If you are looking for more than courtside seats when the U.S. Open returns to Flushing in mid-August, you’re in luck as the U.S. Tennis Association is looking for a more than a few good ballpersons.
That’s right, one of the 80 paid openings to retrieve balls and dote on some of the world’s best tennis players during the annual, two-week tournament can be yours — if you’re 14 or older and can pass the rigorous USTA ballperson tryout that will be held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Monday afternoon.
“The perfect ballperson is someone who is athletic, patient has a great attitude and loves tennis,” Tina Taps, U.S. Open director of ballpersons, told Metro. “They need to be quick on their feet, have good throwing arms and have strong agility and speed skills … and pay attention to what the players need as well.”
Metro: What are the typical duties of a USTA ballperson?
Tina Taps: Ballpersons need to be invisible. Ballpersons are a team of six. Four ballpersons serve as a back position, and two serve as a net position. The back position is responsible for chasing down the tennis balls, providing the tennis balls to a player before a serve and also giving the player a towel. These positions require a strong arm because they will need to throw the ball down the entire length of the court on one bounce — which is not as easy as you may think! The net position needs to be scrappy and retrieves the balls that are hit into the net or in the front area of the court. Not only are they chasing down tennis balls, but they also need to learn how a player operates and when a player may want a towel or an umbrella to keep cool in the heat.
What’s the ballperson age range?
The minimum age for a ballperson is 14. The median age is around 16. However, we have had a ballperson or two in their 60s in recent years. As long as you can do the job, it doesn't matter how old you are.
Do you generally see the same faces each year?
We have many ballpersons who have been doing the job for five, even 10-plus years. Ballpersons love the energy and excitement of the U.S. Open and really have the best seats in the house, so many people return and serve as long as they can.
Do they need to try out every year?
No, only new ballpersons try out at ballperson tryouts. We select approximately 80 ballpersons at tryouts. We have around 275 total ballpersons during the U.S. Open.
Have you ever been a ballperson?
No, I was never a ballperson, but I have been working for the U.S. Tennis Association since 1980.
Do you think you would make the cut?
Yes! When I was much younger, I played volleyball and basketball and feel like I was a good athlete. I think I could have done the job in my high school or college years!
For more info on the ballperson tryout for this year's U.S. Open, visit usopen.org.