Pickleball Rankings - The Guidelines for Assessing Yours

Pickleball Rankings are good to have for personal playing reasons where you can match with players of equal ability and competency and are ‘must have’ if you want to play tournament pickleball. In brief, all pickleball players are ranked to gain entry to sanctioned tournaments. The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), provides the infrastructure for the development in the great sport we call Pickleball along with player ranking registration. 

As pickleball expands into different areas and countries around the world, there will be affiliates of the game with USAPA. Canada for example appropriately enough have, Pickleball Canada that is affiliated with the USAPA.

Collectively all affiliates will be a part of the International Federation of Pickleball. The USAPA is the governance to things such as the rules of the court, paddle manufacturers or at least the products that they produce. However the current player rating system used in North America is based on various criteria defined by the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP). 

Excepting events which require a USAPA-or club-approved rating level, the IFP skill level sets are the ones you need to use as the guide for evaluating your own ranking level. Yes this is a self-evaluation and yes this can be a little contentious with some and personally a little challenging to be self-subjective for most.

You can of course always ask a friend to help with your subjective self-assessment to arrive at a ranking that accurately reflects your level of competency.

Pickleball Rankings can be personally objective - (a little)

In addition to a Self rating you could also be rated through a tournament rating however this would be an adjusted rating either up or down as you would have to have a self-rating to be able to enter a tournament.

An adjusted rating might also come about through what is called an Appealed Rating and as the name suggests, this is where a player has appealed another’s rating.

It is well to remember particularly initially that player pickleball rankings are used to group players of parallel ability and competency as a player as much as possible so that players can compete in tournaments or leagues with other players and be competitive on a level playing field.

Keep in mind that there is no perfect system to ensure perfection but this gains accuracy the more a player plays with more games to evaluate and establish a rating over time. 

Pickleball Rankings are a good thing

Remembering that pickleball rankings are intended to improve a player’s chances of having a more competitive and fun match, not to intentionally sway the odds of a player winning a tournament.

It is noted that in the case of a player entering a rated tournament without an IFP rating, they must receive the tournament director’s approval to play in any rating category.

Players that are found to be playing at a higher rating level than they indicated may be defaulted from the tournament event and moved to the appropriate rated event at the discretion of the Tournament Director.

Yes it is in everyone’s interest, including your own to be as accurate with this assessment of ranking level as it is very quickly played out on court. Accurate rankings will help ensure you and your opponents have a positive playing experience.

The Pickleball rankings guide below is used to determine player rankings for tournaments in the USA. In the absence of an affiliate having a ranking system of your own, this guide will definitely help.

It must be stated that each of the pickleball rankings guide points are not absolute in themselves however it is useful to know the competencies required to fulfill at any given skill level.

Each player’s skill level for each point can be or will be noticeably different for each of the skills within each ranking. Most of the top level players will be very successful at many of the listed skills while the skill set of a lower level player will understandably be more limited.

A great point here is that you can use this pickleball rankings guide to know what to do to improve your game.

Pickleball Rankings - we all start somewhere

So - NEWBIES can be classified with a ranking below 1.5

A newbie is a person who is not only new to the game of pickleball but in most instances has played very little racquet sports previously. They maybe unable to hit the ball across the net or return balls with any form or consistency and likely have no idea of the rules of play and keeping score etc.

This person should be encouraged to simply hit a ball back and forth with or without a net to simply get a feel of the game prior to any game play obviously. 

1.0   ranked players skills will encompass:

·         Finding the court

·         Holding a paddle

·         Listening to instructions

Basically a 1.0 player is brand new to the game and expectantly will only have minimal knowledge of the game and the rules and how to play.

1.5 ranked players skills will encompass:

·         Playing some short rallies

·         Learning how to serve

·         Developing a forehand

·         Fails to return easy balls frequently and occasionally misses the ball entirely

·         Played a few games and is learning the court lines, scoring, and some basic rules of the game.

2.0 ranked players could be thought of as BEGINNERS and their skills will be limited to:

·         Being able to sustains a short rally with players of equal ability

·         Demonstrating the basic shot strokes – forehand, backhand, volley, overhead and the serve, but has obvious weaknesses in most strokes

·         Being familiar with court positioning in doubles play

·         Being able to assist the new club member in determining their level of skill, please follow these guidelines:

2.5 ranked players skills will encompass:

·         Being able to engage in longer lasting slow-paced rallies

·         Able to play most easy volleys and use some backhands, but needs more work on developing shot strokes

·         Being able to approaching the non-volley zone to hit volleys on most occasions.

·         Being aware of the “soft game.”

·         Having a growing knowledge of the rules with noticeable difference from under levels

·       Court coverage a little weak but improving

3.0 ranked players skills will encompass:

·         More consistency on the serve and service return and when returning medium-paced balls

·         Demonstrating improved skills with all the basic shot strokes and shot placement but lacks control when trying for direction, depth, or power on their shots

·         Beginning to attempt lobs and dinks with little success and doesn’t fully understand when and why they should be used

3.5 ranked players skills will encompass:

·         Demonstrated improved stroke dependability with directional control on most medium-paced balls and some faster-paced balls

·         Demonstrated improved control when trying for direction, depth and power on their shots

·         The need to develop variety with their shots

·         Some exhibition of aggressive net play

·         Being able to anticipate opponent’s shots

·         Learning about the importance of strategy and teamwork in doubles

4.0 ranked players skills will encompass:

·         Consistent and dependable strokes, including directional control and depth on both forehand and backhand shots.

·         Reliable serves, lobs, overheads, approach shots and volleys and can use spin shots with some success.

·         Occasionally can force errors when serving

·         Rallies may be lost due to impatience

·         Uses the dink shot and drop shots to slow down or change the pace of the game

·         Demonstrates 3rd shot strategies – drop shots, lobs, and fast-paced ground strokes

·         Aggressive net play and teamwork in doubles is evident

·         Fully understands the rules of the game and can play by them

4.5 ranked players skills will encompass:

·         Beginning to master the use of power and spin, can successfully execute all shots, can control the depth of their shots, and can handle pace

·         Beginning to master the dink shots and drop shots and their importance to the game.

·         Beginning to master 3rd shot choices

·         Displays sound footwork and moves well enough to get to the non-volley zone whenever required

·         Understands strategy and can adjust style of play and game plan according to the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and court position

·         Serves with power and accuracy and can also vary the speed and spin of the serve

·         Understands the importance of “keeping the ball in play” and the effect of making errors

·         Making good choices in shot selection

·         Anticipates the opponent’s shots resulting in good court positioning

Pickleball Rankings - Ultimate Goal

5.0 ranked players skills will encompass:

·         Mastery of all the skills – all shot types, touch, spin, serves, with control and can use them as weapons

·         Excellent shot anticipation, extremely accurate shot placement and regularly hit winning shots

·         Forces opponents into making errors by “keeping the ball in play.”

·         Mastered the dink and drop shots

·         Mastered the 3rd shot choices and strategies

·         Uses soft shots, dinks and lobs to set up offensive situations

·         Mastery of pickleball strategies and can vary strategies and styles of play in competitive or tournament matches

·         Dependability in stressful situations as in tournament match play

·         Athletic ability, quickness, agility, and raw athleticism are also qualities that are sometimes what separates the top players from those near the top

The Pickleball Rankings guide is great for identifying the areas of your game that you might need to practice to be able to move up the rankings.

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