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[Table] IAmA ballboy for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships AMA!

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Date: 2014-06-07
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Questions Answers
Is there any chance you will be ball boy in the final? And which player do you like best/worst? I could as its my fourth year and I'm pretty good (they pick the more experienced ones for men's final) so fingers crossed! And probably Federer for my fav as I just love him and worst probably Sharapova, just cause of her grunt.
What are the rewards for doing this? Do you get a financial compensation? Some money, Ralph Lauren, food, time off school and bragging rights.
Define some money? I'm in the same age group as you and make $6/h plus tips. We get around £180 for the two weeks. And we arrive there around 10am each day (apart from middle Sunday) and can leave anywhere between 9pm and 10pm (depends if theres a match on Center court)
Because you're under 16 they need to give you more frequent breaks though, right? I'm just thinking of when I worked at Sainsburys, anyone who was under 16 was entitled to a break (by UK law) even if they were only working for 4 hours (everyone over 16 only got a break if they worked more than 4 hours). Coz some of those matches go on awfully long... do they rotate fresh ball-boys/girls in if the match goes on for longer than 4 hours? We only work for an hour on court at a time. So we're on court for an hour, come off, and go back on. We don't necessarily go back to the same match though. We normally do like 4/5 shifts a day.
We saw a lot of coverage of Djokovic's interaction with a ballboy during a rain delay a week or so back. Have you had extended conversations or interactions with some of the players? Unfortunately not really, the only one I remember is when John McEnroe was playing a gentleman's invitation and got annoyed at a ball called in and asked me if it was in. We're not allowed to comment and I just stood there and said "I don't know" was in.
Do you hope to one day be a ball man? Soon
How often do you get hit by a stray ball? I've been hit three times in my previous three years. First clipped the inside of my leg narrowing missing my *** directly, second somehow hit my foot when Federer and someone was warming up (Picture in my proof)and the last was when I got hit in my *** a 135mph serve (not forgetting that one!) Once a year so I'm on track for this year.
I imagine that had to leave a huge welt or bruise. Crowd just went "ohhh" and player didn't really care and went for the second serve.
Did your family see that live? I would have rofl'd :3. No my dad would of played it on repeat if it was.
This one? Link to Something like that, but a serve!
What is the best part of being a ballboy? Do you have any weird or interesting stories? The experience. It's so amazing being there and being around the greatest players. Also we got a lot of Ralph Lauren clothing, and I mean a lot!
Best match you've ever ballboyed? Nadal vs Rosol (2012) He got beat by the No.100, amazing atmosphere and pressure on centre court then.
Do the athletes treat you well, or do they typically ignore you? Which ones stand out as complete jerks? Most of them do. Some players can be overly picky. One player, can't remember wanted the balls given to him slowly. I didn't know this, and was my first year so was pretty nervous on court, and he got frustrated as he couldn't speak English either.
and got frustrated as he couldn't speak English either. I didn't even think of this, that has to be a pain in the ass. Some players literally can't speak any! It's frustrating when they ask for something and you have no idea what they mean.
Can you really tell differences between balls? Players look at balls, and reject one or two. I would expect these balls to have a uniform wear. Also, how often are balls changed? Honestly I think they do it cause everyone else does it. The balls always look fine to me and chances are you're going to use it in the next couple of points. Balls are changed from the first seven games, then every nine (warm-up counts as two games)
Have you ever got off with a ball girl? Not at Wimbledon, but after it's all over there's a gathering/party that happens and everyone comes and has fun. What happens, happens ;)
Get off my lawn (I live near the common) you pesky kids and your after party each year, grumble, grumble. Sorry. I'm one of the ones that just talks (quite a quite person). I'll keep them in check this year ;)
P.S Come and join us this year ;)
Ha ha can't believe how crazy it get's, last year I went for a run at 5.30am on the Monday morning and there were still a few people on the common from the night before. I normally leave like 11/12. Dang kids!
How strong is the temptation to troll the players when you hand them balls ? "You want ball? Go fetch then"
How does one become a ballboy? We have to be in year 9 or 10 at participating schools around the area. Our school selects people to try out and they decide if you carry on. We then go through a 6 month training schedule (doing training once a week after school) until the champs where we could be kicked out anytime! After our first year training decreases and we do less (I done like 1 re selection and training this year as its my 4th champs)
Can you expand on the training part? What do they look for in a great ballboy vs. a mediocre one? A lot of feeding (throwing the ball properly),a lot of rolling tennis balls, a lot of fitness. We do a lot of practice games. And also have a few theoretical tests to test the rules and what to do in situations.
Oh and they look for speed, focus and accuracy. You'd be surprised the practice it takes to roll a ball flat, fast and straight.
When ppl ask what u do for a living do u respond "I handle famous athletes balls"? Whenever I mention it they do :)
Based on your time around him, what's your honest opinion of Andy Murray? He's the one player I have never done! :'( I'll hopefully do him this year but others say he can be annoying and quite arrogant. But I can't say myself though :(
How do your skills compare to this famous ball boy? He seems better then me. Slightly awkward.
How do your skills compare to this famous ball boy? On par ;)
*than. My bad.
Can you speak on Serena Williams' booty? Big.
Awesome AMA man! Who are you taking for Wimbledon 2014? Wow tough. I would like Murray cause I'm British but would like Federer too, cause I love him (no homo) and he'd become the Wimbledon titles leader with 8 titles. So torn between them.
Do you get nervous being around the athletes? Also, how are the ball boys selected? Do the ones who have been to these championships for more years get picked to be around the top athletes? One more question: are you rooting for Nadal or Djokovic in the French Open final? You don't really get nervous. I was at first but you just got to get on and do your job. More experienced ball boy/girls, get on better teams that are normally selected for better players. I love Djokovic but want Nadal to carry on being the King of Clay.
Do you get to keep the shirts? Also can you tell Ana Ivanovic that I love her? Yeah we keep it all (comes to like £1000 per person). And will do ;)
When you work a match, do you stay for the whole time, or do you rotate if it goes too long? Also, is Berdych a jerk? He seems like a jerk. We work in hour shifts, hour on hour off. Kind of...maybe...yes.
Is there a pecking order in the jobs? It seems like the younger folk are running the nets. Taller people tend to be bases (stand at the back) while smaller people run the nets. More experienced people tend to get better courts/players.
What is the most desirable job on the day? (responsibility rather than match or court) Not really any 'desirable jobs' apart from being on court. There's a job called ref's duty where you have to sit outside the referees office and get told to deliver stuff to certain courts. It can be boring but when you get asked to deliver stuff to centre courts it cool!
How many ballboys/girls are there in total for the Championships? There's about 250 ball boys/girls.
Do you actually play tennis? I would love too but I'm terrible!
Thanks! I can sympathise at being terrible, since at 6'4" I regularly lose 6-1 or 6-0 to my 5'2" girlfriend. Boo. For me its getting a ball over the net lol.
How did you do on the "If you can catch a wrench, you can catch a tennis ball" exercise? Let's just say A & E was quite busy that afternoon.
Are you taught how to run and how to pick a ball up? Is it a community feeling around the other ball boys and girls? We're taught rules of tennis (I didn't know any), how to roll and give the player a tennis ball and what to do on court. It's a great community we have.
Do you like to play tennis yourself or how did you get interested in it? I personally think it's a great sport and I love playing it. Can't imagine that it is a lot of fun picking up balls for others, even though it definitely would be interesting to see all these great players live. I'm terrible at tennis! I love watching it though. I got into ball boying when it was offered at my school and all my friends tried out and I didn't want to be left out, so I tried and made it, while they all didn't.
Well if you like to watch it then you certainly are in a really good position to do so. Thank you for your reply, I hope there will be interesting games ahead for you. Cheers! Best seats in the house.
How did you become a ball boy? Also, do you ever think about the fact that you might be shown on television which hundreds of millions of people around the world, rich and poor, will be observing you? Through my school. There part of the training program. It's truly amazing the thought. I'm in the position to the right of the umpires chair and across the court. That means i'm on the top left on screens during a rally so I always have to be still as it would get noticed on TV. My mum saw me on centre court once when she was watching.
Are you Alex Rider? I'm not the guy out of Stormbreaker if that's what you're asking ;)
How does it feel to not be able to look at the match very often? Oh we do. We just move our eyes and not our heads. Ball boying just becomes second nature and you always know what to do before it even happens.
Do you ever get to meet the athletes? If so, who is the coolest one you've met so far? Not really. I met Tim Henman when he came done and spoke to us. We don't really interact with the players.
What would you say the ratio of ball boys to ball girls is? Do you and your fellow ball boys/girls form a pretty tight knit group or is it a sort of competitive environment? Its pretty even. It's definitely a great group and we're pretty much a little family. Not many can say what we do. And there's always a little competition on who will get on the best team and best players,
Best player you've interacted with? Worst? One of the best was Nadal. I love him and when I ball boyed him and I had to do his towel (I don't normally do a players towel). He spoke to me and said "only two balls". Worst was probably an awkward situation with John McEnroe in a gentlemen's invitation match. He asked me to comment on a line call, and we're not allowed. Just stood there and said "Don't know". Awkward cos he was wrong.
Load of mates ball boy for Wimbledon as well. Do you know Richard Barber? Done it last few years. My question is how do maintain neutral face when watching Nadal bs Rosol, isn't it hard not to smile cheer when a massive point happens? I remember a guy called Richard who'd done it before. It isn't as hard, you just gotta focus and do it. Some points are tempting though especially the amazing shots.
I'm having a hard time remembering who did it, Oscar King, Niall Johnson? Kids from sutton grammar, if you don't mind me asking what school do you go to? I know Oscar and I go to Beacon.
Are British balls fuzzier than American balls? Can't believe I'm about to say this, our balls seem pretty smooth. Tennis balls!
Have you seen any ball boy efforts at Wimbledon that can rival the Aussies? I remember seeing that before. I remember seeing a centre (person that runs across the net) jump up and narrowly miss a terribly aimed serve. It was at a decent speed as well.
Ah a fellow ball boy. I was a ball boy for last year's U.S. Open. No player has really done anything terrible to me but one player decided to never take a ball from me the entire time I was there. She took balls from all the other bases, but never me. She got me to roll them to the other ball boy on my side to give to her. Guess I just wasn't her type?
What was your best match? 1.My best match was probably Nadal vs Rosol (He was No. 100 at the time) in 2012. It was the start were the top players become 'touchable' and could be beaten. Atmosphere was insane!
How do you like rolling the balls instead of throwing them? What was the worst thing a player has done to you? What so you guys throw balls between each other? Sounds sick! Rolling balls I guess seems more neat and that's just the way we're told to do it.
Yep! The U.S. Open prides us as the only grand slam ball boys to throw instead of roll. Although more efficient, it is more likely to mess up or even lose balls. By the way, your uniform looks sweet this year! Yeah it definitely seems faster but I guess ours is more efficient as you said. And it does doesn't it!
Whose sweat smells the best? Haha I have no idea lets just go with ladies.
How much do u get payed ? Only like £180 for the 2 weeks. But we get feed: breakfast, lunch, dinner and late tea (as we're up there from 10am-9pm), transported and given loads of Ralph Lauren kit.
Do you ever worry about getting drilled in the head from a wayward shot? More about the balls. Especially when their big servers as well.
As a 19 year old, 6'1" male, what are my chances of making it as a ball boy for the US Open? We can do it up to year 13 (aged 18) so I'm sorry but unlikely :(
How old are you? 17.
Why is there age restriction? I don't know, I guess its to allow new kids to try out and get in. Each year it gets harder for old ones to get in though so this is my fourth so pretty high standards for us. I guess its also because we come from surrounding schools and 18 is the oldest age you get in sixth form and colleges, before uni.
Do you have a set position that you occupy every match? For example, is your default position in the top-left corner every time? Nah its cool don't worry. Yeah we do. When it starts we get put into teams. So we are normally with the same people throughout and in the same positions, unless anything happens. So I've always been in the top left corner.
How hot does it get out there? Can you drink water during the breaks? Depends you know. Can get pretty hot. We have a bottle of water that we bring on and are allowed to drink a bit when the players are sitting down.
How did you get this awesome gig?!?! I go to a school that was selected to send kids to try and out and I made it through their tough selection and training.
I have Centre court tickets this year, if I spot you I will give you a big HELLO my fellow Redditor! I was also at the quarter finals last year for both Djokovic vs Del Potro & Murray vs Jerzy Janowicz. Where you participating in that one? Have a wonderful summer :) Haha great! I will be sure to stand there and take no notice (but secretly take more notice then I do to the players!) I actually did do a bit of the Del Potro vs Djokvic match last year! That's so cool thinking you were somewhere in the crowd! And thanks :)
I was remarkably close to the front as well. I arrived around an hour prior to the match starting so that we could see the stadium completely empty. It really is a beautiful venue. Both matches were incredible, it was one of the absolute best days of my life. Don't worry I will make sure to keep an hear out! In your picture I stand in the far right corner of the court. I remember in 2012 my team opened center for the first match of the year. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life as well. Crowd packed, sun beaming down and the crowd clapped us on. Amazing!
What do they do with the balls after matches? We have to take them to a place called 'ball store' where all the balls are kept. We then get new balls to bring back to the court. They then just sell them I think I dunno.
I sometimes watch tennis games with my parents on tv and catch glimpses of ballboys doing hand signals whilst holding the balls in the background, what do those mean? also do you wear any kind of protection against the balls or do you just have to be great at dodging? No protection just reactions. Sometimes a line judge will stand in front of me and make it very hard. I got hit in the balls once as I couldn't react faster enough cause of a line judge lol. We sometimes signal to each other how many balls we have so we can distribute them evenly between the two at the serving end.
Do you receive good pay for been a ballboy ? We only get like £180 for the two weeks. But we get a ton of Ralph Lauren and when you're around 15 years old and still in school, its pretty nice.
Is it hard being a ball boy? What's the most difficult part and what's the easiest part? Difficult part is the training for your first year. It takes around 6/7 months and is tough. But each year training gets smaller, I'm a 4th year so very little. When you get there you know what to do and is just easy. One of the easiest parts is when the player is serving down the other end of the court, so all you have to do is get the ball if it hits the back near you.
Thank you for the response. Have you ever made a mistake? A few like we sometimes mess up on a roll that we think is so obvious but i reality no one really notices. I remember once we were watching a match on the TV and saw a ball roll on court! (Big no no if you're on center court!)
What would be the repercussions of rolling it on center court? Everyone ball boy will know you as the 'one' that rolled a ball onto center . We get continuously marked on our performance and your team would get servery marked down and probably not allowed on center again for the rest of the tournament!
Sounds cool! I go to Glenthorne High School, near Wimbledon, but I know a few people from Rutlish who were selected, do you know Josh Richards? Lots of people do it and there's a few Josh's I know. But I know you're school does it!
What was the most memorable point you've watched as a ballboy? Tough question, but one springs to mind. Can't remember the players, but a guy was 2-1 up in sets and serving for the match. Had a match point. Other guy made an amazing return and was called out. He challenged and turns out it was in every so slightly. We came off court and later on heard he came back and won.
Ever get any good TIPS from the pros? Money and/or Life Skills? Not really. They normally are focused on the match and that's understandable.
If you were to roll a ball and it bounced all over the place would you get told off after the match? Probably not told off, just looked down on and feel extremely embarrassed
Do you get to choose which match you get to participate in? Nah we just get told what ones we are on 10 mins before.
Is that when the men in hazmat suits descend from the stadium roof and proceed to tag & bag me? Shhh, they may see your comment!
What memoirs can you keep after a wimbledon match? We don't really keep anything after every match. Some people can get lucky and get a towel. I've seen a guy get a racket before! We get a tin of used balls after the championship is over, plus we keep all the kit.
Have you ever heard stories of ball boys being abused? By players or in general?
Well, in general, but preferably by the players. like maybe federer put his balls on your chin? all that smooth, lithe, young flesh. who could resist it? Generally no. But some players can abuse their position sometimes. One year I believe Ferrer spat in his towel and threw it a ball boy. Not nice!
Do you think joaquin phoenix could play Federer in a movie? I think he looks the part whether or not he could. But I dunno.
Do you guys ever toss the balls in the crowd like the baseball ball boys? We don't but players do sometimes.
If you were allowed to bet on the matches would you have an edge? That is, do you see things from time to time that would enable you to reliably predict the outcome of a match? I don't think we really have an edge on betting, but we get the best seats to watch :)
The US open holds open tryouts every year, there is no age limit... I remember there being a news story of a 50 yr old ball boy a couple years ago. Wimbledon's rules for ball people are totally different... Ah fair enough sorry I don't know about the US.
There's always that one guy who asks a question like this. Haha she came and stood next to me while waiting for the other player. No touching but quite intimidating!
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