The new on-court military style of the ballboys and girls of Wimbledon is very different from the original 1920s version.
They now move with the precision of match-stick soldiers. The original boys were chosen from the Shaftesbury and Barnardo homes, institutions that took in homeless children and gave them an education and a trade. This helped them eventually get an apprenticeship.
The Dr Barnardo’s homes had links to Wimbledon and boys were given the opportunity to be chosen as ballboys for The Championships.
Training started early in the year and finally, in June a list went up announcing who had been deemed fit and intelligent enough to go to London and mix with the top tennis players, royalty and the public for the Wimbledon fortnight.
Today, Wimbledon’s ballboys and girls come from local schools. From 1946 to 1966, all the ballboys came from Dr Barnardo’s children’s homes. In a usual year, there is a final total of around 250 ballboys and girls (BBGs) from approximately 1000 applicants.
The average age is 15 years and they usually spend 2 years as BBGs. The BBGs are divided up into six teams of six to be responsible for Centre and Court 1. Six teams of six rotate around the other show courts.
The remainder in teams of six rotate around the rest of the courts. The usual routine is one hour on, and one hour off to allow for recovery. Being a ballboy/girl at Wimbledon is considered a prestigious and highly sought-after job.
The selection process is rigorous, and candidates go through intense training to ensure they perform their duties with precision and professionalism.
Many of the BBGs are young tennis enthusiasts who get the opportunity to be up close and personal with their favourite players and witness some of the world’s best tennis matches.
Overall, the ballboys and ballgirls of Wimbledon contribute significantly to the success and smooth running of the tournament making it a memorable and prestigious event for players and fans alike.