A tennis ball on the floor on a grass court

How to be a Ballboy in Tennis

Being a ballboy (or ballperson as it is now more commonly referred to) can be an amazing experience for young tennis enthusiasts. As well as the great experience of the job itself, being able to attend big matches and maybe even meet star players is realistic if they do well in the job. It might not sound like an overly demanding job if you think it just involved retrieving tennis balls across a court but there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

To start with, there are many things that you need to learn about when to get the ball and how to position. It is not a job that any person can do; you require a suitable set of skills and ability.

The US Open Ballperson Tryouts is an event that takes place where applicants are evaluated on their running, throwing and catching ability. The tryouts are open to the general public aged 14 and upwards. Applications must first of all be made to the USTA Pacific Northwest region.

In 2017, over 500 applied for the 80 jobs that were going to be filled for the US Open. The panel of assessors stated that they were ‘looking for athletes’ so this job is far from being an easy one that anyone with limited sporting ability can perform. The tryouts take place at the home of the US Open, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which is another added privilege of going through the process. Successfully appointed ballpersons are then able to earn an hourly salary to perform their duties. They are also provided with free outfits that they get to keep as memorabilia.

You can apply to be a ballperson for regional areas too, covering leagues and smaller tournaments but the US Open is the most illustrious one that every ballperson wants to get the chance to work at. The dream of meeting Roger Federer or Serena Williams is probably a much bigger perk than the hourly rate that they receive.

One of the biggest prerequisites is that the potential ballperson has a good understanding of the game. Many will be playing in junior leagues themselves and fully understand the rules and terminology used in the games. Understanding tennis is one thing but understanding the role of the ballperson is something else. The best way to do this is to watch other ballpersons in action at the biggest tournaments like the Grand Slams. Knowing when they should set off to retrieve the ball, getting back into the appropriate position and remaining motionless (so as to not put players off) are just three critical elements of the role.

There are two different ballperson positions – one is standing at the rear of the court well behind the player and the other is at the net. Each one covers the section of the court that they are responsible for which is roughly the front and back half of the court but can be whoever is closest at the time. Ballpersons are responsible for providing the players with balls and also they may be required to get a towel, hold a sun umbrella etc. when called upon.

The job as a ballperson is filled with fun and exciting opportunities and if you have a significant interest in tennis, it is one of the best jobs you can get as a teenager. If the US Open Tryouts are too far away for you then take a look at the tryouts that are held for your regional tournaments and apply for one of those instead.