The Best Pickleball Vacation Options For Summer 2019

Pickleball has spread to more locations than ever before, so when you’re on the move and looking for games you can often find a few local courts via sites like the USAPA’s Places 2 Play.

That being said, if you’re looking for a more pickleball-specific getaway this summer, there are events that will offer far beyond a few casual games. From tournaments to clinics and globe-trotting excursions, read on to start planning your ultimate pickleball getaway! Click on the event names for more information and details on how to sign up.

Pickle Palooza – Encinitas, CA – Aug 2 – 4

Pickle Palooza is a 3-day event open to pickleball fanatics of all skill levels. Pros Steve Dawson and Dave Fleming are hosting Palooza, and they’re bringing a bevvy of other top picklers with them, including Kyle Yates, Matt Wright, Lucy Kovalova and many more. Attendees will enjoy exhibition matches, pro interviews and instruction, paddle demos and open play. Training and entertainment is being hosted at the Bobby Riggs Racket and Paddle Club in beautiful Southern California.

Sign up by June 30th for a $25 early bird discount!

Palooza Pros

Palooza Pros

Tournament of Champions – Brigham City, UT – Aug 21 – 24

This tournament has an attractive prize pool and many exciting opportunities surrounding it, including the soothing Crystal Hot Springs, ATV and air boat rides, and beautiful national parks. Sign up for our BOOST Training Camp to get an extra dose of pickleball several days before the tournament. The camp runs from Aug 17 – 19th with coaching from Steve Dawson, Peter Hudachko, Jennifer Dawson, Brian Ashworth and Del Kauss.

Registration deadline: June 22nd

Gamma PB Classic Tournament – Pittsburgh, PA – July 26 – 28

This tournament is located in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center boasting 150,000 square feet of space and 36 courts. Top players will be in attendance and there’s over $13,000 of prize money to be won. Enjoy open play on the courts before the competition begins. Be sure to take advantage of the location and set out for the beautiful Phipps Conservatory, museums and zoo nearby!

Registration deadline: July 1st

French Open PB Championships – Fayence, France – Aug 29 – Sept 1

An exciting international tournament we’ve featured before, complete with pre-tournament clinics from Kyle Yates and Irina Tereschenko. Fayence is a gorgeous medieval village and close to many popular sightseeing locales. If you want to continue your stay in Europe and find more pickling opportunities, the Spanish Open won’t be happening much later, running from Sept 6 – 8th.

Registration deadline: July 31st

Fayence

Fayence

Vulcan US National Indoor PB Championships – Hot Springs, AR – July 18 – 21

Skill challenges, pickleball clinics, entertainment and beautiful scenery all surround this indoor tournament that comes complete with 26 air-conditioned courts. Hot Springs Village is only 20 min from the venue and has a wide variety of amenities to explore such as boating, golf, nature trails, fishing and other outdoor activities. Receive a free Vulcan backpack at check-in!

Registration deadline: June 27th

Scott Moore Pickleball Trips: Rhine Wine & Dine – Rhine Region of Germany – July 9 – 18

Essen, Germany was named the 2010 European capital of Culture and will be hosting the 3rd Bainbridge Cup which pits Team North America vs Team Europe. This is immediately followed by the German Open from July 13 – 14th. Get the most out of your time in the area by traveling with pickleball pros Jon and Daniel Moore. They will be taking their group on a historical, cultural and gastronomical tour of the stunning Rhine region.

Meet The Pros – Sarah Yates-Parker

Meet The Pros – Sarah Yates-Parker

Sarah and Kyle Yates

Sarah Yates-Parker and Kyle Yates

Awesome! This is Kyle Yates SISTER! Enuf said. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2019 US Open 19+ Women’s doubles Silver with Katie McKee
2017 US Open 19+ Mixed Doubles Gold with Kyle Yates
2017 US Open 19+ Women’s doubles Silver with Rachel Elliot
2017 Atlanta Open 5.0 Women’s Doubles Silver with Lucy Kitcher
2017 Nationals 19+ Women’s Doubles Silver with Jessica Stout

What paddle do you play with and why?

I currently play with the New Tempest Pro by Paddletek. Absolutely love the company and their products.

What is your pickleball story? Who introduced you to pickleball?

I started playing some pickleball when I came home (Fort Myers) on various breaks from college in North Carolina (Pfeiffer University). My brother Kyle, mom Julie, step-dad Larry, and Uncle Mike introduced me to pickleball. I seriously started to play when I graduated college in 2014 and permanently moved to Winston Salem, NC. From there I met our great pickleball group in NC and my husband Daniel and I have worked hard to compete at higher levels.

What is your preference: playing indoors or outdoors?

I totally prefer outdoors more than playing indoors. Anyone that knows me will tell you that! Haha. I blame it on the fact I learned outdoors in Fort Myers, Florida and that is what I am most comfortable with.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I have had a handful of knee injuries and surgeries so I do not play any singles (besides skinny singles against my husband, Daniel Parker). My favorite is women’s doubles.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

My favorite place to play is at East Naples Community Park for the annual US Open. The crowd and atmosphere at this facility is unlike any other.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

My secret sauce? I guess I don’t really have a secret sauce besides finding openings down the middle and between teammates to place the ball. HUGE tip for players is practice practice practice. Get a ball machine, or a really good friend to go out with you and practice all kinds of shots. Third shot drops are so important and being able to get up to the kitchen line to put pressure on your opponents.

What is your day job?

I actively work as a Registered Nurse in the Operating Room at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital in Winston Salem, NC. I work 3 12 hour day shifts through the week which lets me play some on my off days. I am also currently enrolled in my Masters Program for Nurse Practitioner so that takes up a lot of my time.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I really try to play 4-8 hours a week, whether it is rec play or even just drilling with my ball machine and/or husband on our own.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

Sports Foam Roller

Foam Roller (photo credit Dicks Sporting goods)

No specific rituals. I faithfully use my foam roller before big tournaments and try to drill a lot on certain important shots weeks before a big tournament.

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

I really want to be able to compete with my brother Kyle again at a major tournament. Playing with a sibling or spouse can be very difficult, but I loved competing next to him and sharing that memory together.

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

This sport has brought so much fun, competitiveness, friendships, and memories to my life. I am fortunate enough to be healthy and have the ability to play like I do. People who know me, know that I do not give up, and strive to become a better player and person every day.

Golden Girl Jennifer Dawson – World Class Athlete, Professional Pickleball And Tennis Champion

As pickleball continues to grow and an increasing number of tennis players transition to the sport of pickleball, few have achieved the level of success in both pickleball and tennis as Jennifer Dawson. An amazing athlete with incredible power and grace on and off the courts, Jennifer continues to earn major titles in tennis and pickleball, now as a Senior Pro in both sports.

In 2017, Jennifer made pickleball history as the first ever Triple Crown winner at the Minto US OPEN Pickleball Championships, winning gold in Senior Pro Singles, Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles. At the 2018 Minto US OPEN, she won gold in Women’s Senior Pro Doubles.

Jennifer Dawson

Jennifer’s titles at the USAPA Nationals Championships are equally as impressive, starting in 2015 with silver in Women’s Doubles 19+, then in 2016 gold in Women’s Doubles 35+, followed by two silver medals in 2017 in Women’s Senior Open Doubles and Singles. At the most recent 2018 USAPA National Pickleball Championships, Jennifer again won silver in Women’s Senior Open Singles, and another gold in Women’s Senior Open Doubles. She has also won several gold medals at the Tournament of Champions in both Senior Pro Doubles and Singles.

Jennifer’s pickleball achievements alone are beyond impressive. What makes her accomplishments even more remarkable is that she achieves such success while also competing and winning at an elite level in tennis. Jennifer recently spoke with Pickleball Central founder Anna Copley about her pickleball career, tennis background and highlights, and why she favors ProKennex paddles. Watch the interview with Jennifer here.

Jennifer Dawson Video Interview

Jennifer started playing tennis at age seven, and went on to play Division I collegiate tennis at USD. Then Jennifer Larking, she claimed the #1 Singles rank at USD in 1986, 1987 and 1988. After college, Jennifer played on the pro tennis tour for several years, racking up an impressive record. After taking some time off to raise a family she later returned to national and international competitive tennis, earning the number one USTA ranking in women’s 35, 40 and 45 age groups.

Currently, Jennifer plays at the highest level on the USTA Senior International Tennis Team, competing in dozens of tennis tournaments annually. On May 18, 2019 at the USTA National Women’s Senior Hard Court Tennis Championships in La Jolla, where the best players across the country compete for the coveted USTA Gold Balls awarded to the top national champions, she won not just one but two gold balls. The only double gold winner of the week, Jennifer won gold in both Singles and Doubles 50+ division.

Jennifer Dawson USTA team.jpeg

Jennifer and her husband Steve Dawson own and operate the Bobby Riggs Racket & Paddle Center in Encinitas, CA, where they are both tennis and pickleball pros. The BOOST Pickleball Training Camps at Bobby Riggs Center provide pickleball players an opportunity to train with and learn from some of the finest players in the world – Steve, Jennifer, their son Callan (an accomplished 5.0 pickleball player) and several world class visiting guest pros such as Simone Jardim, Irina Tereschenko, Corrine Carr and Cammy MacGregor.

Athletes like the Dawsons are understandably particular about the equipment they use. Steve turned to ProKennex years ago when he was suffering from tennis elbow. So impressed with the ProKennex Kinetic Energy system for how well it improved his injury symptoms in tennis, Steve began working with ProKennex two years ago to develop pickleball paddles using the same technology.

The first ProKennex pickleball paddle, the Kinetic Pro Speed, was introduced at the 2018 US OPEN Pickleball Championships and immediately won a staggering collection of medals (with a little help from Steve and Jennifer). The newest ProKennex paddle, the Kinetic Ovation Speed, with an innovative oval shape and unparalleled sweet spot, was just introduced at the 2019 Minto US OPEN, winning more medals for both of the Dawsons.

Thanks to the ProKennex Kinetic Energy vibration dampening technology, thousands of pickleball players are benefiting from the reduction or elimination of previous elbow, arm and wrist pain. Learn more about ProKennex pickleball paddles and gear here.

The Real Lowdown on Pickleball Skill Levels

The USAPA provides a handy definition of their rating system online, but we all know those skill levels translate a bit differently in reality compared to a perfectly curated list.

Thankfully, David Mark Lopez of Pelican Landing (Bonita Springs, FL) took to Facebook to provide a bit more substance and flavor to these descriptions. Enjoy a big laugh before the weekend with these Revised Pickleball Skill Level Definitions!

For more of David’s witty writing and cheeky humor, visit www.davidmarklopez.com. He’s created a charming series of historical fiction books for kids titled Maddie’s Magic Markers.

David Lopez

David Mark Lopez of Pelican Landing

1.0 Skill Level: Beginner

Calls the paddle a racket, poops in pants, serves overhand, thinks pickleball is a stupid sport for old people, wears huarache sandals to play, is bored and wants to start drinking early.

2.0 Skill Level

Thinks the sport was named after a dog born 20 years later, walks slowly through your match, does not close gate, drinks the last beer, hits on your spouse who hates you for poaching, played last 6 months ago indoors at a Michigan Y with his cousin from Ypsilanti, smokes between matches, falls often, serves the ball into the next court.

3.0 Skill Level

Forgets score frequently, talks during rallies, explains every freakin’ point (well the ball went this way, but I meant it to go there…uh, I know I was right here watching), hits their partner with ball or racket (still) at least once a game, trips partner regularly, thinks the third shot drop has something to do with an incurable disease, has a fit-bit.

3.5 Skill Level

Frequently misinterprets NVZ rule, hits every single shot with maximin velocity, puts the ball in play roughly 50% of the time, argues line calls, laughs loudly, has new smart matching outfit, lays it up across the middle, only dinks accidentally, frowns at you when you say UP UP UP, calls the score for both teams, leaves phone on during match because daughter is expecting.

4.0 Skill Level

Sighs loudly frequently, wants you to stay for one more game, coaches you up on every single point, swears like a sailor, practices dinking in garage, pretends to be interested in your personal life, talks crap about ATPs and ERNEs, shows you new paddle (it’s not a racket, newbie), acts like a baby after losing, smashes the living hell out of your weak-ass lobs, plays at 3.5 in tourneys, openly argues with spouse during matches when supposed to be just having fun.

4.5 Skill Level

Brings 5 paddles, mysteriously disappears after playing once with mixed group of 2.0 2.5 and 3.0s, encourages you to poach so they can poach with reckless abandon, takes every shot across the middle, knows the rules but tells you to look them up so you can learn them, wears two gloves, hits you very hard with the ball at the NVZ (it’s part of the game) because your paddle was not up, subtly blames partner after loss, recommends videos, has stopped playing tennis, almost went pro, was club ping pong champion in 1987, had 3 ATPs and 2 ERNEs yesterday.

5.0 Skill Level

Knows Kyle Yates, has many many medals, post incessantly on PICKLEBALL FORUM about balls, rules, paddles and tournaments, wants pickleball channel on ESPN (cornhole wtf?), strategically hits to your backhand every shot, apologizes for hitting you very hard with ball at the NVZ because your paddle was not up, will gladly give you a lesson for $50, has 7 supercool pickleball outfits, drinks mysterious electrolyte concoction, is way younger than you, patronizes your terrible backhand, would love to play one more with you but has a dentist appointment and will see you at the clinic Saturday.

6.0 Skill Level

Shows up on the FORUM in foreign places playing pickleball, has savage tan and incredibly white teeth, can beat you in doubles as a singles player, has a cool nickname, returns your ATP like it wasn’t nuthin’ bruh, dropped out of high school to go pro, walks on water, heals the pickleball lame, has a weighted paddle, stacks with partner in fast food line, has met you several times but still has zero idea of who you are, posts videos of 73 hit rallies, wears white unitard, dink…dink…dink then backhand rocket drive that hits you in the head and ricochets off your partner’s teeth. You’re in love, fanboy.

Lake Effect Traveling Team Builds Pickleball Community and Competition

You may have heard of traveling pickleball pros, but what about traveling teams made up of passionate 3.5+ players?

This is exactly what the Lake Effect team in Saugatuck has achieved. The group hosts and challenges clubs up and down Michigan’s lakeshore, allowing players to explore different partners and compete against others without affecting tournament ratings. It’s served as an effective way to expose players to fresh talent while engaging in the competitive side of the sport.

The team plays men’s, women’s and mixed doubles at events, being composed of twelve women and twelve men.

Sara Cullen is the original founder of Lake Effect and serves as co-captain beside Sherrie Velthouse. Sara shares her experience thus far:

“We are a new enterprise and just got off the ground late last summer. We had two matches before the end of our outdoor season. Both times we played Grand Haven, the Lakeshore Pickleball Club. They traveled about 40 minutes to our courts, and then we traveled to their courts in late fall.

This year we have already played one match outdoors in April. We have an upcoming match against Grand Rapids on May 18th, traveling over to their courts about 45 minutes away. In early June we’ll be playing against The Alley Cats from Kalamazoo.”

Lake Effect

The Lake Effect team

Lake Effect is looking to play Hudsonville in mid-July if they can organize a date. Sara explains that scheduling gets more difficult in the summer months due to the number of important USAPA-sanctioned tournaments that fill up the calendar. In addition, they face snow and cold weather in fall and winter, losing team members to warmer destinations. Travel team matches are placed on hold when it gets too chilly for the locals.

Despite the time-sensitive nature of the enterprise, Sara says, “The exciting part of the travel team is that it’s working! Our team members are having a great time, building friendships, finding new partners for tournaments and everyone is enjoying an easy and fun way to test their court skills without entering tournaments or having to spend money.

They can use the travel team matches to prepare for USAPA tournaments without being concerned about their ranking being effected by a loss. So it makes it fun and worry free. It’s also nice to see that even when players don’t win their flight, they still cheer for your teammates.”

Jodie Kyes, one of the members who helps manage the team, states that she feels fortunate to have many strong clubs in close proximity, including Grand Rapids, South Haven, Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Niles, Muskegon and Holland.

Lakeshore Pickleball

A shot from the Lakeshore Pickleball Club’s courts

She explains that the concept of a travel team was based on the formation of a varsity high school sport. Team captains set up challenge matches with other clubs and determine the lineup of partners and positions. In women’s and men’s doubles there are five teams for each, and in mixed doubles there are ten teams. The captains determine who plays at the top of the lineup in order of skill and ability.

Once the captains have organized a match, the hosting team provides the courts, wristbands, tournament schedule and refreshments such as Gatorade and energy bars.

Lake Effect has even went the extra mile by creating uniforms, practicing drills together and enjoying social gatherings to promote team spirit. Their dedication to their club is truly admirable!

Jodie summarizes by sharing her team’s goals:

“As we head into our second year of travel team challenges, we’re hoping the idea catches on across our state and eventually nationally. Travel team matches promote pickleball and the satisfaction of competing not just as an individual, but more importantly as a team. It builds friendships and team spirit, which has been a wonderful bonus for our players.

The Lake Effect travel team has developed a code of conduct that outlines what we are looking for in team players. Good sportsmanship is at the forefront but also the importance of cheering on other team players during their matches and accepting the lineup without question. Most importantly, every team player should welcome the opportunity to play with whomever the captains assign. All in all, even though it is a new concept for pickleball, we’re very pleased with the enthusiasm it’s received and look forward to many years of competitive and fun play.”

Lake Effect would also like to recognize Selkirk, Wilson, PickleballCentral and Franklin Sports for their donations to the team. We thank them for sharing their story in return!

Are you intrigued by the idea of a traveling pickleball team? Let us know about your experiences if you’ve developed a similar setup in your community!

Meet The Pros – Barry Waddell

Meet The Pros – Barry Waddell

Barry Waddel and Dave Weinbach

Dave Weinbach and Barry Waddell – Gold, 2019 US OPEN

From his first game in flip flops to gold in the US OPEN, Barry Waddell has shown us what a professional tennis turned pickleball star can do. I think we could all learn a lot from him, on and off the court. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2019 US Open, Men’s Senior Pro Doubles with Dave Weinbach – Gold
2018 Texas Open, Senior Men’s Open Doubles with Steve Kennedy – Gold

2018 Atlanta Open, Men’s Senior Doubles Open Pro with Scott Moore – Gold

What paddle do you play with and why?

The Paddletek Tempest (Original). I love the soft touch and I can generate my own power. I use a bit lighter paddle (7.8 oz) and find it very maneuverable when getting into fights at the net. LOL.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I grew up in Miami, Florida playing football and baseball in the youth programs until the age of 13, when I discovered my true love of tennis. Within two years I was ranked in the top 5 in the state of Florida and top 50 in the nation. At 18, I won the Florida State High School Championships at the number one singles position earning many college scholarships. Attending the University of Illinois, I was ranked number one as a freshman and reached the finals of the Big Ten Championships. I then played professionally on the satellite tour in Europe and the United States.

After a brief professional tennis career, I returned to Florida to become the Director of Tennis at Casa Ybel on Sanibel Island. Continuing to play tennis tournaments, I was ranked number one in Florida in the Men’s 25 and Men’s 30 division and number two in the men’s open division. At the age of 47 and after many years away from playing competitive tennis, I found my new love of pickleball by chance one day when I was working out at the local recreation center.

I heard some noise coming from the indoor basketball courts and went inside. I saw people playing this strange game with a neon green ball (Jugs) and small paddle. Sitting on the bleachers, someone asked me if I wanted to play, but I was in flip flops and didn’t have a paddle. “No problem,” he said, “Here’s a paddle and flip flops will work fine.” From that moment on I was hooked. I started recreational play indoors for the first 8 years and then began outdoor tournament play in 2017.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I hesitated going outdoors for many years partly because my knees were bothering me and also because I didn’t think the game was going to grow into the sport that it has become. Boy am I glad that I got that wrong! The first year of playing outdoors, I was literally pulling my hair out because the game was so different from indoors, playing on wood floors with the soft Jugs ball. It was almost like two different games, but I stuck with it. Now after 2 1/2 years, I enjoy playing outdoors very much because of the unique challenges associated with outdoor play. Most tournaments are outdoors, but occasionally, because of weather, they move inside where I am VERY comfortable. ; )

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I like singles and doubles but have decided because I don’t have too much time to practice it doesn’t make sense for me to compete. Singles is great for getting in shape and “skinny singles” is also great for doubles training!

Team Paddletek buddies, Barry Waddel and Stephanie Shouse Lane

Team Paddletek buddies, Barry Waddell and Stephanie Shouse Lane

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

The US OPEN is my favorite venue because of the open air venue and the ability to watch all the matches in close proximity. The Championship Court is also an incredible experience with an intimate and electrifying atmosphere.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

I personally don’t believe that there is a secret sauce, although there is no substitute for good technique. Tennis players have an advantage in this category because of the many similarities to pickleball, but that doesn’t mean that other sports don’t contribute. Ping pong, racquetball, squash, platform tennis and badminton are all sports that have similar benefits to pickleball. My advice or tip would be to take lessons from a tennis turned pickleball player or pickleball players that have learned good technique and can clearly articulate those instructions. There is also no substitute for hard work and many hours of practice.

What is your day job?

Full time realtor with John R Wood in Lee County, Florida.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I try to play at least 3 or 4 times a week.

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

I am an IPTPA Certified Teaching Professional and have been teaching pickleball and tennis for over 40 years. I would like to share my experience with others and introduce as many people as possible to the incredible sport of pickleball.

Anything else you would like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

Pickleball is a very unique sport which connects many different demographics and cultures. The younger players are starting to enter the game, which should only increase the exposure and bring the game to the next level. You can literally learn to play pickleball in a couple of months compared to tennis which takes a couple of years to achieve a similar status. Also you do not need to be Roger Federer to play the sport, as many different shapes and sizes compete well in this arena. I have a disability with my neck being organically fused, but I do not let it stop me from going out and playing the greatest game on earth!

Defending Against Slammers, Bangers and Other Power Picklers

Advanced pickleball players say that “slammers,” or those who always return the ball hard and fast, are demonstrating poor technique, lose steam quickly and reduce their precision. “Just learn to defend and force them to dink,” they might suggest.

This is solid advice, but hearing it summarized in a sentence or two doesn’t really illuminate all the skills needed to achieve this. Slammers are a real threat to many picklers who are still working on their own positioning and placement, and having to deal with supersonic speeds on top of everything else makes it harder to keep these things in mind.

Here are a few methods for dealing with bangers that go into more depth so your defensive abilities will be a sight to behold:

Soft Grip

It’s only natural to feel flustered when you see a slam heading your way, so players have a tendency to seize up and squeeze their paddle in anticipation of impact. However, this is the exact opposite of what you want to do! By tightening your grip you’re creating a stronger connection between your paddle and your arm.

This not only causes the vibration from impact to uncomfortably travel up your arm, but it redirects the power in the shot back toward your opponent, causing the ball to pop up so they can return yet another slam.

If you instead loosen your grip while holding the paddle steady, the power from the slam will be diffused exactly where you want it—through your paddle—before returning to the other side of the court with much less steam. This prevents your opponent from attacking again, changing the game into a more finesse-based affair.

(Credit: Darryl Kenyon)

Lob It

If you really want to annoy a dedicated banger, return their shot with a leisurely lob that travels all the way to the base line. “But this will make it easy for them to slam again!” This is true, but craning your neck upwards and banging over and over is tiring work and will cause your opponent to become drained faster.

Not only that, but being stuck at the base line is such a huge disadvantage that you may find one of their slams comes in at a less severe angle as they tire. At that point you can direct it right behind the kitchen line so they either desperately fling themselves upcourt to try and make the return or lose the point altogether.

Note that this strategy can be frustrating for those on the receiving end… but if someone is incessantly banging, then sometimes turnabout is fair play!

Keep It in the Kitchen

The most obvious advice is to keep the ball in the kitchen because players aren’t allowed to volley in this area, but how do you achieve this when a slam is coming directly toward you? While using the “soft grip” technique described above, try placing your paddle close to your chest and using your backhand to return the shot, with your paddle facing slightly upwards. No need to swing as you do this; simply hold your paddle in place.

The purpose of keeping the paddle close to your chest is because slams often come directly toward your body. Using your backhand is less awkward than trying to strain your wrist to reach the same position with a forehand. And the angle gives the ball a bit more time to lose momentum before dropping into the kitchen.

It takes some time to work against the instinct of tightening up during the approach of a slam, but keep practicing these techniques and you can be sure that bangers will be surprised as the wind is taken from their sails!