Have you ever seen a kid sitting on the sides of the tennis court and whenever the ball goes out of the playing area they quickly move to pick it up? We call this kid a ball boy in tennis.
Becoming a ball boy or ball girl is the dream of any kid who is a fan of tennis, it is because it gives them the chance to meet their ideals in real.
At first, it seems those kids are enjoying themselves on the court with their favorite players – but it’s a tough job to do.
So, in this article we are going to learn how you can become a tennis ball boy/girl, what rules do they follow, how much they earn and a lot more. Keep reading!
Ball Boy in Tennis. What does it mean?
By now, you know that the kid sitting beside the tennis court is a ball boy. Not only boys, but girls also join this service and we call them ball girls.
Until 1976, Wimbledon used to recruit boys only, and for the first time in 1977, they recruited ball girls. In 1980, they recruited both girls and boys in the same team.
Wimbledon is the first tournament that introduced the concept of ball boys or girls.
Generally, we use a combined term BBGs for both ball boys and girls. There are almost 250 BBGs available all the time for Wimbledon championships.
The sole purpose of adding ball boys/girls to tennis is to speed up the game and assist the tennis players.
Consider a scenario that you are a professional tennis player and playing a fast-paced match and suddenly the ball goes out of bounds or you need to drink water or you are sweating and need a towel.
If you go out to pick up the ball, water bottle, or a towel, this will surely slow down the speed of the match. This is where the ball boy’s duty starts to keep the game at its speed.
We also see ball boys or girls in other sports like cricket, basketball, football, and baseball.
Is it important to have a ball boy in tennis?
It’s not mandatory, however, their job benefits both the match and the players, due to this advantage they are present in almost all matches, especially in tennis tournaments like Wimbledon or Queen’s Club Championships, etc.
Although the name suggests that this squad of girls or boys is related to tennis balls only, they also assist the players. For example, providing them drinks, water or towels, etc.
How to become a ball boy in tennis?
Don’t consider a ball boy or girl an ordinary kid, tournament authorities highly train them for special movements and positions to make sure they positively impact the game.
In other words, they train them in a way to increase the game efficiency and reduce inactive time.
Ball boys/girls join the tournaments through a special process of selection. Generally, positions are announced and any kid can apply to this application.
However, in other cases, they are picked from the local tennis clubs or schools. They select those kids only who are familiar with tennis and must have been playing tennis at some point.
Whatever the medium they come from, they all have to go through a special selection process.
This selection process evaluates their stamina, physical ability, concentration, fitness, and mental alertness. After all, they have to be very sharp on the court.
Ball Boy Jobs
Like daily life jobs, we don’t see any advertisement of ball boy jobs in newspapers or any online resource. Championships authorities recruit them from school or local tennis clubs.
Therefore, you should not look or expect openings for this job.
The schools associated with Wimbledon from 2011 to the current year include:
- Grey Court School, Richmond
- Tolworth Girl’s School, Surbiton
- Sacred Heart High School, Hammersmith
Wimbledon recruits ball boys from these schools for each of their tournaments.
However, you might be interested to know what their actual job is on the court?
Generally, there are 6 ball boys/girls present on the tennis court. 2 of them stand near the net and the remaining 4 on each corner of the court.
Each one of the 2 BBGs near the court is positioned in the way that 1 boy is present on both sides of the net.
These ball boys are not present for the whole match. They change from shift to shift, each shift lasting for 30 – 60 minutes.
Total 4 teams recruit for major tennis tournaments. Each team contains 6 ball boys/girls. When this first team’s shift is over, it is replaced by the second team and the first team gets one hour of rest.
During the match, the main job of BBGs is to retrieve the balls and roll them down to the server-side.
Who picks up the ball first?
You have the right questions. If there are 6 BBGs, then who decides which boy is going to pick up the ball.
The answer to this question lies in their training. During training, they are taught to pick the ball only when it’s near to them.
The boys sitting near to the net are responsible to pick the ball from their corresponding side and rolling it down it to the server.
Similarly, the boys standing in each corner are responsible for their corners only. In simple words, the only boy closest to the ball can pick it up.
What if the ball goes beyond your boundary while chasing it?
If you are a ball boy or want to be in the future, then you must keep this rule in your mind.
If you are standing near the net and the ball goes out of play near the court and you start chasing it. But the ball didn’t stop where you thought it would and stops near the ball boy in the corner.
What would you do in this scenario?
Exactly, you thought it right. You must leave the ball to the boy/girl in the corner and move back to your initial position, you are not allowed to pick this ball.
You are responsible for the balls only nearby you. Period!
Tennis Ball Boy Salary
This is something interesting and you might want to know how much a ball boy earns?
Generally, ball boys don’t get paid. I know your mind must be thinking if they don’t get paid, why are they employed? Let me make it simple for you.
First, ball boys/girls are not employed, they willingly become a part. Second, it is an honor to serve their favorite tennis pros. Once I was also a ball boy and I really enjoyed that experience. Although, I was paid around £130 for two weeks.
Keep reading, I have some other perks for you!
Another reason is, kids are more energetic, quick, and sharp. So, they can assist to keep the fast-paced match smooth and reducing the inactive time for the players.
Moreover, if any of them decides to be a tennis player in the future, this hands-on experience can be their great base. They learn a lot by watching the match more closely than the audience. In any case, I think it’s a win situation.
BBGs are allowed to keep the uniform, that is offered by the tournament, after the event as a reward. Plus, they also get free shoes as a part of their attire and free access to the court.
Again, this depends on the type of tournament. Some of them pay hourly salaries to the ball boys to make sure they get at least minimum wage.
For example, Wimbledon offers a salary of £200 for the whole tournament. While U.S open offers $7 – $11 hourly as of today.
Here is the ball boys/girls’ salary chart (it may vary in the upcoming days and tournaments).
|Type||Wage per Match||Grand Slam|
|Ball Boy||$100 – $150||$500 – $600|
|Ball Girl||$100 – $150||$500 – $600|
If a tournament doesn’t offer wages, they give “end of tournament” rewards to those kids. This reward can include headphones, tennis balls, or racquets. Australian Open offers this kind of reward.
Some of the tournaments give free food and tickets to their friends and family during the days when their kid is offering this service.
Although the salary is low it’s not about the salary, it is about the excitement. You can get the idea from this that more than 700 kids apply each time to be a ball boy/girl.
Being a ball boy in my childhood, I must say it’s an honor for a kid to be selected for this job. In addition, they get to meet the tennis stars and watch the match for free.
Ball Boy Training & Qualifications
Training of ball boys/girls is not easy, they go through strict training for several months before they can apply for this service.
Training at Wimbledon is the toughest training than at other tournaments like the Australian Open or French Open etc.
At the start (Wimbledon training starts in February at Raynes park community sports ground), they get 2 – 2.5 hours of training per week. Later on, they increase the training hours when the tournament is approaching.
Besides the general training (running, increasing stamina, throwing balls at the player), they get training to roll the ball from one corner of the court to the other without moving or changing their place.
The tennis court length is 78 feet (23.77 meters), you can imaging how tough is this training.
Other than this, they also get training to perform their service in such a way that neither audience nor the players are distracted or annoyed.
They have to be quiet and perform their task without creating any chaos on the court.
After selecting the best candidates, they go through another strict selection process to finally be selected as ball boy/girl.
More than 700 kids become applicants and then the tournament authorities shortlist only 250(half girls and half boys) candidates.
There are no written tests, all tests include testing physical fitness, mental fitness, and alertness.
However, you must have a basic knowledge of how tennis works like the server get two services per point, etc. It is important because the kids have to be ready to toss over the replacement balls.
They also test these kids for stamina to make sure they can stand perfectly still for hours on the court.
In other words, they need the fittest and sharpest kids to retrieve the balls quickly so the match can resume.
However, it depends on the type of tournament and its rules. They may take a written test as well to know these kids’ thinking and decision-making abilities.
Ball boy Age
Generally, boys or girls at the age of 15 years are recruited as BBGs. Usually, a ball boy spent 2 years offering this service. It means after the age of 17, there are fewer chances to become a tennis ball boy.
The maximum age limit is 17 years, however, there is no minimum age limit. It depends on the tournament and its age restriction rules.
Here is the chart of ball boys’ age requirements for each tournament.
|Tournament Type||Age Limit|
|Hobart International||10 – 17|
|Australian Open||12 – 17|
|Adelaide International||12 – 17|
|ATP Cup, Brisbane||12 – 16|
|ATP Cup, Sydney||12 – 16|
|ATP Cup, Perth||12 – 16|
There are no height restrictions to be a ball boy. However, you must be in the required age bracket.
Ball Boy/Girl Apparels
Outfit for ball boy/girl’s is not too fancy like cheerleaders in other sports, rather their uniform is simple and decent under the strict dress code.
Generally, Ralph Lauren prepares the uniform for BBGs. In fact, Ralph Lauren has been making these clothes for more than a decade. They make uniforms not only for BBGs but also for linesmen and umpires.
BBGs’ dress must include:
- Cap with underbill or flap cap
- Socks (no off-white or cream, only pure white)
- Polo Shirt (single-colored only, navy blue or white)
- Shorts, and skirts, and skorts (for ball girls): Single colored only (navy blue or white color)
- Completely white shoes (even laces and sole must be white as well) without any big manufacturer’s logo
- All undergarments must be white (in case if they appear due to sweating) and decent.
All garments of ball boy/girl’s must be of high performance, moisture-wicking, and stretchy fabrics.
This is how a ball boy or girl looks like in the picture below when wearing the uniform under the tennis dress code.
Rules and Etiquette for a Ball Boy in Tennis
Although, as a ball boy/girl, your major task is to retrieve and roll down the balls to the serving side, if a player asks to do something(within reason), you have to follow it.
For example, if a player asks for a water bottle or towel, you give them. Here are some rules or etiquette you have to follow.
1. Don’t smile
When entering the court (usually through a tunnel system to save time), whatsoever, don’t smile or wave at your friends or family. Forget about them when you are on the job. You are not allowed to interact with anyone.
2. Always Stay Behind
There must be 2 ball boys/girls standing behind the service side. When the side changes, these 2 kids must also change the side and always stay behind the server.
3. Feeding the Player
On the server-side, you have to drop the ball onto the player’s racket.
4. Give them a Towel
Even if the player doesn’t ask for it, give him/her a towel when changing the side and put it back to the designated place after they use it.
5. Don’t invade the other’s zone
Pick up the ball only if it is nearby you. If it reaches the other ball boy’s area, leave it. It is not your responsibility.
6. Never create a fuss
Make sure you don’t annoy the players and don’t create any fuss or noise.
7. Always replace the ball
When the player has finished the point, provide him/her with another ball because they don’t play with the same ball again.
8. Always show hands
In a situation when you don’t have any ball, show your both empty hands to the player so they can turn to the other ball boy/girl to get another ball. Even if you have balls, no matter how many, you still have to show your hands.
9. Ball must bounce once
When feeding the new ball to the player, make sure you throw in a way that it bounces once on the court and reaches the waist level of the player.
10. Move quickly
If the tournament offers some kind of refreshment beverage and the player asks for it, you have to move quickly and bring it from the bin for him/her.
11. Feed the ball first
If the ball is rolling on the court and the player asks for the new one, feed the ball first and then pick up the rolling one.
12. Hold the umbrella
The ball boys standing near the net must hold the umbrella for the player when they are sitting.
13. Always hold hands at your back
While entering the court, you have to keep holding your hands at your back and walk towards your designated area. You have to stand in the same stance, holding hands at your back.
14. Live in the present
Always be aware, alert, fast, smooth, and quiet.
15. Keep running
You must be on your toes and running quickly when retrieving balls or bring something for the player. Jogging or walking is not allowed.
16. You’re being watched
Speaking from my experience, someone is always watching you by holding a clipboard in their hand and assessing your performance on the court. In case you make any mistakes or errors, keep calm and stand confident to avoid any further mishaps.
Don’t get confused. Keep in mind that they have a zero-tolerance policy.
Tips for Ball Boys/Girls
Here are some tips for you if you want to be a successful ball boy or girl. Keep these tips in your notes, because they want nothing, but the best from you!
You must be very quick, energetic, and sharp-minded as well. You will be performing your job on the court for hours, so you must have strong stamina. Therefore, pay close attention to your physical fitness.
2. Keep Calm and Be Patient
Take this as the rule of the tennis court. Due to the tough competition, most players look angry and they may get their anger out on you. If this happens, keep calm and be patient.
3. Maintain Discipline
They have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to discipline. You have to stand still for hours by keeping your hands at your back. You are not allowed to do any kind of fidgeting or hair-fiddling.
So, stand still and with your 100% focus on the court only. Read the above-mentioned rules for other disciplines
4. Be Flexible
Although your sole duty is to collect and retrieve tennis balls, sometimes tennis pros may ask for additional requests like bring a bottle of water or an energy drink. You will have to follow their requests.
Not all of the players are the same. Some may require a towel frequently while some players don’t. You have to understand their behavior and adapt yourself according to it.
5. Be a Team member
You will be working with the same tennis players for 2 weeks. Some players will knock out but new players will also be tennis players.
What you have to do is consider yourself a member of their team. If they are working hard to win the match, you should do the same to help them. I mean by making the match progress smooth.
BBGs Odd Experiences
By now you know that you will get amazing perks including free tickets, food, and a chance to meet your ideals, now prepare yourself for some odd experiences.
I know most people say the boys/girls who got selected for this job are very lucky, no doubt they are lucky. Who else doesn’t want to serve sweat Maria Sharapova or Federer?
But, not all of the ball boys/girls get a charming story to tell, sometimes you have to face bad experiences as well and you have to take away some mishaps with you.
So, at Super Tennis Racquet, this is my duty to share the harsh truths as well so you can prepare yourself mentally as well.
When a player asks for a towel, you bring him/her a sweaty towel and they return it by making it even sweatier.
Sometimes they may throw the towel at your face, you can do nothing except to oblige to their requests. You are duty-bound to anything they ask for.
They may also scold you for not being quick or for any other reason or they may toss the empty water bottle, you are again obliged to pick it up.
They might be behaving as they have you as their servant.
There can be some odd requests from tennis pros. For example, a French tennis player Elliot Benchetrit once asked his ball girl to peel a banana for him.
Although the umpire told Benchetrit to peel it himself, it was an odd request.
Not all the time you get funny or weird requests, you also get a chance of amazing experiences as well that you can’t ever forget.
For example, once the ball struct a ball girl’s face after touching Rafael Nadal’s racquet. Although the girl remained calm and patient, Nadal decided to give a sweet gesture.
Nadal quickly approached the girl and said sorry to her, after that kissed on her cheeks. This is something amazing that the girl won’t forget and would proudly share with her friends.
Here I have collected some odd and funny moments and fails of ball boys/girls in the form of gifs below.
Conclusion: The Future of Tennis Ball Boys/Girls
You may have the question, what is the future of a ball boy in tennis? One thing is clear, there is always a need for ball boys/girls in all tournaments due to the nature of their job which is to keep the match speed smooth.
As kids are the more energetic and perfect candidate for this, adults can’t replace them.
As for as their salary is concerned, I think not getting paid is also fine because they get other perks including free tickets, free food, opportunity to watch the exciting match closely. On top of that, meeting their tennis stars for free.
So the chosen kids must feel honored. At the end of the day, they get an exciting story to share with their friends who may also have a dream to be chosen.
However, one thing I would like to express from my heart is that there must be some rules that players should not behave in a bad banner when interacting with these kids who are there with the sole job of collecting balls rather than benign a personal servant.
I suggest tournaments should introduce some rules like they have ball abuse or racquet abuse etc so these kids can have an exciting story, at the end of the tournament, to share with their friends.
I hope you must have learned so many new things about being a ball boy in tennis. If you agree, do share this article with your friends who must be dreaming about this opportunity to have it next time.
1. Does ball boy in tennis get paid? How much?
Generally, ball boys are not paid. They enjoy so many other perks like free tickets (for friends and family), food, free access to the match, and on top of that, getting a chance to meet their tennis stars.
However, the salary depends on the type of tournament. For example, Wimbledon pays £200 for the whole tournament and U.S open pays $7 – $11 hourly.
2. What is a ball girl in tennis?
The meaning of a ball girl is a female kid offering the exactly same services(like feeding, collecting, and retrieving loose balls) as the ball boy.
3. How to become a ball boy?
Unlike other jobs, this service is not advertised. Instead, the tournament authorities select kids from local schools or tennis clubs.
They select more than 700 kids and 250 (half male and half females) of them are shortlisted after passing various physical, mental, and written(not all tournaments require this) tests.
Then, these kids go through rigorous training before they can finally offer their services on the court.
4. How old do you have to be a ball boy?
Generally, the average age of a ball boy in tennis is 15 years, and the maximum age limit is 17 years.
Here is the list of ages for each tournament.
- Hobart International: 10 – 17
- Australian Open: 12 – 17
- Adelaide International: 12 – 17
- ATP Cup, Brisbane: 12 – 16
- ATP Cup, Sydney: 12 – 16
- ATP Cup, Perth: 12 – 16
5. How does it feel to be a ball boy in tennis?
It seems very fascinating and exciting to see a kid serving around his/her tennis star, which is true as well. But the fact is, their job is very tough.
For example, they are not allowed to move freely or fidgeting. All they have to do is stand still for hours by holding hands at their back. They can do the only things they are asked to do or the things they are trained for and nothing else.
Speaking from my experience, yes it’s tough but I felt lucky to be chosen for this service and the perks we get are there to keep us happy.