The lowdown on Barclays Ball Kids
tennishead discover what it takes to be selected alongside the worlds best as a Barclays Ball Kid at the 2010 ATP World Tour Finals
tennishead caught up with Mark Magrath - head trainer of the Barclays Ball Kids, and head of the Talent ID team of five experienced and highly qualified tennis coaches - to find out how kids can earn the opportunity to rub shoulders with the world's best at the year-end Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena.
tennishead: What are you looking for in a 'Barclays Ball Kid'?
Mark Magrath: Put simply, we’re looking for athletes. The right kids will have everything – not just athletic movement, co-ordination, agility and balance, but self-belief and a willingness to take on board what myself and the team ask of them. The big word that we always come back to is energy: do they show enough during our sessions to stand out from the crowd. Do they listen, stand up straight, make eye contact, and will they talk with anybody. The final squad will have to mix in a tough environment where they will probably not know any of the other kids at all – that’s why we look out for kids who can communicate with someone they don’t know.
TH: Do you need to know everything about tennis to be considered for selection?
MM: A knowledge of tennis is great, but so far we’ve had boys and girls from all sorts of sports – cyclists, footballers, a couple of karate black belts, and even kids who’ve represented the country in their sport. Whatever their background or experience, good kids stand out. They give 110%, which is brilliant.
TH: How many kids are involved at the O2 Arena?
MM: Over 1,600 youngsters applied to be Barclays Ball Kids, so it’ll be hard to pick just 30! The squad will work in five teams of six. They’ll arrive at the O2 at 11am and stay until after the last match finishes – it’s a long, tough day, but fantastic for them to spend it around the stars of tennis in an unbelievable arena. There will be six kids on court with four runners around the fringes to get any balls that leave the court. Each team works for approximately an hour, covering the doubles and singles matches at the ATP World Tour Finals.
TH: Are Barclays Ball Kids chosen from schools local to the O2 Arena?
MM: No. This is an unbelievable opportunity for kids from places like Leeds, the outskirts of London, Manchester and Sunderland to get involved in a global sporting event. Last year’s ball kids were selected from two or three local schools located close to the O2. Now, we’re tying to give that chance to every 12 to 16-year-old in the country who wants to take part in this event. It really is a money-can’t-buy experience, and a chance to see there’s lots of different ways to get involved with world-class sport.
TH: What would you like to see from the ideal Barclays Ball Kids?
MM: We would like the personality of the kids to come out a bit on court. They’ve got to enjoy it, and they’ve got to deal with being around me twelve hours a day for ten days! Every kid is different, but if they display all of the athletic attributes and personality we’re looking for, they could do a fantastic job as a Barclays Ball Kid.
If you want to register for the 2011 Barclays Ball Kids trials, head to www.barclaysballkids.com to find out more.
(Hit the 'related downloads' link (right) to watch a video of the Barclays Ball Kids training process)