For the past three years, Palmetto High School senior Aaron Mares has been a ball boy at the Miami Open, the tennis tournament on Key Biscayne. Mares is on the court with some of the world’s best players, playing a vital role in the match while staying as unobtrusive as possible.
“A lot of people undervalue a ball boy. You mention it to people, and they think it’s a simple task,” he says. “You have to know the structure of the game, you have to know where the six balls are, who has them on every single point.”
The ball boys (and girls) do a variety of jobs.
“We hand them balls,” he says. “During the breaks we give them water. When someone asks questions, we help them when we can. I love it. It’s a lot of work and more than a lot of people think.”
The most exciting match Mares worked last year was the one between Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer.
Mares started high school playing tennis on the Palmetto team. He enjoyed his time on the team but discovered he liked playing badminton even more. He partnered with a friend and they did so well he ended up dropping tennis.
Freshman year he and his friend won first place in badminton boys’ doubles at the District Championships and third at the GMACS. They couldn’t go further because badminton does not have regional or state championships.
His sophomore and junior years, he and his doubles partner, Jeffrey Li won first place in Districts and first place in the GMACs.
“It’s a gratifying experience. It’s a fun sport,” he says. “Because we got first place on GMAC’s sophomore and junior we were named to the Miami Herald’s All-Miami-Dade team.
Mare is also a talented singer. He’s been a part of the Miami Children’s Chorus for seven years. He says being a member of the chorus can be time consuming but it is one of the most rewarding experiences he’s had.
“Singing as part of a group – it’s taught me a lot of life lessons,” he says.
The kids practice every Monday and Wednesday. They do a lot of performances and go on tour.
“Probably the best experience I had was this past summer, when we went on tour,” he says. “We went to the Czech Republic, Austria, Budapest and Hungary. We went to places I thought I’d never see.”
Previously, they traveled to Italy, visiting and performing in Rome, Sienna, Milan, Venice and Florence.
“Each tour lasts around 12 days,” he says. “I loved every minute of it. You got to see amazing places and perform for people.”
His extracurricular activities at Palmetto include Model UN. He’s in his second year as secretary of training.
“Last year, we hosted for the first time a conference for middle schoolers,” he says. “We had 60 middle schoolers come to our school. For the day they debated international politics.”
The plan is to put on the event again. The first event achieved the goal of engaging middle school students and the secondary goal of raising money for UNICEF.
Mare is a member of Mu Alpha Theta and has participated in math competitions for Palmetto. He’s also in the Science National honor Society and the National Honor Society.
Mare is contemplating a major in computer science or programing if he doesn’t go into music. He’s applied to Vanderbilt, USC and the University of Miami, the University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Ohio State, University of Florida and Washington University.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld