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VIDEO: Wimbledon tennis Championships ball girls describe tough training regime
The best thing about being a ball girl or boy is being on court with some of the world’s best players according to youngsters who are on the front line.
Hundreds of teenagers from schools across the borough and beyond will be lining the grass courts at the world famous venue this year, expertly doing the job in hand while trying not to be noticed.
But it is not an easy task.
Teenagers including 15-year-olds George Gorman and Emma Mcloughlin are put through a strict training regime where they train for two and a half hours a week for months before the Wimbledon tennis championships, and even then they might not make the grade.
Manager Sarah Goldson said they can be dismissed instantly for chewing gum, wearing jewellery or not being up to scratch.
Miss Goldson said: “They have to cope under pressure.
“You can’t replicate that in training, for example the number of people watching.
“Some people say the training is harder than the championships.”
Harris Academy Merton pupils George Gorman and James Laughton, 14, are about to embark on their second year as ball boys for the championships.
George said: “The first time last year was really good so I wanted to come back.
“I like everything about it.”
James said the experience of being on the court with world class players is brilliant.
He has worked with players including Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Laura Robson.
James said: “Normally I would watch them on television, then you are seeing them in front of you.
“I don’t usually play tennis but I was interested in it.”
George said the first time he stepped out in front of the crowd it was scary, but once you get into a routine it becomes less daunting.
Emma Mcloughlin and friend Grace McCormack, 14, both from Ursuline High School in Wimbledon, will also be taking on their second year.
Grace said: “It’s tough but rewarding at the end.
“I am very proud to be at the championships and have people watching me.”
The girls are in the centre position, which means they stand by the net and feed and distribute tennis balls to players and other ball girls.
The trick is, apparently, to keep a straight arm and straight wrist when feeding the ball along the grass court.
There are 246 ball girls and boys at this year’s tournament aged between 14 and 18-years-old.
They were picked out of hundreds of applicants from 31 schools across London and Surrey which are registered to take part in the scheme.
Typically they spend one hour on the court then take a one hour break to rest. If the weather is hotter, they will spend less time on the court.
They are constantly monitored by staff including Miss Goldson, who has been in charge for three years.
Miss Goldson, who is also a referee for the Lawn Tennis Association, said: “We are very clear what we expect from them.
“They soon realise things like shoe laces undone or shirts untucked are not acceptable and they have to address us as Sir or Miss.
“It’s standards of behaviour we expect.”
Training includes eight online modules where they learn the basics of the game, as well as fitness tests and skills lessons.
Miss Goldson said: “It is all about precision. It is not just what they do but how they do it.”
Youngsters from schools including Rutlish School, Ursuline High School, Harris Academy Merton and Putney High School will all be on the courts this fortnight.
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