They belong to the group of unsung sportsmen and women, whose activities are being hidden or remain unnoticed. Standing in the silent corner of the court has undermined their very work. Whether it be team work, training or uniform are all part of their game, but what puts them apart is their identity. Their identities which may or may not be defined in the list of sports, but still do hold great importance. These very people are often known as the ball boys and ball girls.
They are known as the people who are seen running around the tennis courts. Never really caught in action, but have plenty of actions in the game. Ball persons control the movement of the ball across the court which is the basic requirement of the game. Not known to all, the ball persons pass the ball at the right level and point so that tennis players don’t have to run around chasing it. Right timing is the keyword to their play. This very part of tennis also has its share of classic training. Teams are made with 10 people each, who are positioned on the court at the base line (the corners of the court) and the net. The people at the net happen to be the leaders, who, with their skills of sign language, control the people at the baseline.
Ball boys and girls are usually between the ages of 8 to 18, and whatever their age might be, all follow the code of conduct and respect their reason of being on court. There are points of change in the game to which the ball persons react quickly; like the time when players change sides, serves change or the time of the tie breaker where balls had to be present at respective sides. The people at the base line act as the middleman and roll the ball from one end to another. All this is done in a span of two minutes. If noticed by people, it seems amusing how naughty little kids are able to act so professionally on court.
The upcoming tennis tournament is the Dubai Tennis Championship which will go on for two weeks. For this, ball boys and girls started their training in December itself. The training was conducted by one Mr. Clark Francis, who manages 10 teams of ball persons, with 10 people in each team. It is told to them that each team stays on court for a span of 45 minutes and at the time of break, the teams change and all this is done very discreetly without attracting the players or the audience. The training for them includes stamina building and reacting on time. Mr. Clark Francis pointed out the need of being hospitable on court as the ball boys and girls need to, at times; cater to the players, the needs being water, bananas, towel, umbrella etc.
It is important for budding tennis players to try being a ball person, as not only would they get the best view of the match, but even observe very closely the world class tennis players. Being a ball person even helps build team work at a smaller age. The training for this is extensive as the best tennis schools of a city are chosen to set the teams of ball persons. Not considered as sport, but it has every element any other sport has. The whole process in totality is an amazing learning experience. Observing their dedication, punctuality and team skills would help us understand the very concept of their game.