The most basic element in all sports is the instrument that is used to play the game with. With most sports, it is the ball. The ball is crucial and is truly the only thing you need to play with.
It may make things harder, but you can play the game with just the ball if needed. Volleyball is the same way. The type of volleyball you need is crucial when you go to purchase one.
There are so many out there on the market that it gets difficult to select one simply because your senses get overloaded. However, this buying guide will help you determine the things you need for your specific purposes.
And then we’ll look at and review the top ten volleyballs of this year.
Materials: Leather or Synthetic
For many sports today, this is the debate that goes on. Leather is much more traditional as it’s naturally abundant, and as a result, it has been around longer.
With our increased technology, we’ve been able to make things ourselves, and that is where synthetics come from. Here is a quick look at the differences between the two.
Leather is still the at the top of the list for volleyball. If you want something that is high-quality, this is where you look. This is opposite to where most sports are going nowadays. It is important to note right away that there are different “grades” of leather.
This is similar to how produce is graded. Some leathers are better than others, so those will naturally cost more as they are more costly to produce. The higher the price, the softer the ball feels and plays. This means that you don’t hurt as bad when you hit the ball.
As the price comes down, the ball does get harder and harder, and it makes it difficult for you to not hurt a little when you’re playing. Leather is typically used for games only, or used during very serious or important practice sessions.
As abundant as leather is, it’s still not as abundant as the sheer quantities of synthetics available, and as such, it’s more expensive than synthetic.
It’s interesting to note that in spite of the history of “low tech” leather, it’s still the standard that synthetic producers are trying to simulate!
Synthetics are great for those that need something to last for a very long time. Synthetic volleyballs are designed to withstand tremendous wear and tear that leather simply can’t handle.
Synthetics are much more about feel and personal preference than leather balls as each is different from the next. The term synthetic is really quite a wide-ranging term, so you never know exactly what materials have gone into it.
The combinations can make each one wildly different from the next, so that plays a massive role in how your ball will play and feel. As the price goes down, just like with the leather balls, the synthetic ball will lose its playability and comfort.
It is very interesting to point out that the AVP, a beach volleyball league that is very famous across the world, uses a synthetic ball instead of a leather ball. This bucks the trend of most leagues around the world.
Because synthetics are man-made fibers, they are almost always cheaper to buy than leather because companies can produce as much as they like of the material.
The feel of the ball is also very important. The type of player that you are can help make your decision. If you’re a player that plays in the back row, and you are good at setting, you will likely want a softer ball because you prefer touch.
If you are a front-row player that will be looking to spike the ball, you’ll want a harder ball to help you hit the ball even harder. It really just depends on what you are looking for.
Indoor or Outdoor and Other Types
Indoor and outdoor volleyballs are different, and they need to be classified as such. You wouldn’t want to wear the same clothes inside and outside when it is a cool day, so you would most likely never want to use an indoor volleyball outside or vice versa.
The major difference that you can see between the two is that indoor volleyballs are molded together; outdoor volleyballs are stitched together. This helps each ball to be as durable as it possibly can be.
Indoor volleyballs, as stated above, are molded together. This makes the seams of the ball look smooth and even feel smooth because the panels are glued to the inner parts of the balls- the guts if you will.
This makes indoor volleyballs more playable because they feel better, move much more predictably every time, and they are smoother. Indoor volleyballs weigh less than their outdoor counterparts as well (more on that below).
Almost all indoor balls are white since there aren’t typically any issues with other visibility inside a gym.
Outdoor volleyballs are easy to spot because you can see that the seams are stitched together. This type of stitching makes the ball much more durable and capable of being played on multiple surface types.
Because let’s face it, a lot of different surfaces are outside. Not everyone will be playing on grass! The outdoor volleyball weighs more than an indoor one, and it does so in order to not be as affected by the wind.
With the added weight, the theory is that it won’t move off line as much as a regulation indoor volleyball would. Outdoor volleyballs are also water-resistant to help you in case you accidentally leave the ball outside or even if you just want to play through the rain.
They also have a much lower air pressure than that of indoor volleyballs. Just keep in mind that the surface of outdoor volleyballs is generally much more abrasive than that of indoor volleyballs.
You will feel it a lot more when you hit the ball than you would with an indoor one. The last difference that we’ll point out is that outdoor volleyballs also have a larger circumference, by about two inches usually, than indoor volleyballs.
Kids volleyballs are slightly different than regulation because they are sized smaller to help kids be able to hit them.
If a really young and weaker child were to play with a bigger ball, they’d likely develop poor form, so a kid’s volleyball is a great way to help teach them proper form as they build themselves up over time.
Beach volleyballs can fall under the same category as outdoor volleyballs, but generally, the beach volleyball will have a distinct color to it to help it stand out from the normal solid white ball that you typically will see.
Training volleyballs are used mostly indoors but are designed to help players gain more strength.
These balls are roughly the same except they weigh about four ounces more than a regulation volleyball does to allow the player to learn to be more powerful with her or his play.
This is great for teaching someone how to properly set the ball with the right amount of force and touch.
So, as you can see there are differences between the various types of volleyballs out on the market. If you select the wrong ball, you can see a drastic difference in how they feel, how they play, and how long they last. So, don’t assume that they are all the same!
A beach volleyball won’t last near as long when be playing on concrete. And a kids volleyball will get hit way too hard by an adult! These are just some of the possible outcomes of not choosing correctly.
Volleyball Brands and Official League Balls
Branding goes a long way in the sports world today, and it is no different in terms of the sport of volleyball.
Many people like to stick to a certain brand, so if you are one of those people here is a quick list of the brands that are big sellers and have an official association with a league.
- Wilson- official sponsor and ball of the AVP beach professional volleyball tour
- Tachikara- official ball used by the NAIA college championship
- Mikasa- official ball of the FIVB, which is the world’s governing body for volleyball
- Baden- official ball of the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association group
- Molten- official ball of the NCAA Championships and Team USA
There are many more companies that make good, quality volleyballs, but these are the most popular and the ones that have gotten themselves into the forefront of people’s minds with their sponsorships and endorsements.
NFHS Endorsed Volleyballs
NFHS is the board that decides what kind of equipment is allowed in high school sports throughout the United States. If you are in this category as a coach, player, or a parent, then you need to know what balls are approved. Here is the list:
Taking Care of Your Ball
The durability of any ball is affected not only by the materials used and the surfaces played on but also by the way you take care of the ball.
While it is true that synthetics, in general, will last longer than leather because of their man-made properties, you can still help your ball last longer by doing a few thing to ensure that you take care of it.
No matter the type of ball that you buy, you can use these tips to help prolong the life of it.
- Never leave the volleyball outside as air pressures will fluctuate drastically as the weather changes from hot to cold and back again.
- Volleyballs should be stored in an area that is dry and at room temperature when you are not using them. The constant air pressure and temperature will help it retain its shape.
- If it needs to be washed because it has picked up some dirt or dust, you can use warm water and soap to wash it. Just make sure to dry it and leave it somewhere that is at room temperature.
- If you find your ball to be a little too hard initially, you can either let some air gently with a needle or you can apply a conditioner to it to help do so. Keep in mind that the conditioner works far better on leather than on synthetics.
- Always make sure to moisten your needle as you go inflate or deflate your ball. We have seen countless numbers of people jam needles in only to see them break off because they were not dampened in the slightest. This can ruin a volleyball that is worth quite a bit of money!
- Remember that over time, your volleyball will lose a little bit of air, so you may need to inflate it occasionally to keep it at the right air pressure.
Best Volleyball Reviews
Coming in at a very reasonable price is the exact ball used by the beach tour professionals in the AVP. This ball has the classic white look but also has yellow on it to make it easily visible for both players and fans alike.
This is classified as a synthetic ball, but it is very high quality and will not cause you to hurt from hitting it repeatedly. Because of its makeup, it ages very well and can last a while compared to other game volleyballs.
Keep in mind, however, that is it a game volleyball and that means it will not last quite as long as something geared toward training!
- The official ball of the AVP
- Synthetics make sure it ages well yet offers nice protection
- Great price for high quality
- It will not hold up forever in intense sessions
- Will sometimes be shipped deflated, which is a bit of a hassle
This offering from Tachikara comes in 2 different colors, each with the same eye-catching design pattern. This is a regulation-sized indoor volleyball that comes at a very reasonable price, and it is meant for recreational volleyball.
So, this would be great for PE classes or recreation departments to purchase to have for kids to play with. It boasts a “no-sting” quality exterior which reduces forearm pain from hard hits.
This is another synthetic offering, thus the lower price, but people absolutely love how soft the feel is for them compared to other volleyballs that they had purchased. It is a regulation-sized ball, so it would not be great for people looking for something specific like that.
- Different styles to mix and match
- Great for recreation or PE
- Great price
- Reduces forearm sting so it’s less intimidating to play the game
- Not meant for league play
- Use of foam can cause issues
- Construction quality issues have been a problem for some
Another reasonably priced ball comes from Wilson at #3 with this very eye-catching ball that will grab everyone’s attention quickly and easily. Once again, it is a synthetic ball made to meet the specifications to be considered a regulation volleyball.
It appears to be geared more toward outside use, but it’s hard to tell due to its makeup.
It’s obviously modeled toward those that are in their early to mid-teens, but it can still be just fine to be used for adults as well. It’s definitely a great one to take to the beach!
- Great for the beach
- Great for pre-teens and teens
- Good price
- Not meant for indoor use
- Not very friendly to men because of its design
The name makes it sound like its fit for use at a mental asylum, but don’t be fooled as this is a good quality synthetic volleyball that also comes at a reasonable price. It comes in six different color choices, including the classic white or white paired with another color.
This is so you can match your team’s colors for practices. This would be a good volleyball for indoor practices as the synthetics would help it last longer and retain its shape as session after session passes by.
- Great practice ball
- Reasonable price
- Nice colors to choose from
- Ships deflated
- Not the most forgiving on the arms and hands
This Tachikara is a high-quality synthetic, indoor volleyball that is in the moderate price range- very comparable to the Wilson AVP ball. It has three different colors on the ball, which will help it stand out, and it is stitched together.
It also comes in over FORTY color combinations! That’s truly insane but nice!
It is regulation size, so if you need anything special, this one would not be the way to go. Because of the price, it’d be a pretty good choice if you wanted to use it in games, but it will naturally be a little bit harder than pure leather would be.
- Nice colors on the ball
- Great for indoors
- Gives players great control
- Can be hard to some, especially against stronger players
- Not intended for outdoor/beach use
Under Armour is now attempting to take over the volleyball market, and its 295 offers a ball that has a textured polyurethane cover to help give you additional grip. This is a synthetic volleyball that has been reinforced by cloth and has stitched seams.
It is definitely intended for beach play as that textured cover should help clear away any issues with that. It’s also at a moderate price, so it’s worth a look if you want something that looks a little different but still plays great.
- Good price
- Textured grip
- Good for the beach
- Not for indoor use
- Sometimes has issues holding air
Finally, a leather ball makes the list at #7 with a top-of-the-line quality ball from Tachikara. This ball is 100% leather, and because of that comes at the higher end of the price range.
It is meant for regulation indoor use, and it is geared toward the best players and competitions in the world. It also comes in five different colors, so you don’t have to worry about only having the traditional white to choose from.
- Won’t hurt you near as bad
- Great for indoor use
- Best for very good players
- High price
- Ships deflated again
Too bad they didn’t have this kind of volleyball when we were growing up! The Wilson Soft Play is a very inexpensive outdoor volleyball that is also very soft, so you don’t have to worry about getting hurt with it.
It is synthetic backed with sponge, so don’t expect it to last forever, especially if left in the elements. It comes in five different distinct colors, so any child would love to have one of these to mess around within the backyard.
- Very inexpensive
- Six different colors
- Very soft for outdoors
- Will not last very long, especially if it remains in the elements
- Not the greatest choice for adults or anyone not playing recreationally
This is only our second leather volleyball to make the list, but it comes at a more moderate price than the other Tachikara. In addition to that, it is also available in more colors to help you match your team’s colors.
It is regulation size and weight and should be great for indoor use for practices and possibly some games.
- Lower price than most leathers
- Many colors
- Great for practice
- High price compared to most volleyballs on the list
- Not quite the same feel as higher-end leather
This is for those that want to play with FIVB-approved replica ball so they can be similar to the pros! The ball is yellow and blue and has interesting stitching on it to hold it in place.
You simply won’t find many balls stitched together the way this one has been. It is at a very reasonable price, and it does its job well without doing too much more.
- Very reasonable price
- Good for kids
- Color helps make it stand out
- Not good for adults
- Only good for outdoor use, unlike what they tell us