Whatever happened to …

… white tennis balls?

Thanks to Anne Shillolo for this suggestion posted to the Whatever happened to … Padlet.

What ever happened to… white tennis balls? We were travelling a week or so ago and really tired, and the only restaurant nearby was a Cages Sports outlet. It was in St. Jerome PQ and turned out to have amazing all local food and beers. And lot of big screen sports events playing. For some reason, while watching tennis, I remembered the original white tennis balls. I remember when I first played with the greeny yellow ones. Maybe 1976 or so at the U of W courts. The colour was called Optic Yellow. Now you never see white ones… @anneshillolo

I can remember the white tennis balls from my youth although the sport wasn’t tennis. It was baseball.

You see, my father was a really good pitcher. My brother and I would play catch with him all the time. Playing with a real baseball was a killer since he could throw it so hard. We would end up begging to play catch with a tennis ball instead. It sure stung but not nearly as much as a baseball. There were other issues too. My dad was a lefty and so the ball actually had a tendency to rotate and move in a different direction that anyone else I played with (we were all righties). Plus, with the tennis ball, it had that fuzzy surface designed to put spin on the ball to help it change direction. Put that in the hands of a pitcher and he could throw a curve ball that looked like it just dropped off a table. I distinctly remember times where I’d reach high and to the right only to miss the ball which passed me low and to the left.

The other neat thing about tennis balls used for baseball was that you could hit them a mile with a bat. It was there where you could really appreciate the trajectory of the ball.

Tennis balls were the universal gaming accessory. I can remember playing hockey, jai alai, and dodge ball with one. No volleyball though!

As for tennis, at the time, I don’t recall any tennis courts in the town at all. There was one hot shot who played competitive tennis and I think he had to go to Goderich to play. The rest of us basically bounced the balls off the solid walls of the school as we played back and forth making up our own game. It was only when I started my teaching career that I found out that was a real sport called racket ball!

As for the change from white to the yellow/green colour, I seem to remember something about yellow/green playing better with television when they started televising night time tennis.

I’ve got to share this picture – yesterday, after reading Anne’s suggestion, Jaimie and I did our morning walk which takes us by the tennis courts in one of the town parks. It’s always a good place to find a few discarded tennis balls. Can you see the one in this picture?

For a Sunday, your thoughts…

  • are you a tennis player?
  • can you remember a time when tennis balls were white?
  • why are there double lines along the left and right sides of the court?
  • if a ball hits the line, is it in or out?
  • have you ever jumped over a net let you see on television?
  • tennis balls are a necessity in education these days. Where do you use them?
  • why can’t you buy just one tennis ball?
  • did you ever play games other than tennis with one?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you have a suggestion for a Sunday morning fun topic, please add to the Padlet like Anne did. And, please join in for a weekly memory sharing.

Published by dougpete

The content of this blog is created by me at the keyboard or as a result of an aggregator of my daily reading under the title OTR Links. On Fridays, look for my signature post "This Week in Ontario Edublogs" where I try to share some great writing from Ontario Educators. The other regular post appears Sunday mornings as I try to start a conversation about things that have gone missing from our daily lives.

10 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Doug, I don’t remember white tennis balls, although I feel like I should. I’ve used tennis balls on the bottom of chairs to reduce the sound (they can smell though) and for a “single touch” on a SMART Board. Most kids just want to throw them when they see them though. I’m curious how other teachers might use tennis balls in the classroom. Thanks for the weekly walk down memory lane. 🙂



  2. My classroom was carpeted so when I walked into my first classroom with the tennis balls on the bottom of the chairs was a culture shock for me. And yet, it made so much sense. The concept of them smelling is new to me though. Thanks for sharing.


  3. The double lines along the sides are boundary lines. The interior line is for singles and the exterior is the boundary for doubles. I think. I haven’t played in forever and your post has me wondering where I could play if the urge hit. I played in high school and enjoyed it, though I wasn’t that great. We only used green balls. I’m too young to remember white! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Played and taught tennis since I was 14-am now 66. White tennis balls got dirty so easily and turned dull brown or red or grey, depending on your surface. So optic green was a vast improvement. Hitting the line is in, double lines form the alley between singles and doubles courts. Never jumped the net cause the #1 player on my HS team did, caught her foot, fell, and dislocated her knee. Did not seem worth it after that! Can buy 1 ball, at the dog food store, but they are flat. Balls come in 3’s so you can rotate them as they wear out which they do after 1 match-then they become practice balls. You should have 2 in your hand to start a point, and it is easier to find 2 quickly if you have 3 or lose 1. Next question: anyone remember balls coming in tin cans with a key or pull strip to open, and cutting your hand badly enough so that you could not play tennis after opening the can?!


  5. Good morning Doug!

    I do remember white tennis balls and remember being surprised when they switched to green/optic yellow, although I had to go to the Google to find out when that might’ve been. Apparently they were first introduced around 1972. Given the then formal preponderance of white clothing in tennis, it seemed odd at the tome that they would change the colour of the balls to something so hideously neon. As it would turn out, it was done for the benefit of television.

    My first use for tennis balls would’ve originally been for ball hockey. I also remember when I first encountered purpose built ball hockey balls made out of hard orange plastic. Tennis balls didn’t hurt as much as those ball hockey balls when one of them whacked you on the arm.

    Late in high school, friends and I used to get together to play tennis, and that continued into many summer evenings when we were home again from university and were looking for things to do in the evening after work. I essentially stopped playing tennis when I stopped going home for the summer. I was never into tennis to the extent that I would open a new can of balls each time I played. Who knew?

    Over the years, I have had tennis balls on the feet of the student chairs in my classroom at various times, as there have been instances when the scraping of chair legs on the floor has been particularly noticeable/bothersome. Perhaps various combinations of different chair feet and/or different floor materials have made chair scraping more or less noticeable at different times? I never did a scientific study, but rather treated the problem when it arose. Rather than using officially “dead“ tennis balls, I purchased inexpensive tennis balls from the dollar store, packaged in cellophane (and thus not protected in a pressurized can). As it would turn out, school supply stores subsequently got into the business, selling slightly smaller for-purpose chair-foot balls in multiples of four, pre-cut with the X required to fit them onto the chair leg.

    In recent years, the newer classroom noise that I addressed with considered attention was that of water bottles falling off desks and onto the floor, sometimes breaking, and sometimes just making a big distraction. The solution was a bag of S hooks and a custodian-sanctioned application of a power drill to the bottom edge of the desk.

    Thanks for another wander down memory lane!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Doug! I am happy that the idea of white tennis balls caught your imagination! And I really enjoyed reading about your memories of playing catch and baseball. I hadn’t thought about the multi purpose sports aspect but that is true for sure! I agree that for me and my friends, tennis was a game played against the school wall:) There were two courts at our high school but they were often in use and I don’t have memories of using them very much. I have never played as an adult. It is really a sport I associate with Windsor years:) PS all the other comments are very interesting too, thanks all!

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  7. I am not sure I would say I am a tennis player, but I have played tennis off and on since high school. Turns out my husband was into tennis as well, so we played together when we dated and still play the odd game now in our 50s. (so Lisa, you could too 🙂 ) We both think we remember white balls in HS (late 70s). I recall light yellow after that, but yes, all yellowish green neon now. We used some bright orange ones a few years ago.

    Lisa is right about the two sets of lines. The ball is “in” if it hits the line.

    No other games with tennis balls for me. But I have used one to roll under a sore foot and I have a few in my laundry room for items that come with the instructions to “fluff in dryer with a couple of tennis balls.” Haha.. but it works.

    Thanks for the tennis chat!

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