Balls are part of essential volleyball equipment (go figure, right?), and if you want to learn how to play this sport, you’re going to have to use a ball often.
Not all volleyballs are the same, however, as there are different types, sizes, and materials used in their production.
Each volleyball needs to be properly cared for if you want it to last, and that’s exactly what we’ll be focusing on today.
To make your life easier – here’s the ultimate guide to volleyball balls (and how to make them last).
Volleyball Ball Dimensions and Weight
There are three game volleyball sizes, as well as a training ball.
Indoor volleyball is what we consider the standard volleyball size. Indoor volleyballs are between 25.5 and 26.5 in circumference, weighing between 9.2 and 9.9 ounces. There can be slight differences between balls, but as long as the ball is within that range, it can be used as the official ball of a tournament.
For reference, Mikasa’s V200W ball, which was the official ball of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, is right within that range.
This size is often referred to as Size 5 – if you’re buying a volleyball and the description says it’s a Size 5, that means it’s regulation-sized.
There are also beach volleyballs, which are slightly larger – between 26 and 27 inches in circumference, but they weigh the same.
The last regulation volleyballs are youth volleyballs, which are noticeably smaller, between 25 and 26 inches in circumference, weighing the same.
Training balls, as I said before, and as the name implies – are only used for training. They measure between 7 and 8 inches in diameter, while game volleyballs measure between 8 and 8.6 inches in diameter. Because of this, they’re often called Size 4 volleyball.
Training balls are also noticeably lighter, which makes them a good choice for children who are just getting into the sport, as they can adjust to them more easily.
|Type of Ball
|Regulation Indoor Volleyballs
|25.5-26.5 inches in circumference (8-8.6 inches in diameter)
|26-27 inches in circumference
|Regulation Youth Volleyballs
|25-26 inches in circumference
|7-8 inches in diameter
|Much lighter than 9.2 ounces
Different Types of Volleyballs (4 Types of Volleyballs)
There are four important volleyball types: indoor volleyballs, beach volleyballs, training volleyballs, and weighted (setter) volleyball.
As the name implies, indoor volleyballs are made to be used indoors. Mikasa’s V200W I mentioned earlier is a regulation indoor volleyball. The surface is smooth, and the ball is bouncy.
Of course, children’s indoor volleyballs are slightly smaller. You’re not supposed to use indoor volleyballs for beach volleyball (although, who am I to stop you).
Then, we have beach volleyballs. Not only are they the largest volleyballs, but there’s a noticeable difference in texture – the surface is coarse and rough – that prevents the sand from sticking to it.
Beach volleyballs are also less inflated, so they don’t bounce as much and they seem heavier when you’re actually playing.
Training volleyballs are only used for training – because of their smaller size, they’re a bit more difficult to play with than regular balls and the margin of error is smaller. You can’t use training balls for official matches!
Finally, we have weighted volleyballs, which are also known as setter volleyballs. These balls are the size of a normal ball, but they’re much heavier than any other type of ball – they’re used for setter training and all professionals use them.
How Are Volleyballs Made?
There are three parts of a volleyball ball – the bladder, the protective shell around the bladder, and the exterior shell.
The bladder is the part containing the air – it’s essentially what gives the ball its bounciness and weight. It could be said that the bladder is the most important part of a volleyball – it ensures that the ball is light enough to be bounced around, but heavy enough for its flight not to be disturbed by wind!
The protective shell around the bladder is made out of nylon threads at a high temperature, causing them to stick around the bladder, forming a protective layer.
Finally, that layer is surrounded by the exterior shell, usually made from some type of synthetic rubber which has been pressed and stretched as much as possible. This layer is also applied at high heat, causing it to stick.
After that, the ball is left to cool down before being shipped to your front door.
What Materials Are Used to Make Volleyballs?
There’s only one material used – rubber. Volleyballs are made from different types of rubber, depending on the part of the volleyball.
Back in the day, and by that – I mean 1895, when the sport was invented – Spalding manufactured the first volleyball, making it with a rubber bladder and leather covers. This made the ball significantly heavier than modern balls.
Best Volleyball Brands
In my opinion, the four best volleyball brands are Mikasa, Molten, Wilson, and Tachikara, in no significant order. Over time, these four brands have proven to make highest-quality volleyballs, with Mikasa and Molten currently providing balls for most professional competitions!
How to Care for Volleyballs (Volleyball Maintenance)
There are basically just two important things to keep in mind. Proper volleyball storage and cleanliness.
The most important thing about proper volleyball storage is to not keep your volleyball near a heat source or in a particularly hot area. You don’t have to take care of it like it’s food (‘keep in a dark, cold place’), but make sure it isn’t right next to a radiator! It’ll damage the outer layers, and possibly the bladder too because of changes in air pressure.
When it comes to cleaning your volleyball, just use a wet cloth. Your volleyball will most definitely get dirty, whether you use it indoors or at a beach, and just wiping it after every game is more than enough to keep it fresh.
Beach volleyballs can be a bit difficult to clean because of sand getting into the slightest of dents and irregularities on the ball’s surface, so you’ll have to apply extra pressure.
Is It Okay to Get a Volleyball Wet?
Volleyballs don’t go well with water, just ask Wilson from Cast Away if you don’t believe me.
Seriously, though, don’t get your volleyball wet. If it falls into a pool, wipe it off with a dry rug. Your rubber will start to crack if you don’t.
There are volleyballs made for pool volleyball, but they’re specifically designed to withstand the water.
Is It Bad to Kick a Volleyball?
Yes, it’s bad to kick a volleyball. They’re made for volleyball, not soccer.
Nothing bad is going to happen if you kick your ball once, but if you play volleyball once a week and you kick the same ball a few times per game, you’ll definitely ruin it.
Volleyballs aren’t designed to sustain such hard hits, and it’s almost impossible to generate the same amount of power with your arms as you do with your legs. In summation – yes, kicking a volleyball is bad and you can most definitely burst the bladder by kicking a volleyball!
Why Are Volleyballs So Hard?
As I mentioned before, volleyballs need to weigh enough in order to not be affected by wind. This is especially important in beach volleyball, as indoor volleyball is devoid of such trouble.
The ball itself is actually very soft (in comparison to soccer balls or basketball balls). The feeling of hardness is what you get when you pump the volleyball full of air – it’s the air pressure. And the hardness is a good sign – a well pumped ball should be hard, not soft.
Soft balls (they’re sometimes called dead balls) don’t carry force as well, and they’re actually difficult to play with. If you hit a deflated, soft ball, it won’t move as much as a well-inflated ball will!
Essentially – do not mess around with air pressure in an attempt to make the ball softer.
Hard volleyballs can pose a problem for children and people new to the sport, as they’re not used to the hits the balls can deliver. I am not going to lie – at first, having a 9-ounce ball struck at you at immense speeds is a bit scary, especially when you block it.
Blocking and digging a ball, despite being good for the team as you’re not letting the opposing team score, will hurt your arms (although that stinging pain is temporary and it can’t cause any long-term damage).
How Do You Soften a Volleyball?
Honestly – you don’t. You’ll see some people suggesting you let some of the air out, and I honestly wouldn’t do that if I were you. It’ll actually make the ball difficult to play with.
Volleyballs naturally soften over time, so my advice would be to accept that the ball is hard and play more with it – not only will it get softer after a few hours of playing, but you’ll also get used to the immediate pain after getting hit.
Volleyball Air Pressure
Right off the bat, here’s an easy tip for you – the correct air pressure for the volleyball you’re holding in your hands right now is printed on the ball! In case it isn’t, you have one of the very few volleyballs without this feature.
The appropriate air pressure for a regulation (size 5) indoor volleyball is between 4.3 and 4.6 PSI. Youth volleyballs should be kept at 4.3 PSI, while beach volleyballs are less inflated – between 2.5 and 3.2 PSI.
How to Measure Air Pressure in a Volleyball?
The best way to measure pressure is with the gauge that came with the ball pump. You can also use an air compressor, which all have gauges installed. However, if you have one of those pumps without a gauge, you can measure air pressure in a volleyball by bouncing it!
If you bounce the ball with just a little bit of force behind it, it should reach at least 6 feet in its peak.
Deflated balls don’t bounce enough.
Why Is My Volleyball Deflating?
The most likely reason behind the deflating volleyball is that you pierced it somehow. It can also be caused by wear and tear – the rubber used to make volleyballs will start letting up after a few years.
From my experience, a good volleyball that’s used regularly (at least once a week) can last up to three years, but I wouldn’t expect it to last much longer.
To sum up – size 5 balls are regulation size (we use them during games), size 4 balls are training size (we use them during training). Indoor volleyballs are different in size, weight, and design from beach volleyballs. All of them are made from synthetic rubber.
The best volleyball manufacturers are Mikasa, Wilson, Tachikara, and Molten – I’d buy from them if I wanted my volleyball to last.
To ensure your volleyball lasts – clean it after using it and store it away from a heat source. Make sure it doesn’t get wet and try not to kick it.
There is nothing you can do about volleyball hardness if you want to play, so you’ll just have to adjust to it, but know that volleyballs get softer with time. To ensure optimal performance, inflate it properly, and you’ll be spiking them over the net in no time!