Imagine having to stifle the urge to sneeze, or hold completely still as the itch on the top of your foot begins to feel like the bites of 1,000 red ants.
That is the task of 20 Treasure Valley and Idaho Falls teenagers, who were hand-picked after rigorous testing to be ball kids for this weekend's Davis Cup quarterfinal between the United States and Serbia at Taco Bell Arena.
"I was nervous that I would screw it up or something, but it worked out OK,'' said Cache Wood, a 16-year-old tennis player at Middleton High, who worked the opening Novak Djokovic-John Isner match Friday.
The Idaho Tennis Association, also known as USTA-Idaho, put Jim Moortgat in charge of the tryouts after the organization was inundated with requests to be on the team that is working in close proximity to tennis greats.
"You can imagine as soon as the announcement for the Davis Cup was here, we had people calling from all over asking, 'Can my boy or girl be a ball boy?' " said Moortgat, a former Boise State coach and the current head coach at Timberline High. "... We had to figure out some sort of fair way."
Moortgat and USTA-Idaho Executive Director Steve Bickham came up with a 12-question written test and a series of physical drills. They then asked local high school coaches to nominate two players from their team to try out.
The pool was narrowed to 20 kids who proved they were in top physical form with a keen understanding of the rules of tennis.
Each Davis Cup match must have six ball kids on the court - one on either side of the net and two behind each player - and two outside the court shagging stray balls.
The net kids perform the obvious duty of retrieving balls out of the net, but also attend to players during changeovers. The "backs" provide players with balls and towels during play.
"If the players want a bottle of water or are grabbing another racket and want the plastic taken off their racket, whatever the players bark out that they need, those two (net) people are there to respond to them," Moortgat said.
"The good thing about this tie, the players that are here are all pretty nice guys. Sometimes you get a player that's not quite so nice and if they start losing, they are going to bark at the kids. But emotions run high if somebody's losing and they look for somebody else to blame, hopefully it's not a ball kid."
After three two-hour practices, the 20 ball kids got their first taste of real action Wednesday during the Americans' practice.
"We put kids on the court to get rid of their awe factor," Moortgat said. "It started out the kids were scared to death at the beginning, but after about 20 minutes they loosened up and started to 'see ball, pick up ball.' "
Moortgat said ball kids should essentially be "invisible" during the match to avoid distracting the players.
It's more challenging than it sounds.
"I was really, really nervous. The big thing that was kind of scary was the serves," 13-year-old ball kid Camryn Moortgat said. "They serve really hard and you don't want to move to distract the point, but when they serve you kind of flinch because you are afraid it's going to hit you."
Fifteen-year-old Centennial High student Gavin Hatter was equally impressed with his up-close encounter with some of the best American players. He even received a high-five from Mike Bryan at the end of Wednesday's practice.
"It was super cool. It was interesting to see how they communicate. We did the Bryan brothers' practice. They talk with a lot of abbreviations. It's cool to see how tight they are with each other and how in sync they are," Hatter said. "They hit so much harder in person. On TV, it looks a lot slower."
Rachel Roberts: 377-6422, Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX