I’m a huge tennis fan. While I don’t play tennis that much anymore, I could sit and watch a match for hours (and I almost did-Andy Murray just played almost a 3 hour match today and I could rant about it but I won’t.) Anyway, I live near a small professional tournament. I volunteer as a ball kid every year, and it’s probably the coolest experience in tennis I’ll ever get!
Most of you probably know who a ball kid is if you’ve ever seen a tennis match, but if you haven’t, it’s probably not too hard to figure out: ball kids handle the tennis balls. I have been a ball kid for a professional men’s tournament for three years. I’ve scurried around on the court, feeding balls down and to the players, running towels up to players, and trying not to pass out in the sweltering heat and glaring sunlight.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? You bet it is.
When I first signed up to be a ball kid, I was really nervous. Having only watched professional tennis on TV (we are huge tennis fans in my household), I rarely paid any attention to the ball kids. The players are the most important part of the match, obviously, so why would I be watching some ball kid run around? And it’s not like cameras put their focus on the ball kids either LOL. One of the most important requirements about being a ball kid is doing your best to remain invisible. That is–no sounds, no drawing attention to one’s self, and moving as fast and as quickly as possible to retrieve a loose ball, a fault, an ace, etc., and returning to your position.
But the thing is, once you get the hang of being a ball kid and the motions become automatic, you’re pretty much a spectator on court for some of the biggest names in tennis. For free. (Yeah, the heat’s the price you gotta pay, but still. And risking injury from someone’s killer serve). I was just recently working in the tournament again, and I wasn’t that nervous at all this time around.
For me, being a ball kid is a surreal experience. I don’t even register that that’s Jack Sock a few feet away from me, or Christ Evert is asking for a ball. These faces I’ve only seen on TV (like the Olympics!) are just inches from me, asking for their towel (not always in the nicest way when they have lost a point). Afterward it’s really cool, because you can say, “Well, I was just on court with so-and-so.” I mean, yeah, it’s pretty awesome when someone isn’t throwing a towel in your face.
Also, ball kids have their moments.
There’s plenty more on YouTube, and I’m thankful I haven’t had any terribly embarrassing moments xD Anyway, being a ball kid is seriously cool. While I won’t get to be in Wimbledon (*cries*) I’m fairly content being close to some amazing tennis, and also getting some face time on TV. Yep, the Tennis Channel televises our tournament, and often some of the ball kids get up close shots! Being a ball kid takes a lot of work, focus, the ability to keep track of a tie break, and a fast reaction time to a 130 mph serve coming in your direction. It might not be the safest or most relaxing way to watch a match, but we aren’t here to watch it, we’re here to work it. We interact with it. We are part of it and it’s pretty amazing.
What do you think about the job of a ball kid? Are you a fan of tennis? Let me know in the comments!
Pax in Christo,