Peak to Peak Pickleball

The Heart of the Rockies - Chaffee County, Colorado

Skill Level Definitions

The following skill level sets are a guide for evaluating your own level and is meant to help you to determine how to sign up for tournaments and round robin challenges. They were developed using existing guidelines listed by the USAPA, IFP, and from input from other pickleball club websites, particularly the Bend, Oregon website. This is a work in progress, and constructive criticism is welcome.

The following lists each skill level from 2.0 to 4.0+. It also adds specific detail about skills required to be at a given level.


Note: Above the 2.0 level, all levels should be able to demonstrate most of the skills for their level plus most of the skills from preceding levels. Thus a 2.5 level player, for example, demonstrates most skills in the 2.5 level list as well as most skills in the 2.0 level list, and so on.

2.0 Skill Level

  • Has taken a beginners lesson or clinic (or demonstrates equivalent knowledge)
  • 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
  • Knows the 2-bounce rule
  • Has some basic stroke skills and can often keep the ball in play

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 and has the basic rules down 100%
  • Is capable of hitting a few dinks in a row
  • Working on their form for forehand and backhand ground strokes, accuracy is variable
  • Approaches the non-volley line to hit volleys
  • Attempts other shots (lobs, drops) with varying degrees of success
  • Can keep the ball in play longer

3.0 Skill Level

  • Knows the fundamental rules and can keep score
  • Dinks mostly in opposite kitchen and is dinking lower over the net
  • Able to sustain dinking in the game
  • Uses both forehand and backhand on returns and forehands on overhead returns with some control (depth, placement)
  • Working at keeping the serve deep and return of serve deep, regularly serves past mid-court
  • Moves quickly towards the non-volley zone when opportunity is there
  • Trying to make flatter returns (where appropriate)
  • Sustains short volley sessions at the net
  • Aware of partner’s position on the court & moving as a team
  • Developing more power and/or softness in their shots
  • 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, including “special case” rules
  • Gets a high majority of serves and return of serves deep in the service court
  • 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
  • Able to create coverage gaps and then hit to these gaps
  • Able to adjust to differing ball speeds consistently
  • Hits fewer balls out of bounds or in the net
  • Has a moderate number 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

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
  • Consistent and dependable groundstrokes, volleys, and overheads
  • Accuracy in placing lobs
  • 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 put-aways
  • 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 number of unforced errors per game
  • Regularly demonstrates “anticipation of play”
  • Self-correcting during play
  • Consistently is a multi-dimensional player and/or is exceptionally dominant 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
  • Has competed in tournaments at the 4.5 level or higher

Differences between 4.5 and 5.0 are subjective – but, generally, each of the points above is even more pronounced at the 5.0 level.

Peak to Peak Pickleball is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Salida, Colorado 81201

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