Several people have asked me how they or their child can become a tennis ball boy. And with good reason. Tennis ball boys (or girls) enjoy their share of perks: free clothes, free shoes, access to the tennis venue, and the best seat (stand?) in the house.
But before you can become a tennis ball boy, you need to know how to become one. And contrary to belief, its actually pretty easy. Below are three simple steps on how to become a tennis ball boy and set foot on court with your favorite tennis pros.
Step #1: Watch Ball Boys Do Their Job
While becoming a ball boy may not seem that difficult, you still need to know what to do. The best way to learn is to watch other ball boys at work. The next time you watch a tennis match on television, pay attention to what the ball boys are doing.
There are two basic positions: the net, and the back court. The ball boys at the net retrieve balls that are hit into the net or which are closer to them than the ball boys at the back of the court. The ball boys at the back of the court also retrieve balls close to them, and they hold and throw tennis balls to the pros when the pro needs them.
Ball boys send the balls to their colleagues on the other side of the court when the other player has to serve. Ball boys will also retrieve a towel for the pro when asked, or hold an umbrella on changeovers to shield the pro from the sun. If a pro asks you to do something (within reason), do it!
If you ever happen to meet a tennis ball boy, ask him or her about the job and the things they find most difficult so that you can be prepared for them.
Step #2: Find a Professional Tennis Tournament and Sign Up for Tryouts
How do you ball boy for a tournament? Well, first you have to find a tournament! Once you do that, you can either call the tournament number and ask about the process, or the tournament website will have a ball boy information page with an application and/or waiver. Here is an example of a ball boy application from the Winston-Salem Open. And the information page for ball boys at the U.S. Open.
The tournament staff will review your application, and if they like it, you will be invited to the tournament site. However, unless you are a veteran, there usually are tryouts held for ball boys.
The tournament staff will have you attend the tryouts anywhere from one week to a couple months prior to the event. They will analyze your speed, accuracy, and proficiency at the duties required of a ball boy. If you are lucky enough to be selected, you are in!
Step #3: Enjoy Being a Ball Boy, and Survive The Cuts!
As the tournament progresses, there will be less and less matches. What does this mean? It means that the tournament will need less ball boys. The best performing or veteran ball boys will be kept, and the more novice or underperforming ball boys will be cut.
If you are cut early, do not be disappointed. Be happy that you got the opportunity of a lifetime to ball boy professional tennis matches and enjoyed the amenities and free access to matches that few others can enjoy.
Funny Story: I was a ball boy for a professional tennis tournament years ago and ended up lasting until the round of sixteen. Although I was cut, I learned that I would be a ball boy for the Bryan Brothers (#1 doubles team in the world!) during a night match. This meant I got extra clothing and shoes! Sweet!
However, the shorts they gave me were too big. Ruh roh!
During the match I was a net ball boy. I ran with one hand holding up my shorts and the other picking up tennis balls. After one of the Bryan Brother twins saw me pick up a ball, to my surprise, he looked at me, hiked up his shorts to his belly button, and the crowd laughed. I was stunned. One of the Bryan Brothers had just made fun of me!!! I was a bit embarrassed (damn you Fila and your oversized shorts!), but it makes for a great story.
I had a wonderful time living the life of a ball boy, and if you follow the three simple steps above, you can become a tennis ball boy too.
One last piece of advice: don’t forget to pay attention while you’re out there…
Have you ever been a tennis ball boy? Tell us about it: Comment below!