On the ball

Two players who are on the ball

When someone is on the ball, they pay close attention to the details of an activity or project. As a result, they are usually knowledgeable and quick to respond to changes.

Employers like to have employees who are on the ball because it means that they are competent and alert. This expression can be used in professional settings to make reference to someone’s work ethic. It can also be used in casual settings to say that someone is smart or organized in general. For example:

  • This is a fast-paced business that’s always changing, which is why we need to hire someone that'll be on the ball at all times. 
  • Our new intern is really on the ball. He learns quickly and reacts well to changing instructions.

A. Ana, can you please print out the slides for tomorrow’s meeting?
B. I’ve already printed them. They’re in the blue folder on your desk. 
A. Great. Thanks for always being on the ball

Did you know? This expression relates to sports. It refers to an athlete, such as a basketball player, who needs to keep their eyes on the ball throughout the game in order to react quickly to passes and plays.