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The dos and don'ts of being a ballboy

There's more to being a ballboy than being kicked by Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard
  • @willydean

For a young sports fan, it's the best job on the planet. Those lucky enough to be picked as ball boys and girls are given front-row seats to see some of the world's greatest athletes doing what they do best. All for the task of fetching a ball every few minutes.

You might, as one lucky South African ballgirl did with Serena Williams in December, even get to play with one of your heroes. (Sister Venus had gone to the bathroom in the middle of the exhibition match). Most likely, though, you'll be sat in the drizzle at Griffin Park or Valley Parade getting rained on in exchange for the honour of trying to prise a muddy ball away from rowdy away fans. But it's still better than doing homework.

Whereas ballboys once were all young trainees, they can now come from different routes. Oldham Athletic, for example, use members of Junior Latics, their kids supporters club, while others recruit from their fans. When Premier League champions Manchester City advertised for a band of ball-fetchers in 2011, their criteria was: "aged 11-12 (school year 7 and 8), be able to attend every home game, be energetic, be able to quickly catch and throw a ball, and be willing to sit in all weathers!" Sadly, the notice also added: "there will not be any opportunity to meet the players, nor to ask for autographs."

Tennis, meanwhile, is the most ball-person dependent sport. Its most famous event, Wimbledon, runs a massive annual ball boy/girl operation along military lines. Children from around 18 local schools who are selected spend four months practising rolling, feeding and receiving balls and well as standing still in the courtside pose for three minutes at a time. Only the elite catchers and rollers from this band of 15ish-year-olds are then selected to work, for free, on the show courts in those fancy Ralph Lauren uniforms.

It's not all the glamour of getting chopped by Chelsea players and catching Andy Murray's serves, though. Charity worker Ben Davies, now 29, was a schoolboy ball boy at Devon's non-league Barnstable Town: "I used to get paid with a burger and a can of Coke from the burger stand. Thankfully, I ran them off as neither of the two forwards could hit a barn door so the ball would often go out of the ground."

Ballboys - Dos and Don'ts


Give the ball back quickly: Hapoel Haifa ball boy Ofek Mizrachi was credited with an assist in the Israeli second division in 2009 after his ultra-quick return caught Bnei Lod's keeper miles off his line, creating an open goal for a Haifa striker. Click here to watch.

Make great catches: nothing will make you YouTube famous more quickly than plucking a pass from Roger Federer out of the air like Jonty Rhodes as a ball boy at the Australian Open did in 2012. Click here to watch.


Throw it AT the opposition: a Spurs ball boy was clapped to his stool by fans at White Hart Lane after rather a over-enthusiastic throw to Famagusta's Konstantinos Louboutis landed squarely in the Greek left-back's groin. Click here to watch.

Enter the field of play to early: a ballboy at the French Open in 2011 had to fight back tears after misreading a game only to get in the way of a point-winning smash by an unamused  Viktor Troicki. Click here to watch.