Wimbledon 2015: What does it take to become a ball boy? Discipline, tennis know-how and ability to stand still

They stand rigidly in their purple and green outfits, one arm raised straight up with a tennis ball in hand.

They are ready to feed the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams as they prepare to send 120mph serves crashing down the turf in front of a packed Centre Court.

They are the unsung heroes that make the world’s most illustrious tennis tournament flow smoothly, but what exactly does it take to become a ball boy or ball girl at Wimbledon?

With the tournament getting underway next week SW Londoner went along to one of their training sessions to find out.

The process the applicants go through to make it as a ball boy or girl – known as BBGs – is an arduous one and there is fierce competition to get on the prestigious programme.

Only 250 lucky teenagers make the final cut out of the initial 700 applicants.

BBG programme manager at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Sarah Goldson, believes that discipline is the key to success for wannabe BBGs.

She explained: “I would say the two most important things are discipline and concentration, which some of them find extremely difficult because at that age they are not used to spending large periods of time standing still.

The applicants are all Year 9 and 10 students from schools in southwest London.

Ms Goldson, who held the position herself for three years, explained that candidates must be well-rounded both physically and mentally.

She said: “They come for selection, which is a three-hour session where we look at skills, teamwork, and fitness.

“Before they can get onto the programme they must also complete online modules on the rules of tennis.”

Once on the course applicants must train for three hours each week for five months from as early as February in the build-up to the summer championships – failure to attend regularly will see applicants lose their coveted place.

The trainees are under great pressure, run the risk of being walloped by a 140mph serve and only get paid travel expenses, so what do they get out of it?

“I think some of them learn a great deal from the discipline,” Ms Goldson said. “They might not say that themselves, but their parents certainly say that to us when they come to watch during the championships.

“They make a lot of friends and it certainly beats sitting at home in front of the TV.”

One of the prospective ball boys, Nicholas, 15, said he cannot wait for championships to arrive to put his training into practice.

“A big help was getting the kit, knowing we will soon be part of the competition,” he said.

Isobel, 14, who is a self-proclaimed huge tennis fan and always watches the championships, revealed that the course had been intense but would be well worth it.

She said: “I have gained lots from the experience and it has helped me learn how to manage my nerves in highly pressurised situations when you have to make snap decisions.”

Despite all their hard work they rarely get the recognition they deserve, especially when tennis legends such as Murray, Djokovic and Nadal take to the court.

But it’s a great testament to the work of the BBGs and their coaches is how little you actually notice them in the finals.

Featured picture courtesy of E01, with thanks

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