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Pickleball 101

Curious What Your Pickleball Skill Level Is? The Dink Can Help You Evaluate Your Game

by Luke Burton on

Ahh Pickleball, the fastest-growing sport in the United States (and maybe even the world?). It's captivating (read addicting) enthusiasts across the nation and whether you're a newcomer or a seasoned player, understanding the nuances of the pickleball ratings is crucial for rec players and tournament junkies alike.

So let's dive right into the different pickleball skill levels! (As a bonus, we've got a skills quiz at the end for you to use).

Why do I need a skill rating?

Unless you're only jumping onto the courts with your family and friends, you'll want to know your skill level to mix in recreationally. Most open play at public courts have queuing systems that are organized by skill level.

For the ones by me, two paddle racks are separated by "beginner" and "advanced". This means players looking to join can make sure they're playing people at their level.

Basic Pickleball Skill Levels

While there are more advanced rating systems (more on that below), we've separated skill levels into three tiers:

  1. Beginner Level
    • New to the game, beginners are those focusing on grasping the fundamental rules of the game.
    • Beginners will be working on the basics like proper footwork, consistent serves and returns, and essential shots.
    • Strategy at this stage involves learning proper court positioning and rallying with consistency.
  2. Intermediate Level
    • Players at this stage exhibit improved control and consistency in their shots leading to longer rallies.
    • Intermediate players will have a variety of shots that they can execute relatively consistently, such as volleys, dinks, third-shot drops, and lobs.
    • Introduction to more advanced strategies like poaching, speed-ups, and resets.
  3. Advanced Level
    • Advanced players showcase refined techniques with greater shot diversity and fewer unforced errors.
    • They demonstrate mastery of strategic plays, adapting play to target opponents' weaknesses, and adapting game play.
    • Expert court awareness and the ability to execute complex shots with precision.

What are the rating systems?

Several rating systems are available to identify what level a pickleball player is at, each one having unique benefits and features. They all assign a 2-4 digit number with most amateur players ranging from 1.0-5.0+.

USA Pickleball (USAP), the governing body of the sport, uses Universal Tournament Player Ratings (UTPR). This rating adjusts automatically by playing USAP-sanctioned tournaments.

If you don't play competitively, you can also use USA Pickleball's self-rating system to identify your level. They break down the ratings into written criteria which you compare yourself against. This is a quick and easy way to roughly gauge where you're play level is at but not the most reliable.

Arguably the most accurate form of rating comes from the company DUPR. They use an advanced algorithm that assigns you a rating from 2.000-8.000 and automatically adjusts based on match history, the opponents played, and how you performed during the match (for recreational and tournament play). DUPR is used by the two major professional tours Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and Major League Pickleball (MLP).

Tips for Improving at Pickleball

Here are some simple ways to improve your pickleball game.

  • Consistent Practice
    • While playing regularly will help you naturally improve your game, the fastest way to improve is by doing drills with a partner. These help you focus on specific aspects of your game during each session.
  • Seek Guidance
    • Consider taking lessons from experienced coaches or joining clinics to receive personalized feedback and guidance. This is especially helpful for intermediate players who can often develop bad habits through rec play.
  • Analyzing Matches
    • Sometimes what you think you're doing isn't actually what you are doing. Are you really following through on your strokes? Reviewing your game play and analyzing matches, whether through videos or self-reflection, helps identify areas for improvement.
  • Play with Diverse Opponents
    • Get out of your comfort zone! Challenge yourself by playing against opponents of varying skill levels. This exposure will enhance your adaptability and overall game play.
  • Subscribe to The Dink
    • We curate the best pickleball tips, drills, and strategies from the pros and deliver them to you for free each week. Click here to subscribe.

Pickleball Skills Quiz

Not sure what your pickleball skill level is? Take our pickleball rating quiz to find out:

About the Author: Luke is the Chief Growth Officer at The Dink and produces the Tennis Sucks pickleball podcast. He started playing pickleball in Florida in 2020 and now plays competitively in the state.

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