Pickleball Rating Guide: How to Determine Your Pickleball Rating and Skill Level
Have you been playing pickleball for a while and started getting curious about your playing level and how you might rank against other players? Fortunately, systems have been developed that can put a number to your ability. The pickleball rating guides determine your pickleball skill level and provide a formula that is backed by USA Pickleball, the national governing body of the sport.
Most beginners are in the learning phase and might not have any interest in their official or unofficial rating. But in order for you to enter into more games where your skill level matches that of your opponent, you’ll want to have a better grasp on what your official rating is.
In fact, once you become interested in sanctioned tournaments, the pickleball skill ratings are important. In fact, they’re required for structuring the tournament brackets, so if you plan on competing, you’ll want to learn more about the rating system.
Pickleball ratings explained
If you’ve followed pickleball competitions, you’ve likely heard of the rating system and various numbers assigned to specific players. High-level players have all been tested and observed, thereby having a rating assigned to them. But if you’re an up-and-coming player that wants to track your improvement, you too can be evaluated and then work on improving your skills.
Another reason for the pickleball player rating system is to standardize the organization of league play and ensure that players are fairly positioned against each other.
Pickleball ratings explained goes something like this: The ratings are numbers ranging from 1.0 to 6.5 in the two-digit system, 1.000 to 6.999 (UTPR) and 2.000 to 8.000 (DUPR) in the four-digit system.
The lower the rating, the more inexperienced the player.
It can be difficult to determine a player’s ability based on the different types of ratings, but we’ve put together the following information to break it down for you.
How are pickleball players rated?
How are pickleball players rated? As mentioned earlier, there are two common pickleball rating system types, one that uses two digits and another that uses four. Most leagues will use the two-digit platform, whereas the USA Pickleball Association uses the four-digit system. What they have in common is that they each rank the level of skill associated with each individual player.
Players interested in their progression enjoy tracking their rating, as it can be an indicator of their improvement in skills as they work on their game.
The two rating systems explained:
The two-digit rating (1.0 – 5.0)
The first ranking system developed was the two-digit type. Beginners are rated at 1.0 and can advance to a 5.0 rating in .5 increments. You’ll find that most clubs and leagues use the two-digit system. This is also the most often talked about rating, as casual players will refer to their rating as an indication of where they are, skills wise, in their level of play.
This rating is based on the pickleball rating definitions below.
4-digit rating (1.000 – 6.999)
The USA Pickleball Association uses the four-digit rating system, which is also referred to as the “USAPA Tournament Player Rating,” or UTPR. Ratings range from 1.000 to 6.999, and rather than progressing in .5 increments, this system progresses in .001 increments. This is a new system, as it wasn’t established by the USAPA until 2019.
Given the smaller units of increments in the four-digit system, it is more dynamic. In fact, a player’s rating can change per match. It’s also important to note here that there are five categories in this rating system, which include men's singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.
Tournament-rated players will get a two-digit and a four-digit rating from the USAPA. For club and league ratings, the two-digit rating will be used. For players competing in tournaments, they will use their four-digit rating. For a more visual representation of this rating system, refer to the rating conversion table.
Because the majority of players throughout the world are not competing in high-level tournaments, our focus will be on the rating system most often used, which is the two-digit system. However, we will bring up the four-digit system and others throughout this guide.
Pickleball rating conversion table
What are the pickleball rating systems?
All players have a specific skill level and the pickleball rating system puts a numeric value to that level of skill. Your “pickleball rating” and “skill level” are both referencing the same thing when the topic is the numeric value, which goes from 1.0 to 6.0-plus on the two-digit rating system.
Beginners are generally at the 1.0 level, whereas experienced players at the top of their game will be in the 6.0-plus area. There are other rating systems, one of which rates professionals at 8.0. Let’s go deeper into some of the more popular rating systems.
There are three pickleball rating (skill level) systems:
The pickleball self-rating system
Just as it sounds, the pickleball self-rating system gives players the freedom to rate their level of skill based on where they think they are at in their level of play. The self-rating system uses a two-digit value from 1.0 to 6.0. As long as you’re honest with yourself – as in don’t give yourself too much credit or be too modest – you can come up with a fairly accurate rating.
To get more information on the criteria used for self ratings, follow what the USA pickleball ratings list has to say and you’ll be on the right track.
The official USAPA pickleball skill rating system explained
The best rating systems are those that utilize consistent standards that are followed across the country, such as the USAPA pickleball ratings system. If there is a certain rating you’re shooting for, the USAPA rating system will let you know what must be achieved to get there. This is a great way to become a better player, as it gives you specific milestones that must be reached and can be used as motivation.
For club and league play, the USAPA uses the two-digit rating system. For professional players and tournament play, you’ll see the USAPA using their four-digit system. But overall, the USAPA ratings help to separate beginners from intermediates and amateurs from professionals. Furthermore, whether it’s the two- or four-digit system, the ratings ensure that when you step onto the court, you’re paired with players of similar skill.
Pickleball rating criteria
The pickleball rating criteria evaluate specific types of shots that occur in a game. Before you can advance your pickleball ratings, you must prove yourself proficient in the following types of shots:
The palm of your hand faces the direction in which you are hitting the ball.
The back of your hand faces the direction in which you are hitting the ball.
- Serve / return
Underhand-only serves below the navel are allowed and the ball must go diagonally across the net. The return occurs when the opposing player hits the ball after one bounce.
A soft shot, usually used to keep the ball low and slow over the net, making it difficult for the opponent to return.
- 3rd shot
A shot hit with the intention of it dropping in the no-volley zone, which makes it unattackable by the opponent.
A shot hit in the air without the ball striking the ground first.
Knowing when to deploy specific shots, where to place yourself on the court, etc.
Pickleball self-ratings chart
One of the most common USA pickleball ratings is the self-rating chart, which utilizes the two-digit system. The following are definitions of players at each ranking.
- Beginners just learning the game.
- You can sustain short rallies and understand the scoring system at its most basic level.
- You hold your own in tournaments.
- You accurately keep scores.
- You know proper positions on the court.
- You haven’t quite grasped the backhand shot.
- You struggle with the third shot.
- Your forehand is decent, but needs improvement.
- Dink rallies are difficult for you, but you can serve and volley.
- You are gaining control of your forehand, dinks and volleys.
- Short rally play is improving and you’re just now getting the gist of the stacking strategy.
- You have knowledge of the soft game and how it differs from the hard game.
- You can hit a backhand.
- Your serves are more accurate.
- Your approach to the no-volley zone and the strategy behind that move are improving.
- Stacking is now firmly in your grasp.You’re hitting your forehands, serves, and volleys with good control over depth and speed.
- You can identify and exploit your opponents’ weaknesses.
- You don’t have as many unforced errors as you did as a 3.0 player.
- The backhand is no longer “difficult,” but it’s not yet perfected.
- The power level of your third shot can now be varied.
- You now know when you should use a dink shot.
- Footwork and weight transfer are improving.
- You know how to play with a partner.
- Your forehand has reached a “high level” of consistency.
- Your serve has more control in terms of power and spin.
- You can change up your shot types and your dink game is looking really good.
- You can block hard volleys.
- You have improved direction in your backhand shot placement.
- You can aim a shot at your opponent's feet.
- You can set up attack opportunities by knowing when to use a dink shot.
- Your forehand and backhand shots are now highly accurate.
- You have control of pace and spin.
- You can effectively aim at all positions on the court.
- You can block/neutralize hard volleys.
- Drop or drive a ball, forehand or backhand, on your third shot.
- At this level, you’re no longer an “up and comer,” because you’ve proven that you’re a force to be reckoned with.
- You’re competing against semi-professional players, or players who have made it to the “big leagues.”
Pickleball player skill ratings explained
Have you put any thought into your level of skill and wondered where you rank among your friends and league/club players? This is the pickleball ratings explained section where you can more clearly define your level of skills without being tested.
What is a 1.0 pickleball player?
What is a 1.0 pickleball player? Think about the first time you picked up a racquet and ball and walked onto the local court and you have an accurate example of a player with a 1.0 pickleball rating. Maybe you walked out there with a general understanding of the rules, but you have yet to apply them on the actual court – that still makes you a 1.0 player.
Most players of this rank are best suited playing against fellow newbies who are eager to learn more and progress.
What is a 1.5 pickleball player?
A player that has advanced to the ranking of 1.5 isn’t quite a newbie, but they are still going to miss a ball here and there. The 1.5 pickleball rating is assigned to players who are learning how to serve without the ball going into the net on a consistent basis, but they’re beginning to grasp the rules of the sport.
Another answer to the “what is a 1.5 pickleball player” question is that they have the basics of groundstrokes covered, but they are far from perfecting them.
What is a 2.0 pickleball player?
The 2.0 pickleball player is capable of short rallies before making poor contact with the ball or missing it altogether. They can hit the backhand and the forehand with some efficiency and can also volley. Someone with a 2.0 pickleball rating can serve the ball and they have a pretty good idea of where they need to be on the court to gain better position.
What is a 2.0 pickleball player? It’s someone who not only knows where they need to be, but also where their opponents should or shouldn’t be on the court, which means they’re beginning to grasp some basic strategy.
What is a 2.5 pickleball player?
Rallying the ball is not a problem for a player with a pickleball 2.5 rating. They might not be fast yet, but they can sustain longer rallies before faulting. The “easy” shots are no longer a problem for someone with a 2.5 pickleball rating, but they will have some difficulty covering the whole court.
What is a 2.5 pickleball player? It is someone who has developed a clear understanding of the rules related to the no-volley zone and might even refer to it as “the kitchen.”
What is a 3.0 pickleball player?
What is a 3.0 pickleball player? This is someone who has really improved their serve and put themselves in position to return balls at a faster rate than the 2.5 player. The 3.0 pickleball player hasn’t yet gained full control of where the balls go, but they consistently make contact with it. The dink and lob shots are now coming into play (although far from precise) with someone with a 3.0 pickleball rating, giving them more strategy options. Players at this level are usually beginning to take interest in tournaments.
You’ll notice when you reach a 3.0 level that you can hit your forehand at a medium pace, but you’re still working on your consistency in where the ball goes after it leaves your paddle. As for your backhand, which is a notoriously difficult shot for beginners, the 3.0 player is familiar with this shot, but lacks the confidence to use it often.
The dink shot usage is definitely improving and the 3.0 player is using it more often, yet still lacks control with it, which is why a dink rally hasn’t been established at this level. More importantly, this player has grasped strategy essentials and is beginning to implement them more frequently.
3.0 pickleball player skill rating by USAPA
Ability to hit a medium paced shot. Lacks directional intent and consistency.
Avoids using a backhand. Lacks directional intent and consistency.
Able to hit a medium paced shot. Lacks depth, direction, and consistency.
Not able to consistently sustain a dink rally. Not yet developed the ability to control this shot.
Generally hits a medium paced ball with little direction.
Able to hit a medium paced shot. Lacks direction/inconsistent.
Understands fundamentals. Is learning proper court positioning. Knows the fundamental rules and can keep score and is now playing tournaments.
Resource: USAPA player skill rating definitions.
What is a 3.5 pickleball player?
What is a 3.5 pickleball player? It’s someone who you would say is a “decent” player, because they seem to have a modicum of control over where the ball goes after making contact. The 3.5 pickleball player can hit fast-paced shots, but their control needs some improvement to advance to the next level. They have a sound ability with groundstrokes and have begun to utilize the backhand more often.
Speaking of the backhand, the 3.5 player is far from an expert with this shot and will even avoid it from time to time. The forehand, however, is looking good, as shot control is much more consistent. The serve is finally in the “consistent” area, which means most of the serves are landing where they’re supposed to, but some improvement on the depth of the shot is in order.
Someone with a 3.5 pickleball rating has enough experience to predict where their opponents might try to hit the ball and works well with doubles partners in developing strategies together. Due to a better understanding of strategy, a player at this level is capable of sustaining short rallies.
3.5 pickleball player skill rating by USAPA
Improved stroke development with moderate level of shot control.
Learning stroke form and starting to develop consistency but will avoid if possible.
Consistently gets serve/return in play with limited ability to control depth.
Increased consistency, with limited ability to control height/depth. Sustains medium length rallies. Starting to understand variations of pace.
Developing the drop shot in a way to get to the net.
Is able to volley medium paced shots thereby developing control.
Moves quickly towards the non-volley zone (NVZ) when opportunity is there. Acknowledges difference between hard game and soft game and is starting to vary own game during recreation and tournament play. Can sustain short rallies. Is learning proper court positioning. Basic knowledge of stacking and understands situations where it can be effective.
Resource: USAPA player skill rating definitions.
What is a 4.0 pickleball player?
What is a 4.0 pickleball player? It’s someone who has dedicated a lot of time and energy to the game and is really close to “mastering” it. They have excellent control of their shots and can even force their opponents to make errors that cost them points. The pickleball 4.0 rating is assigned to someone who has practiced their spin techniques, can effectively deploy a dink, easily spot weaknesses in their opponents and work seamlessly with doubles partners. The 4.0 pickleball player has an advanced strategy acumen, including employing “stacking” techniques.
At the level of 4.0, this player has a forehand that is well timed and consistently hits depth targets. The backhand mechanics are consistent and the shot is no longer intimidating to them. The vast majority of serves can be controlled in terms of speed and depth. The dink game has advanced to a point where the 4.0 player knows when to use it to attack and when to lay back.
Can there be some improvement in the 3rd shot strategy? The simple answer is “yes,” but the 4.0 player is using hard and soft 3rd shot strategies quite effectively on occasion.
4.0 pickleball player skill rating by USAPA
Consistently hits with depth and control. Is still perfecting shot selection and timing.
Has improved stroke mechanics and has moderate success at hitting a backhand consistently.
Places a high majority of serves/returns with varying depth and speed.
Increased consistency with moderate ability to control height/depth. May end the drink rally too soon due to lack of patience. Is beginning to understand the difference between attackable balls and those that are not.
Selectively mixing up soft shots with power shots to create an advantage with inconsistent results.
Able to volley a variety of shots at different speeds. Is developing consistency and control. Starting to understand the block/reset volley.
Aware of partner’s position on the court and is able to move as a team. Demonstrates ability to change direction in an offensive manner. Demonstrates a broad knowledge of the rules of the game. Has a moderate number of unforced errors per game. Solid understanding of stacking and when and how it could be used in match play. Beginning to identify opponents weaknesses and attempts to formulate game plan to attack weaknesses. Beginning to seek out more.
Resource: USAPA player skill rating definitions.
What is a 4.5 pickleball player?
The 4.5 pickleball rating is assigned to a player that is rock solid on the fundamentals of the game. They know where they need to be on the court, how to hit every type of shot and barely have to think about their footwork. When playing doubles with a similarly rated player, there is an obvious connection between the two and strategies are easily devised.
Finally, the dreaded backhand is not an issue with the 4.5 pickleball player. Rather, they use it effectively on a consistent basis. The forehand is now being utilized with utmost effectiveness in various strategies and the serve has enough speed and spin to throw off opponents.
There are times when the dink is a great idea and times when it isn’t. The 4.5 pickleball rating is assigned to the person who knows the difference and has success with this shot quite often. All shots, footwork and court position are effectively used in creating flexible strategies that can be altered to match an opponent’s skill. What is a 4.5 pickleball player? It’s someone who has nearly reached the pinnacle rating of the game and it shows in their win/loss ratio.
4.5 pickleball player skill rating by USAPA
High level of consistency. Uses pace and depth to generate opponents' error or set up next shot.
Can effectively direct the ball with varying depth and paces with good consistency.
Serves with power, accuracy, and depth and can also vary the speed and spin of the serve.
Ability to place ball with high success at changing shot types while playing both consistently and with offensive intent. Recognizes and attempts to hit attackable dinks.
Consistently executes effective 3rd shot strategies that are not easily returned for advantage. Able to intentionally and consistently place the ball.
Able to block hard volleys directed at them and can consistently drop them into the NVZ. Comfortable hitting swinging volleys. Hits overhead shots consistently, often as putaways.
Has good footwork and moves laterally, backward, and forward well. Uses weight transfer for more efficient footwork. Able to change direction with ease. Very comfortable playing at the non-volley zone. Communicates and moves well with partner — easily “stacks" court positions. Understands strategy and can adjust style of play and game plan according to the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and court position. Limited number of unforced errors.
Resource: USAPA player skill rating definitions.
What is a 5.0 pickleball player?
Every conceivable pickleball shot is pretty much mastered at the 5.0 pickleball rating. This extends to shots coming your way, too, as this player identifies it and knows how to react. The long struggle to effectively control the depth of a shot is finally a non-issue with a 5.0 pickleball player.
What is a 5.0 pickleball player? It’s someone who’s unforced errors have been reduced to nearly zero. It’s also someone who has spent a lot of time on the court and focused on specific parts of the game so they can improve to this level. This player often comes from an athletic background with extensive experience in other racquet sports, but has also devoted enough time to figure out the intricacies of pickleball.
Strategy has improved to such a level that a player with a 5.0 pickleball rating can take a defensive shot and turn it into an offensive shot. This player has also become adept at knowing an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and will easily adjust their strategy to exploit those weaknesses.
5.0 pickleball player skill rating by USAPA
Hits all shot types at a high level of ability from both the forehand and backhand sides including: touch, spin, and pace with control to set up offensive situations. Has developed good touch from all court positions. Has developed a very high level of variety, depth, and pace of serves.
Mastered the dink and drop shots. Ability to move opponents with shot placements. Exhibits patience during rallies with the ability to create an opportunity to attack utilizing the dink. Increased ability to change the pace of dinks strategically.
Mastered the 3rd shot choices and strategies to create opportunities for winning points. Able to drop and drive ball from both the forehand and backhand side with a high level of consistency.
Able to block hard volleys directed at them and consistently drop them into the NVZ. Places overheads with ease for winners. Able to volley shots toward opponents feet consistently. Comfortable with swinging volley in both initiating and ability to attack back or neutralize return.
Mastered pickleball strategies and can vary strategies and styles of play in competitive or tournament matches. Is successful at turning defensive shots into offensive shots. Has efficient footwork and effective use of weight transfer for improved quickness on the court. Easily and quickly adjusts style of play and game plan according to the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and court position. Rarely makes unforced errors.
Resource: USAPA player skill rating definitions.
What is a 5.5+ pickleball player?
If you ever see a player at your club who is moving effortlessly around the court with full command of every stroke, they’re likely a 5.5 pickleball player. They’re playing at a level that beginners might think is impossible to attain for themselves. The player with a 5.5 pickleball rating is probably entering into tournaments frequently and winning.
If you’ve spent any time on a pickleball court, you’re probably already somewhat aware of where you stand as a player, and using the understanding you can give yourself a rank based on the USAPA ratings. And while it’s fun to know where you rank, and appropriate in choosing your competition, it is more important that you now know what you should work on to improve your game.
Why is it important to know your pickleball rating and skill level?
If you’ve played pickleball against someone who has far fewer hours on the court than you, you know that it’s not a lot of fun to have zero challenge in your games against them. Likewise, if you’ve ever been matched up against a player with extensive knowledge of the game and has fine tuned their skills, you know getting easily defeated is also not any fun.
Knowing your pickleball rating is important in this regard, as you want to be able to convey to others where you are in your game so you can be paired more evenly with someone of your skill. Without all the confusion and mismatching, you can spend more time on the court honing your skills and enjoying the game at the same time.
The benefits of knowing your skill level has obvious perks when you’re at the court looking for a competitive game, but it’s also vital in helping you figure out where you need to improve to get to that next level.
How to determine your pickleball rating?
If you’re curious about your pickleball skill rating but don’t want to go through the process of having yourself rated, you may want to know how to determine your pickleball rating on your own. Fortunately, there are some guidelines you can follow to get an estimate of your rating, but the outcomes can be rather subjective.
But why should you rate yourself to begin with? For starters, when people at your local court (or club) are looking to pair up players for games, they’re going to ask for your rating. Another reason is that you might want to start playing tournaments, which are also structured around each player’s rating.
The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) has stepped in to help this process by creating various criteria by which you can determine your rating.
The following are some examples for helping to determine your pickleball rating:
Give yourself a pickleball self-rating of 1.0 to 2.0
When you are an absolute beginner, you will often be placed at a pickleball 1.0 rating. This is a person who has yet to study the rules of the game and is brand new to the pickleball court.
When you are athletic and come from other racquet sports, you could be coming into the sport with a pickleball 2.0 rating. Pickleball self rating is not a science, so allow for some flexibility in your rating.
Give yourself a pickleball self-rating of 2.5
When you are still a newbie to the sport, but you’re able to hit the ball – inaccurately most of the time, and you’re not really too concerned about which type of shots to hit – you’re a pickleball level 2.5 player. You’re able to keep score and you might even sustain short rallies every now and then.
Give yourself a pickleball self-rating of 3.0
When you’re more familiar with the different types of shots, but you aren’t exactly sure when to utilize them, you’re a pickleball level 3.0 player. You understand the fundamentals about where you should be positioned on the court, but you’re still mostly concerned with getting the ball over the net on a more consistent basis.
A player at the 3.0 rating can hit forehands, knows where to hit serves, can return serves as long as they don’t exceed medium speed, and can hit dinks. The control o f these shots isn’t quite there yet.
Give yourself a pickleball self-rating of 3.5
When you feel your backhand shot is coming into play more often and you are able to return faster shots coming at you, you are a pickleball level 3.5 player. You know when you should move to the no-volley zone and you are beginning to understand which shots will be the most appropriate at any given time, yet still struggle to make a fast transition.
At pickleball level 3.5, the player knows the difference between the hard and soft game and understands the stacking strategy. You can give yourself this rating if you can also hit dinks and dropshots effectively.
Give yourself a pickleball self-rating of 4.0
When you know what to look for in opponents, can find weaknesses and exploit them, you’re a pickleball level 4.0 player. They have learned to move effectively with teammates when playing doubles and have no problem with being in the right court position.
Your forehand and backhand are equally effective and you have gained some proficiency at putting a spin on the ball. Your unforced errors have significantly decreased and you have gained consistency and control of your shots, including dinks and dropshots.
Give yourself a pickleball self-rating of 4.5
When you don’t have to think too hard about which shot to use and can pull it off many times before making an error, you’re a pickleball level 4.5 player. Footwork is leaning into the “exceptional” area and the knowledge of game strategy is at a high level.
The pickleball 4.5 rating is given to players who communicate well with their partner, fully understand the rules of the game and can sustain long rallies. Unforced errors are rare with a person at pickleball 4.5 skills.
Give yourself a pickleball self-rating of 5.0
When shots come naturally to you and you no longer have difficulty with the backhand, you’ve reached a pickleball 5.0 rating. Congratulations are in order because at pickleball level 5.0, you’ve nearly mastered pickleball strategy, your footwork is impeccable and you have the ability to adjust your game according to your opponents’ strengths and weaknesses.
Your backhand is almost as strong as your forehand at this level, if not equal, and you know exactly how to place shots, whether they’re dinks or long shots with spin.
Give yourself a pickleball self-rating of 5.5+
When you are among the best players in your club and consistently win at tournaments, you’re a pickleball level 5.5 player. The pickleball self rating of 5.5 or over only goes to those who have mastered all the shots, win consistently and are considered by those around them to be “top-quality players.” With a pickleball 5.5 rating, tournaments are frequently won.
So, where do you land in the 1.0 to 5.5-plus rating? Remember, while it’s important to know your rating for more accurate tournament placement and even pickup games at the local courts, it’s also something you can use to work on problem areas and track your improvement.
General pickleball skill levels
While it’s quite common to hear players at local clubs and courts refer to their playing level using the common two digit method (“I’m a 3.5” or “I play at the 2.0 level currently”), you can also use more generic terms to define your pickleball skill levels. The following is a pickleball levels explained section that should help you define where you are.
From beginner to intermediate to advanced, the more accurately you can define your skill level, the better off you will be in tournaments and the more fun you’ll have at your local court when you get paired up for games.
Beginner pickleball players
A “beginner” pickleball player skill level is assigned to someone who is brand new to the sport or only recently began playing. A beginner could be someone who is stepping onto the court for the first time or someone who has played just enough to sustain short rallies, but has no real knowledge of the different types of shots.
A pickleball beginner using the two digit rating system would be anywhere from a 1.0 to a 3.0. These are players who have developed only a basic understanding of the rules.
Intermediate pickleball players
The pickleball player skill level of “intermediate” is for someone who can sustain a rally using a variety of shots, including the backhand, which is one of the more difficult shots for most players.
These are players who would be anywhere from a 3.5 to a 4.5 on the two digit system, which means they’re using shots with spin when necessary and have honed their aim quite well. Intermediates are often the most numerous skill level at most pickleball clubs.
Advanced pickleball players
Advanced players are not very numerous, as these are players who have put the time and effort into mastering their shots, developing a complete understanding of various strategies and might even be pro pickleball players.
An intermediate player will not stand a chance against an advanced opponent, which is a pickleball player skill level of 5.0 and beyond using the two digit system. You’ll notice that players of this caliber make extremely few unforced errors.
When players need to be divided up during open play or at tournaments, knowing the skill level in advance is always a good thing. Furthermore, this method is also great for matching up players so those who have a lot to learn can play against someone more advanced and learn from them. Given how social the game is, there is plenty of opportunity for mentorship, tutelage, etc., and the rating system is a big component in facilitating that process.
USA Pickleball Tournament Player Rating (UTPR) system
The USA Pickleball ratings system is yet another option in defining a player’s level of skill. Officially, it’s known as the USA Pickleball Tournament Player Ratings, or UTPR. You might have heard of it as the USAPA rating, but that has since been retired for the new nomenclature.
An important caveat to this rating system is that you won’t have a UTPR if you are not a competing member of USA Pickleball.
This rating system is far more accurate than a self-rating score because it is based on the player’s game history.
Furthermore, rather than using a two-digit system, UTPR uses four digits. So, how does it work? The more you win, the higher your score goes up. If you’re on a losing streak, you’ll see your UTPR go down. However, this only occurs after sanctioned play in official tournaments.
Just as with the two-digit system, the UTPR identifies newbies with a low score, but instead of 1.0, it’s 0.000. The absolute best players in the game will get a 6.999 rating. But how is the number adjusted after a win or a loss? Interestingly, pickleball borrows from chess on this one. Arpad Elo, a master-level chess player, developed a mathematical system to rate fellow chess players. It basically calculates the relative skill of players in zero-sum games and has since been named the “Elo rating system” and is used to rate players in other sports, including basketball, tennis and football.
With the Elo system, when a higher rated player wins a match against a lower rated player, they get X amount of points from the lower rated player. However, if the unexpected occurs and a lower rated player bests a higher rated player, they take more points than what would occur in the other situation. For UTPR ratings for doubles, all you have to do is add your score to the score of your partner and divide by two.
One of the perks of the UTPR rating is that it prevents players from “sandbagging” in tournaments, which means they can’t constantly be playing down in level in an effort to win a medal. Rather, they’re playing someone at their actual skill level.
Dynamic Universal Pickleball Rating (DUPR) system
The Dynamic Universal Pickleball Rating (DUPR), also known as the Dreamland Universal Pickleball Rating, is a system that comes from an Austin-based pickleball player named Steve Kuhn. He’s the owner of Dreamland, a pickleball facility in Austin, thus the “Dreamland” moniker.
Similar to the UTPR rating, the DUPR pickleball rating system also uses four-digits, but instead of 0.000 to 6.999, the DUPR ranges from 2.000 to 8.000. Another similarity is that it also uses the Elo rating system, which means when you play a match, the results will work for or against your rating. By some accounts, the DUPR is the “most accurate and only global rating system.”
The DUPR is a new pickleball rating system that embraces a freer way of calculating a player's ranking.
For those who believe the self assessment should be a thing of the past, creating a DUPR account is in order, as it will show players exactly where they stand against their peers and pros. The system is free and open to any player of any skill. All you need to get started is to enter a match result. DUPR ratings get more accurate the more you play, so by the time you get 10 matches under your belt, you should have a decent evaluation of your skill.
To keep the DUPR system legit, players can self report their match results, but the other player must verify for accuracy. You don’t even have to play tournaments to get a DUPR rating. Given its openness and lack of restrictions, such as with the UTPR rating, the DUPR is often referred to as the democratized system.
DUPR is still relatively new, so it’s not as popular as UTPR or self ratings, but it is the official rating system for the Professional Pickleball Association. One reason DUPR could become increasingly popular is that it uses results from all matches, not just tournament play, and it uses in its calculations every point scored in a match instead of solely the final outcome.
In doubles play, DUPR offers higher weighting to the lesser partner's skill level, which is because the weaker player almost always gets more balls shot in their direction.
How to get a pickleball rating?
If you’re wondering how to get a pickleball rating, we’ve got plenty of information for you, because there are three ways to find out where you stand. For players who are excited to compete in sanctioned events, such as a USAPA tournament, you’ll automatically get a rating when you enter, and it will update the more you compete.
If you’re not that keen on entering into sanctioned events, you can take the self-assessment method with the USAPA. Refer back to the section where we discuss what players in each level (1.0 to 5.5-plus) are capable of in terms of different types of shot, understanding of rules and strategy, footwork, court position, etc.
The third way to get your rating is to sign up for the DUPR system and start reporting all of your games. Again, this does not require sanctioned tournament play – you can enter all the data from your matches at your local court.
How to improve your pickleball rating?
You’ve probably heard by now that pickleball is an addictive sport. People enjoy it so much that they play as often as they can, which leads to them getting better at the sport. If you want to know how to improve your pickleball game and your pickleball skill level, the simple answer is to keep playing!
For a fast track to improved skills, consider taking lessons. A good coach will provide you with insights that let you know exactly what you should be working on to move to the next step and the next level of play. They will offer tips that guide you through what you should be working on between lessons so you can see continuous improvement.
Another option is to play with those who have a higher skill set than you. You can pick up on what to do to improve your game by watching how they approach each shot, when they utilize a dink shot or a dropshot. You can even pick up tips from the way they strike the ball and mimic their stance to improve your contact.
Finally, utilize the self-rating system to see where you stack up in terms of what skills can be expected for each ranking. For example, see where you are currently and look at what defines a player one step up and work on those skills.