Inside the ball boy training camp

A ball boy in action

 

Every year in its Wimbledon montage, the BBC has a slow motion shot of the ‘ball change’ where the ball boy/girl opens a new can of tennis balls, upturns it, then pours the three balls onto the court and rolls them to another member of the team. It’s a simple yet beautiful movement, part of the theatre of The Championships. And like a Federer forehand or a Venus Williams serve, it’s easy to forget the practice that goes into making things look simple.


At the All England Club’s covered courts, Anne Rundle puts another group of potential ball boys and girls through their paces. In the office, Anne is the sweet lady who runs the ball boy/girl program. On court, she is the drill sergeant whipping into shape another batch of recruits.

Standing at attention, running on the spot, juggling to improve hand-eye co-ordination, marching practice, shuttle runs through cones, long rolling practice and theory exams. This is the unglamorous side to being a ball boy/girl. Once a week for two-and-a-half hours these 13 and 14 year olds are put their paces, learning the ball boy craft. In total 250 kids will be used during the two weeks.

Anne, and her surprisingly large support staff, are constantly assessing the kids, noting down their times and scores. Nothing is left to guesswork.

Anne and I talk while the kids are put through their paces. One girl is practicing her long rolls causing Anne to wince. “If that girl doesn’t start rolling them straight I’m going to have to yell at her myself”.

Barbara Richardson, on the Wimbledon facebook page, says “the thing that makes them stand out above other ball girls/boys is their stance, rather like dancers.” Presentation is something Anne works hard on. “They are the first thing people see, so they set the scene”.

A lot of people, from all over the world, contact Anne wanting to be a ball boy or girl. They may have second thoughts if they had to do the training. Like being a player on the grass at Wimbledon, being a ball boy/girl is a dream for most and, for the few who actually do it, it has been a lot of hard work to get there.

Follow this link for all the information about becoming becoming a ball boy or girl and the history of the role at Wimbledon.

18 Comments

  1. Posted 8 October, 2009 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    I’m interested and want to become a ballboy and also offer me the necessary training

  2. Anonymous
    Posted 21 November, 2009 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Posted 12 October, 2009 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Here is information about the ball boys and ball girls http://www.wimbledon.org/en_GB/about/guide/ballboys.html
    Reply

  3. ShamaNadal
    Posted 2 June, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I really want to be a BBG! I’m a sprinter, Im taking up rounders and tennis at school to improve my co-ordination and I understand the rules, I’m willing to work really hard but I live in Essex so I don’t go to the schools listed on the site 😦 I’ve only got a couple of years left of being ‘young’ enough to be one, is there any possible way they would let me try-out, it would mean everything to me!

  4. Posted 25 July, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Ball boys/girls adds further elegance and class to the sport of tennis.

  5. Posted 22 September, 2010 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    I really want to become a ballboy.. I’m willing to work to your team. Can you hire me please? I need work now.

    Thanks..

  6. Posted 17 October, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    At first all of this sounds simple but as I read on I realized how tough it actually is. I guess this is really not for the lazy

  7. Posted 26 October, 2010 at 2:54 am | Permalink

    I love Wimbledon especially when Monika Seles and Pete Sampras used to play.

  8. Posted 12 November, 2010 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    Sounds like a great program. Good work! 🙂

  9. Posted 1 December, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    How do I become a Ballboy?

  10. Posted 7 December, 2010 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    suprisingly they also need to have a good stamina to keep up during the game

  11. Posted 29 December, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for information. I have been meaning to find out more info on this subject earlier in the year but glad I read it today.

  12. Posted 16 January, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Being a ball boy or a ball girl requires certain fitness, hand eye coordination, and skill, so I have learnt to appreciate them, it is not as easy and as unimportant as what people may think. I play tennis in Bangkok, Thailand, and I have seen some of these ballboys practicing, they are quite fit!

  13. Posted 21 January, 2011 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Thanks i have read your site its very nice..the information about the ball boys and girls..They may have second thoughts if they had to do the training..

  14. Posted 24 January, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    I have been a ball boy in the past. Reminds me of the good old time!

  15. Posted 19 February, 2011 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Interesting post, it makes you think about those ball boys and girls.

  16. Posted 21 February, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    It is just a small part to play but I believe many kids are interested to try out for it. My son actually asked me during one game about ball boys. I never thought that such training is required for them to get in. I thought anybody can be a ball boy/girl.


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