the few rated scrambles which require a USAPA or club approved rating level, you self-rate for all other non-rated scrambles.  The large majority of scrambles are self-rated.  This means you make your own decision about what level you should play in. In existing non-rated scrambles use these guidelines to assist in making that decision.  RATED scrambles are clearly identified as such on the sign-up sheets.


The purpose of rated events is to insure a consistent and competitive level of play for all players in that event as much as possible. Therefore we request that you do NOT sign up for a scramble higher or lower than your rated skill level if you have a rating.  Likewise we would appreciate it if you do not sign up for ANY rated scramble if you do not have a rating.  Thanks.



The following lists each skill level from 2.5 to 4.0+


2.0 Beginner Skill Level


2.0 Skill Level Players possess the following attributes and skills:


*Have taken Venture Out beginner training or the equivalent.  Those who have taken the beginner' training, have at least the equivalent transferable skills and/or have played some with other players may all qualify for he beginners' 2.0 Round-Robins.


* Are probably not moving around the court in a safe or balanced manner yet, but are receptive to learning.


*May not be familiar with pickleball terminology.


*Are familiar with how to serve although they may not be able to execute a serve every time.


*Are not comfortable with two-bounce rule and may not appear to know what it is.


*Are learning to stand on the court during serves, returns and point play but are still uncomfortable with some positions.


*May not have basic ground strokes.


*Don't yet demonstrate the basics of how to keep score.


*Have no idea what a dink is.


*At best can keep a ball in play for a couple of shots.





2.5 Skill Level

Possess the skills of the 2.0 level plus the following:


*Know the basic rules of pickleball and are able to keep score.


*Acquiring the skills to move around the court in a safe manner in order to minimize injury to themselves or others.


*Able to serve successfully most of the time.


*Are aware of the double bounce rule but forget on occasion.


*Learning to stand in the correct position during serves, returns and point play.

* Occasionally may lob with a forehand.



3.0 Skills Level

Possess the skills of the 2.5 level plus the following:


*Know some of the rules and how to re-figure the score after losing track.


 *Are getting 3/4 of their serves in.


*Are striving to return more than half of their backhands and overhead shots.


*Should be working towards placing the serve low and deep.


*Will usually move to the non-volley zone line quickly after the return of serve.


*Do deep and higher returns of serve to allow time to approach the non-volley zone line.


*Are working to develop consistent forehand and back hand ground strokes.


*Should not be hitting returns (after return of serve) up in the air, but are making flatter returns.


*Are becoming more aware of their partner's position on the court relative to themselves, and how to move in concert with a partner.


*Are not consistent in the overhead smash.


*Are beginning to use the forehand lob with some success.


*Are able to spot the opponents weaknesses and sometimes play to them.


*Can sustain a short volley session at the net, but have little if any ability to place their volleys.


*Are developing more power in their shots and the ability to return a ball hit lower and harder.


*Should be developing a sustained "dink" exchange at the net.


*Are not yet thinking about putting varying pace on the same shots and do not handle differing paces on balls consistently.



3.5 Skills Level

Possess the skills of the 3.0 level plus the following:


*Should be continuing to improve their knowledge of the rules of pickleball.


*Should generally be able to get their serve in play and return most serves.


*Should be regularly serving deep and returning serve deep.


*Should understand Most basic match strategy and the tactics that apply to skills that they either possess or are trying to learn; however, employment of such strategy and tactics is still inconsistent.


*Should be improving their skill to play with partners effectively to include proper communication and good team coverage to the court.


*Know to move to the net quickly after returning serve, but may occasionally still lag back too long.


*Are hitting to the weak side of opponents somewhat regularly.


*Should possess shots such as forehand and backhand ground strokes, forehand lob, overhead smash, net volleys, and sustained dinking and hit them with a fair level of consistency.


*Are developing the backhand lob.


*Are improving in knowing when to make specific shots.


*Should be learning when to use soft shots versus power shots to their advantage.


*Should be gaining the reflexes and judgment to avoid returned shots which may be going out of bounds.


*Are comfortable putting pace on balls but are less comfortable returning paced balls softly.




4.0 Skills Level


4.0 Skill level is a term used to describe players who are capable of consistently executing play above a 3.5 skill level.  The 4.0 player will distinguish himself from the 3.5 player by possessing increased skills and strategy or by more speed, power and consistency.


*Are comfortable with all the rules of pickleball.


*Control and place both the serve and return of serve.


*Are generally consistent in their play, understand match strategy and use a variety of specific shots to affect their strategy.


*Move effectively with a partner and easily switch courts to cover their partner's side when required.


*Are comfortable playing at the non-volley zone line.  Work with their doubles partner to control the line by keeping their opponents back, driving them off the line, or controlling the pace or placement of the ball.


*Consistently hit to their opponents' weak side when possible.


*Can block strong volleys directed at them at the non-volley zone line or elsewhere and can place their volleys with a good degree of accuracy.


*Have excellent footwork and move forward, backward and laterally with ease and quickness.


*Understand the strategy of dinking, employ it on a regular basis, can sustain a dinking session until receipt of a "put away" shot, recognize the "put away shot, and usually succeed in ending the rally with it.


*Hit overheads consistently "in", often with pace, and are striving to place them more effectively.


 *Are developing the ability to return overheads hit to them.


*Have a fair to good ability to change from a soft shot strategy to a hard shot strategy during any given rally or vice-versa.


*Utilize both forehand and backhand lo

bs, are striving to accurately lob from anywhere on the court.


*Can consistently drop-shop successfully from 3/4 court and frequently drop-shot with success from the baseline as their preferred method of getting to and gaining control of the net.


*Are good at avoiding returned shots which may be going out of bounds.


*Can handle a good deal of pace without over-hitting or hitting out-of-bounds too often.


* Can usually recognize and exploit weaknesses in their opponent's game.


*Can generally poach effectively.


*Are developing their use of spin on a variety of shots.


4.5 Skill Level


A 4.5 skill level player is consistently capable of executing play at the 4.0 level with increased skill, a higher level of strategy, quickness of hands, judicious use of power, superior placement of shots and consistently makes fewer unforced errors.