Do You Have Low Shot Tolerance?

Have you ever heard of “low shot tolerance”? This is a phrase my college tennis coach used many years ago to describe the lack of discipline and patience required to sustain a long rally with an opposing player or team. 

I had two very different tennis idols growing up in the 1970’s – Ken Rosewall and Bjorn Borg. Rosewall was older and more “establishment” looking. Borg was younger and had long hair and a beard. And unlike their contemporaries John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, both Rosewall and Borg kept their emotions (and mouths) in check. 

In addition, Rosewall and Borg both exhibited “high shot tolerance” and an ability to wear down and defeat opponents, point after point and game after game. This is probably the reason why I gravitated toward and adopted the “Play Low and Slow” philosophy in my style of playing and pickleball coaching. 

I see (and experience) low shot tolerance in many pickleball games. One metric I track is the “total number of hits” occurring in the point during a game. When the number is below ten, I typically see a player trying to speed up the game too quickly. Or, I see players trying to hit as hard as possible in order to create a “forced error” or produce an “outright winner.” 

But what usually happens is they make an unforced error instead. They either miss an easy shot or generate a “high ball” that gets slammed right at their partner. I know this may be a shock, but we rarely analyze poor shot selection and attribute this unforced error to the correct player on a team.

So, what’s the antidote? How do you as a pickleball player develop “high shot tolerance”?

One answer is in The Coach Mark Workout©. This series of drills and drill games is designed to improve the control and consistency required of high shot tolerance and to play low and slow. 

In particular, the three drill games of The Coach Mark Workout© will develop and test your high shot tolerance in a competitive-like environment. These drill games include:

  • 0 – 60 Drill Game
  • Serve and Stay Game
  • Serve and Slide Game

Each drill game is a version of the “skinny singles” or “ghost doubles” concept. I like these games because of my goal to develop as a top-notch singles player. But, I also like these drill games because they force players to develop and perfect skills that often go ignored (e.g., third shot drop, quick movement to the NVL, purposeful and sustainable dinking, offensive lobbing, directional placement, etc.). 

Although not utilized in The Coach Mark Workout©, I want to review how you play a game of ghost doubles. This is a term from the world of tennis many pickleball players have never heard.

As with skinny singles, the players typically on the court in a game of doubles are not present (i.e., they ‘re ghosts).  Unlike the Serve and Slide or Serve and Stay Games, a Ghost Doubles Game uses both down the line and cross-court play during a game that is rally scored.

Here’s how a Ghost Doubles Game works:

  • You start the game with Player 1 serving cross court to Player 2
  • If Player 1 scores a point, then they move to the left court position and serve again down the line (Player 2 stays in their original position as the second point is played out down the line)
  • If Player 1 doesn’t score a point on their very first serve, they stay in their original position and Player 2 moves to their left court position and serves down the line (and the point is played out down the line)
  • And so forth …

In a game of Ghost Doubles, you keep moving sides if you keep scoring points. You do not move if you do not score a point. 

A good way to keep track of court position is to remember:

  • If your score is even, you should be standing on the right side of the court
  • If your score is odd, you should be standing on the left side of the court

As with all things new, it will take you a game or two to remember the right court position. 

Be patient! You’ll be rewarded with confident and high quality gameplay performance.

Published by Coach Mark

Coach Mark is a Certified Pickleball Coach, Teaching Professional, and Rating Specialist at Coach Mark LLC.