What it takes to be a "ball kid" at Wimbledon

Summer camp is nothing compared to this: hundreds of kids training for months on end just for the opportunity to fetch balls for Rafael Nadal.

Every year, 1,000 kids from schools in and around London train for four months to be chosen for one of the ball girl and boy positions at Wimbledon, which ends this week. Of that pool, only 250 proceed—after a gruelling schedule of physical training and constant assessment. They even sit for multiple-choice exams, with head-scratchers like these: “If the centre has a ball at the end of the point what should he/she do first?”

It’s a lot of pressure for the kids, aged 13 to 18, but they’re essential. Ball kids “add to the prestige of it,” says Ben Makarenko, Tennis Canada’s marketing and operations manager. “No one wants to see Roger Federer pick up his ball.” Makarenko says the kids do throwing, catching, running and agility drills, and at Wimbledon, are trained to roll—not bounce—the balls to players. “There is a science to it,” he says.

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