Tournament Ratings Processes

(ED. NOTE:  All documents for tournament ratings are listed below, along with a link to a video explaining the problems with tournament ratings and a possible solution. All documentation links for in-club ratings processes are at the bottom of this page.)

Editor’s Note; March 19, 2016. Individuals have asked for information as to how to rate themselves, as opposed to getting a true tournament ratings from another source or getting an in-club rating to be used in your club’s organized play. If your interest is rating yourself, look through the documents for in-club ratings processes at the bottom of this page. You may also want to check Prem Carnot’s work on this, Gale Leach’s composite document, or the USAPA’s skill level definition sheets. We are also starting to think that Doug Koch, in Reno, has the real answer. He has developed a video analysis processes where he videos about 20 different shots maybe 12 different times, and then takes it home and analyzes it. If he ever can make this process less intensive and expert-dependent we would think this is the way to go for an individual to find where they really belong, ratings-wise. We’re just sayin’ and can’t refer you on to Doug as we don’t know if he’s actually offering the service outside his local group. But see here an example which he did agree we could share.

Editor’s Note; Dec. 13, 2015. Today we posted a review of a new service which may help solve a good part of the tournament ratings delemma. Please check out the article on this site and visit and give them some feedback and encouragement.

There are two tournament ratings scenarios and this page discusses them both and links to substantial information about each. This first scenario relates to the process of rating TOURNAMENT players. It is developed from the perspective that the existing USAPA tournament rating process is not good enough, frankly. It has a number of known problems, and this information, which is written by Paul Porch and is approved by a number of very savvy and experienced picklers, gives a new way of thinking about tournament ratings and outlines the problems and one possible solution. On this site it’s also explained by a video and perhaps that is a good place to start. The following are the documents and the video, again developed by Paul Porch but “sponsored” by a number of experienced picklers including us, for what that’s worth:

Proposal for New Tournament Rating System – Video, by Paul Porch

Paul Porch makes a great case for an new pickleball rating system for tournament play – one that is already used in many other competitive sports! Please check it out here, at the bottom of the page. Come back thereafter because documentation follows:

New Tournament Ratings System Supporting Documents

Pickleball Tournament Ratings introduction (read this first)
Tournament Ratings System – overview, assumptions, criteria
Pickleball Ratings, comparisons
Rating System examples

The second scenario relates to the struggles inherent in trying to set up a CLUB MEMBER RATINGS STYEM – not one that gives tournament-acceptable ratings, necessarily, but allows for people within the club to rate themselves or be rated in a fair and equitable fashion.

Outside of a catastrophic accident on the courts, IOHO there simply cannot be a bigger nightmare for a club than trying to implement a member ratings process. Opportunities for hurt feelings abound. Isn’t it true that ‘most everybody (AJ included, not quite as much Irene) believes something not born out by objective observation? Don’t most folks think  they are better than they are, that they are just as good as the best players in their group, and therefore should be rated higher? Don’t they believe that they don’t take backhands in the middle on almost every opportunity and they always convert hard shots to soft shots so they can get up and control the line?

(answer to above questions = yes, mostly everybody does some version of this….)

And what IS objective observation, anyway? Isn’t that just another way of saying that a bunch of people sit around, subjectively decide what skills should be employed at a certain level, and then tell others what they have observed, about them?

(answer to above questions = no, not necessarily. More on this in a moment.)

That said, there are proven ways of getting ratings done where (to our knowledge) nobody has seriously damaged another person.

The development of the following process occurred in Palm Creek about 2011. The process originated with a review of the inadequate skill-level-definitions as then published by the USAPA. The idea of moving from the then-prevalent “Novice, C, B and A” skill-level designations, that were typically completely undefined, to something that approximated the well-defined numeric skill-ratings (2.5, 3.0, etc.) used for years in tennis. While the USAPA’s version was a first step, the definitions of the various skills was so sketchy as to be virtually useless for anything beyond the very beginner levels of 2.0 or even 2.5.

The Palm Creek Pickleball Club chose to rewrite the skill-level processes and migrate everyone to those newly defined skill levels. We (Irene and A.J.) were two of the original four who re-wrote the skill-level definitions and added a quite detailed level of specificity to the skills-definitions at each level. We then formed a rating committee and within a month or two had about 9 or 11 people trained up to evaluate others based on the new skill-level worksheets. We also identified a process people would have to go through to be rated by this committee. That was then, and it worked, but the newest version of that process, completely overhauled, simplified and generally made better by Noel White, is attached.

In addition, since we have transported the process to the Bend Pickleball Club, and since in the interim there are simplified rating sheets which have been made available through the USAPA thanks to Christie Borne and Chris Thomas, there is also documentation below on how the rating process is handled in Bend.

We should be quick to mention that people at Palm Creek had (and still have) a choice. They could simply self-rate at whatever level they felt comfortable and this allowed them to play in any and all organized events (round robins, shoot-outs, etc.) that were directed at their level. But there were certain round-robins where you had to actually hold a USAPA rating at the required level to be allowed to play. This was seen as desirable as the play in those round-robins, where all people held a fairly objective rating and weren’t simply self-assessing, was the most closely matched and most competitive and people generally loved it.

The Bend Pickleball Club tends to be a little stricter about all organized play and wants people in any level to be able to “keep up” – and we therefore encourage people to get a rating which is NOT a USAPA rating but is at least good for people getting to the right level in the Bend club and in Bend-sponsored tournaments.

Not to make this confusing, but it’s handled slightly differently in Palm Creek. If they applied for a rating, went through the process, were “judged” to be at least at the entry-level of the skill-rating they wanted to  hold, AND if they were also willing to join the USAPA (sorta our way of  insuring that we moved towards being a premier USAPA-affiliated club, having long before drunk the USAPA Kool-Aid, as the expression goes), then by gosh they would actually BE a true USAPA-rated 3.5, 4.0 or what have you, and would be able to play in the rated events as well as in any USAPA-sanctioned tournaments…at the level they achieved.

In Palm Creek, this process was and even in its simple current version still is a tad laborious. It takes, today, at least a couple and usually three people several hours to complete a full evaluation on someone. There are a couple of short-cuts, worksheets that can be used to pre-evaluate folks and so on, but overall it’s a lot of work.

In Bend, the process is handled by having three or four raters on one court with four people who each want to go up from the same level – encouraging play to be at about the same level. In Bend evaluators watch each team play for ten minutes (to avoid blow-out games that are too quick to evaluate anything) and rate each person on a separate worksheet during that ten minutes. They then ask the people to switch up, play another ten minutes and do it again, and then a third time so all have played with and against each other. After, the raters get together and compare notes on each person, and then the consolidated feedback is given to each person separately. This is still a long process but is shorter than Palm Creek’s and we have confidence it’s producing a pretty good result. Maybe 2 1/2 hours to evaluate four people this way, with three or four raters (one senior rater, two or three other raters).

We give all this detail because you should know what you are getting into when you take on a true ratings process like this one. Don’t expect it to be quick and dirty. Not to say that there isn’t a quick and dirty way to get everybody in a club a rating (even if it ain’t a true USAPA rating)…there is. That way is to form a committee which has on it people who know everybody in your club. Using your own observations and memory, and sometimes the skill-definition sheets attached, you assign everybody a rating. And then  you tell everybody what their rating is. And then you duck and cover. Don’t get us wrong; 80% of your club’s population will be 3.0 and 3.5 and know it and don’t argue it. It’s the 20% that will give you fits. But it does get you moving down the road.

We’re also aware of a dozen other ways to administer this process but having mentioned the worst way (just above), we’re also giving you a couple of the best ways, which is that previously mentioned combination of self-ratings plus the more detailed approach for those who wish to obtain a true USAPA rating. Documentation about the detailed process can be downloaded from the links below. We think reading through the various documents will get you started. Good luck.

  1. New Sample USAPA Rating Worksheets 2.0 – 4.0 (updated 5.11.15)
  2. Rating Pre-Screen Drill-Set and Process (used BEFORE a ratings session as a screen)
  3. Process for Obtaining a Rating
  4. Rating Committee Approach – as used in the Palm Creek Pickleball Club
  5. NEW Rating Committee Approach – as used in the Bend Pickleball Club
  6. Rating Reviewer Protocol
  7. Original Palm Creek Skill Expectations by Level
  8. Two-Player Rating Worksheet
  9. Rating Level Creep
  10. USAPA Ambassadors on Ratings













  • Emily
    February 24, 2020

    I can’t get links to open regarding current growth numbers and samples of fund raising programs – I need for presentation to Town Council for conversion of tennis courts to pickleball courts. Can you help me? Thanks

    • Us
      February 28, 2020

      Hi, Emily. We swear we responded to this one from you….was the comment posted on another page? In any event, we’d usually be your source for this but we completely revamped our site last week and lots of our links are in trouble. We will have all that back up within a week, but the real problem is that we haven’t updated those numbers ourselves for 12 months or so and we suspect they are very low Until we’re back and ready to go I’d suggest checking out the USAPA’s site ( to see if they have anything current. The better suggestion would be to go through your local USAPA Ambassador – they are actually tasked with helping this exact kind of thing, or at least we did all the time when we were Ambassadors. If you know who yours is, great, go that way. Otherwise, go to the Ambassador section on the site and see who represents your physical area. You may need to start with a District or even a Regional Ambassador but they are all usually very glad to help. Hope this helps you…check us in the future for this kind of thing.

  • Pam M.
    January 11, 2020

    I see this site is from 2015 but the USAPA Ambassadors group just mentioned this site recently. However the bottom hyperlinks don’t work. You get a 404 error when you try 1-10. Please, can you resolve the errors?

    • Us
      January 12, 2020

      Thanks! We have been having an issue since changing from http to https. Don’t know why but am trying to fix links individually. Which bottom hyperlinks are you talking about? We will get in ‘em!

      • Debbie
        February 11, 2020

        The list of 10 at the bottom of the page … all about the Rating process is what is erroring out.

        Thank you !

        • Us
          February 11, 2020

          Hey, Debbie. Thanks again for your comments. OK, we see what you’re talking about. Some of those are dead now (company no longer exists). But some should be redirected to new urls. We are pretty busy making those overhauls but will work some on that today. Keep an eye on the site for new information about a ranking system (ranking players instead of “just” rating them. Hopefully we’ll track down more info about that within a week or so.

  • May 11, 2015

    Great website. And wonderful logo. And very helpful article on ratings. Here in Hiawassee, GA, we’re facing this issue now as we prepare for our first tournament this September. Just about all of us are older, and many are leery, and just plain scared, of the ratings process: “I’m too old to be rated… I’m just here to have fun… I just know I’m a better player than you’ll think…” on down to “Don’t rate me now – I’m chafed/dehydrated/in a hurry/etc.”

    So I’m wondering how many clubs that have successfully carried out ratings are formal organizations, with bylaws and such. I’m thinking the willingness to rate correlates with the willingness to participate and engage in a real organization. (We’re not, but we flirt with it. I think this would be a reason to do it.) And has anybody actually lost participation after rating playes.

    • Ron Telfors
      February 14, 2018

      we have sucessfully got a rating committee organized in our pickleball club Kamloops pickleball club in BC Canada and with the USPA org
      rating sheets was very easy to rate players. The rating committee consisted of about 5 players as there is always one player not able to
      participate at the review of player performance. What our committee does now is get each player to demonstrate all strokes :
      forehand,backhand, dinks, midcourt drops, 3rd shotdrops, lobs, serves etc. All players we have rated accepted our findings with little hurt
      feelings. The head rating person explains to the player being rated with positive things to say about their play and what a player needs to
      work on to achieve the rating they wish to achieve. If a player sucessfully passes all the shots that they demonstrated then they move on to a
      game situation where there is one experienced player playing with a player wanting a new rating. 2 rating committee players watch one
      side and 2 other rating players watch the other side. so 2 players are rated at once. 2 game situations are played with players being rated
      switch to the opposite side and play with different partner. The players being rated then individaully meet with the head rater player and
      discuss the results. The head rater must have really good PR skills and must always be positive in their remarks to players wanting a rating.

  • April 18, 2015

    I’m not sure I returned my answer to my willingness to serve on the RATING REVIEW COMMITTEE. I would like to serve. Please pass this information to Gail Miller, Werner or Doug Cleavenger. I have had numerous opportunities to rate tennis players according to the USPA and for Racquetball Players under the guidelines of the United States Racquetball Association. My phone number for calls or text is: 541-390-3839. Thank you very much.

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