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Four intermediate pickleball skill level players holding pickleball paddles.

Learning Pickleball Skill Levels to Rise in the Ranks


Four intermediate pickleball skill level players holding pickleball paddles. You heard about pickleball. You played pickleball. And now you’re hooked and want to play in a tournament, but don’t know anything about the pickleball skill levels.  

How do you determine pickleball skill levels and why is it important? Learning what your current rating is will help you find the right recreational groups to play in. Knowing your skill level can also help determine what bracket you should play in when you sign up for tournaments. 

What Are the General Skills Levels in Pickleball?

If you want to play in recreational games or leagues, some directors will place you in a group based on your general skill level by assessing your game or by what you tell them. This is a more broad rating and is best for recreational-type play because you encounter various levels and learn how to adapt to each style of play. 

Elderly man hitting a pickleball volley at the net.

1. Beginner Level

The beginner level is where most players start their pickleball journey. At this stage, the focus is on mastering the basic rules, developing hand-eye coordination, and getting familiar with the court. 

You’ll learn the fundamental shots like the serve, forehand, and backhand, as well as basic footwork and positioning. It’s all about building a solid foundation and enjoying the game while gaining confidence on the court.

2. Intermediate Level

As you gain more experience and improve your skills, you can progress to the intermediate level. At this stage, you’ll start to develop consistency and begin incorporating more advanced shots into your gameplay. 

You’ll become more strategic in your shot selection and learn to anticipate your opponent’s moves. You emphasize improved footwork, agility and shot placement, and start to engage in longer rallies with increased control over your shots.

3. Advanced Level

Reaching the advanced level in pickleball is telling of your dedication and perseverance towards the sport. At this level, you possess exceptional shot-making abilities, strategic thinking, and a deep understanding of the game. 

Advanced pickleball skill male player hitting an overhead smash at the kitchen line.

You can execute various shots accurately and precisely, including dinks, drops, lobs, and smashes. You’ve honed your reflexes, court positioning, and anticipation skills to dictate rallies and exploit your opponent’s weaknesses.

4. Expert Level

The expert level represents the pinnacle of pickleball skill. At this level, you’ll have mastered all aspects of the game, from shot selection to court coverage. You exhibit exceptional control over your shots, utilizing spin, power, and finesse to outmaneuver your opponents. 

You understand the game’s intricacies, using tactics like shot placement, deception, and strategic positioning to gain an edge and can adapt to different opponents and situations effortlessly.


What Are the Skill Levels in Pickleball for Tournaments?

Let’s define the pickleball skill levels so you can get a better understanding of where you fit in and what you need to do to move to the next level. Take a look at this pickleball skill level chart as a reference for you to know what your skill level is.

Skill Rating

Skill Rating Description
1.0 – 2.0 
  • This player knows how to keep score and keep a short, basic rally going with other 2.5-rated players. 
  • They feel ready to enter their first tournament. 
  • This player hits medium-paced serves, returns, forehand groundstrokes, forehand dinks, and third-shot drops. 
  • They usually avoid hitting their backhand. 
  • Most shots lack consistency and control. 
  • Has moderate control with forehand shots (dinks, groundstrokes, returns, drops). 
  • Can hit medium-paced backhand shots with little control. 
  • Starts to understand the importance of shot placement and basic strategy. 
  • Can control and dictate points off of their forehand strokes. 
  • Serves and returns are hit consistently deeper in the court. 
  • Third shot drops and drives are hit with the intent of coming to the kitchen line.  
  • Dinks are hit at various speeds, but players try to end the point too soon.
  • Can string together a solid, strategic point, starting with aggressive pickleball strokes or a soft dink, and progress to the kitchen line consistently. 
  • Defend aggressive shots at the kitchen line with block volleys and hit aggressive put-away shots when available.
  • Has correct footwork and movement throughout the areas of the court. 
  • Can stack and keep score comfortably when needed in strategy. 
  • Shot selection needs improvement to progress to the next level. 
  • Mastered the basic pickleball strokes at all areas of the court. 
  • Hits consistent dinks at the kitchen line and creates opportunities to win a rally. 
  • Can consistently turn defense into offense at the kitchen line. 
  • Adjusts to different styles of play and exhibits problem solving during gameplay. 
  • This player is at the top of the pickleball game and exhibits high-level mastery while continuing to push the bounds of pickleball through developing new strokes and strategies.

Need a little more help understanding pickleball skill levels? There is a
USA pickleball skill descriptions chart that dives deep into each rating. 


How do you Determine Your Pickleball Skill Level? 

There are three ways to determine your pickleball skill level. Let’s talk about them in detail.

Four pickleball players playing doubles with similar pickleball skill levels.

1. Self-assessment

Many players self-rate and enter local, non-sanctioned tournaments based on their own ratings. You can look at the pickleball skill chart above or download a skill assessment sheet by USA Pickleball to determine what your skill level is.

Some key tips to think about when self-assessing: 

  • Reflect honestly on your pickleball experience, skill level, and overall performance. 
  • Consider factors like your consistency, shot variety, court positioning, and ability to handle different gameplay and styles. 

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NOTE: Try not to undervalue your skills. For example, do not self-rate as a 2.5 and enter a tournament at that pickleball skill level if, in reality, you’re a 3.5 player. Some players will do this to win tournaments easily. This is known as sandbagging, and no one likes a “sandbagger.” 

2. USA Pickleball Tournament Player Ratings 

Also known as UTPR, this four-digit rating system (0.000 to 6.999) is based on your sanctioned tournament wins/losses and your opponent’s UTPR rating. A sanctioned tournament is an event where the director gets official approval, and all entrants are registered USA Pickleball members. 

Your rating not only depends on tournament performances, but also on the condition that the matches were recorded on

Gaining a UTPR is one of the more accurate ways to determine your rating because you’re being tested in real-life match situations rather than self-assessing (and usually assessing from recreational play, which is lower stakes pickleball). 

Remember that your four-digit rating is rounded down to the two-digit skill rating (2.5, 3.0, 3.5, etc.) when entering a tournament. This applies to all events (gender doubles, mixed doubles, and singles). For example, if your pickleball skill rating is 3.332 in mixed doubles, your two-digit rating is 3.0. 

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NOTE:  You can choose to play up a level based on your UTPR when you sign up for a tournament. This allows you more chances to beat higher skill-level players and increase your UTPR number. 

3. Dreamland Universal Pickleball Rating

You may be familiar with its abbreviated name DUPR because many professionals like Corrine Carr promote this system. 

DUPR is a newer rating system that differs from the self-assessment and UTPR in the following ways: 

  • The DUPR system uses an Elo algorithm to calculate your pickleball skill rating that is based on wins/losses, type of result (tournament, league match, and recreational play), and the rating difference of your opponent. 
  • The pickleball skill ratings range from 2.00 to 8.00.
  • The rating is dependent on the lowest skill level on the court. For example, DUPR considers that the lower-level skilled player will see more balls because they will most likely be targeted by their opponents.. If their team wins, the lower-level player’s rating will increase more than their teammate’s rating. For singles, if you beat a player that has a significantly higher skill level, you’ll rise up the ranks quicker.
  • DUPR has one combined rating instead of individual ratings for singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. 


Next Steps

Understanding the pickleball skill ratings can be a powerful tool. Once you’ve determined your appropriate pickleball skill level, you can look at the other higher ratings to see what you need to do and practice in order to advance. 

One way to advance your rating is by playing in tournaments. You may be able to hang out with the 4.0 skill levels in recreational play. But in tournaments when the stakes are high, your true level of play might be at 3.0 or 3.5. Getting tournament matches under your belt can build confidence in your pickleball strokes under pressure.

Drilling is also a great way to advance your rating. Find a partner and play skinny singles or work on strategy-specific drills that’ll help you build muscle memory.