Tennis ball boys, tennis ball girls, and tennis ball people all do the same thing: they are on-court helpers who collect stray tennis balls and offer other assistance to players. Before the pandemic, these workers had larger roles to play, but now things are a bit different for safety and hygiene reasons. You won't see tennis ball people handling sweaty towels anymore, but this is still a coveted job that is in high demand.
Tennis Ball Catcher: Industry
As long as the game of tennis exists and robots do not take over the job, there will always be a need for tennis people. In the past, ball boys were volunteers who received no money but might have received some free food. Things have changed over the years, and young ball people might get paid a few dollars an hour or minimum wage. Some tournaments will also provide one-time cash payments or gifts to their ball boys instead. A professional ball boy salary will be higher though, and Sport-net claims that hourly rates range from $11 to $26. Top earners can make around $53,500 a year, but the average is closer to $36,345.
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People don't usually enter into this line of work to make the big bucks; it is more about the excitement, love of the game, experience and chance to hobnob with players and audience members. Any serious tennis fan or budding young player might enjoy this job; it also looks pretty good on a young person's resume.
Tennis Ball Boy: Job Description
Those who have ball boy jobs collect balls after rallies are finished and also make sure that there are enough balls for servers when they need them. In the past, they used to deal with those sweaty towels and also ran errands and provided drinks. All tournaments are different, but ball boys these days do not handle many of those other responsibilities.
In large tournaments, they usually work in shifts that can last from 30 to 60 minutes. A tennis ball catcher has to be quick on their feet and be sure to scoop up the balls quickly; dropping them is a definite no-no. They also have to dress neatly and usually have to wear uniforms for professional tournaments. Maintaining a laser-like focus on the game at all times is essential; no cell phones or electronic devices should be used when at work. Only the best tennis ball hoppers are chosen for the top tournaments like the U.S. Open and Wimbledon.
Tennis Ball Boy: Education Requirements
Ball boy jobs have to be earned. Most will start out by learning how to play tennis, and through this, they establish a knowledge of the game, physical fitness and ability, mental alertness, concentration and stamina. They then can volunteer at schools and local tennis clubs to gain experience. Oftentimes, a coach or player will recommend a ball boy for a larger tournament. The selection processes and training programs for the largest tournaments vary and can be quite extensive.
The U.S. Open uses around 300 ball persons, and half of those chosen worked the tournament the previous year. There are 500 or so new candidates apply each year, and 30 percent of those are hired. To work Wimbledon, applicants must attend a local school and be in the right category; they also accept about 30 percent of the applicants. The French Open is even more competitive and has a year-long training program, 4,000 applicants and a 5 percent chance of making the cut.
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