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Meriden girls learning life skills as ball kids

Sophie Massey in her ATP Cup uniform

Behind-the-scenes views of major sports events are usually exclusive to players, managers and media personnel but tennis tournaments have long welcomed young people into this world through their ball kid programs. Many Meriden girls sign up for the opportunity to see professional matches up close and to serve the tennis community. Our students say the skills they learn on these sidelines support them on the tennis court, at school and in life.

Year 10 student, Sophie Massey, has been a ball kid at tournaments including the Australian Open, Sydney International and the ATP Cup, sharing the court with the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Angelique Kerber and Alex de Minaur.

“The best thing about being a ball kid is getting to meet the players and also meeting other ball kids, who are often from different parts of the state or even different parts of the country, and connecting with them through a shared passion for tennis,” Sophie said.

As an experienced ball kid, Sophie has learned to mentor younger participants.

“When you’re in charge of a team of younger ball kids, you make sure they’re organised, that they look neat and they have everything they need to do the job. All ball kids need to practise how to bounce the ball to service the player accurately and the technique that this skill requires is something each person can work on in their own time but what’s most important is having someone to show you the ropes when the competition is underway. I find the organisational and leadership skills I’ve learned as a ball kid have been transferrable to school, particularly in doing group work or in getting ready for a performance with my music ensemble.”

Meriden alumna, Maiki Sun (Class of 2019) has recently returned to the School’s Tennis Academy as a coach. Maiki is an ITF Ranked Player and a member of Tennis NSW Youth Advisory Group. She was a ball kid for four years, working at the Australian Open, Sydney International and the Davis Cup.

“Being a ball kid is a great way to give back to the tennis community,” Maiki said.

“The job teaches you how to work well with others and communicate with a team. As a ball kid, you’re given a team to work with either for the duration of the event or for a single day and you must quickly learn how to work with each individual there to ensure the running of the game is smooth. You must communicate both on and off the court, giving each other cues for how many balls you have and keeping track of the score. As a leader in the team, you are also responsible for ensuring each member of the team is well and able to continue working. Looking out for other kids is especially important at events in the summer as the temperature on the main court is around four degrees higher than off-court, in an already humid environment.”

Maiki said the Meriden Tennis Academy’s encouragement of students to undertake community work in their area of interest shows that they’re concerned with helping young people become more than just good tennis players.

“The Meriden Tennis Academy encourages all girls to persevere when things are tough and they support the girls to learn to manage their time effectively. Balancing tennis, study and other extracurricular activities can be a challenge and it was through tennis that I learnt how to effectively balance my priorities and achieve the goals I had set for myself,” Maiki said.

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