Dinner Table Conversation: What Does It Take to Be a Ball Boy or Girl?

July 14, 2017

This summer, tennis fans are closely following one of the most important sporting events, Wimbledon in London, England. As with most sports, there are many things happening behind the scenes to make the event run smoothly. In tennis, some of that work is performed by ball boys and girls. What do they do? Well, they are responsible for delivering balls to players before each set, for making sure players get water, and for keeping distractions away from the court.

By Chris Eason CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Easy, right? Actually, not at all. The position of a ball boy or girl at Wimbledon is a very special role and a source of pride. So of course, many kids want it.

By Carine06 from UK (Wimbledon ballgirl) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
This year at Wimbledon, more than 700 applicants were referred by head teachers at schools in London! There are approximately 430 matches played at Wimbledon, requiring 250 ball boys and girls (whose average age is fifteen).

How are they evaluated? Funnily enough, standing still is important. Watch a tennis match closely and you’ll notice how still the ball boys and girls are behind the players. That’s right—they need to prove they can stand still for three continuous minutes when they are tested for the job. There are also tests and physical fitness exams, and the boys and girls need to be able to respond to player requests and ignore crowds who might get excited during matches. Why is it exciting for teenagers who apply? They get the chance to watch their favorite players up close and be part of Wimbledon, one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world of tennis.