U.S. Open officials held the 2016 U.S. Open ballperson tryouts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing on Thursday.
Anyone ages 14 and up was invited to test their skills on the court. Applicants had five minutes to shine under circumstances they would encounter during a U.S. Open match at the net and the backcourt.
“We get anywhere from 350 to 500 people come and tryout,” said ballperson director Tina Taps. “The average age is 16, but as long as you can do the job, the job is yours. One year we had someone who was in his 80s.”
Once you become a ballperson, you are free to return the next year without trying out, unless you take time off. This year, there are 161 returning ballpersons and around 80 open spots.
With over 300 people competing for the spots, the tryouts are very competitive.
Athletic talent isn’t all you need to succeed. Ballpersons need to know the rules of tennis, as well as know how to read their players, what they like and their habits. They are not just handling tennis balls, they are interacting with the players, too.
Most people who try out are either players or big fans, said Taps. They know the big names of tennis and the complicated scoring, as well as other specifics of the game.
“We need people who are athletic, who have quick feet and have quiet footsteps,” said veteran ballperson Laray Fowler. “But aside from that, we need people who are enthusiastic, having fun and enjoying themselves."