The 10 Best Indoor Volleyballs
A Brief History Of Volleyball
The sport was intended to be an indoor pastime that would rival basketball, but with less stress placed on the body, so that it would be suitable for older competitors.
It made its debut as a medal sport in 1964, with the Soviet Union and Japan taking gold in the men's and women's events, respectively.
Volleyball is a great game. If it weren't for volleyball, we wouldn't have one of the most exciting competitive sports to watch, one of the most engaging events the Olympics has ever seen, or the best scene from the movie Top Gun. It's no surprise that the game would be so fun, though — it was designed to take the best parts of multiple sports and mush them all together like an athletic turducken.
Invented in 1895 by YMCA director William Morgan, volleyball was made to be a mishmash of tennis, basketball, handball, and baseball. The sport was intended to be an indoor pastime that would rival basketball, but with less stress placed on the body, so that it would be suitable for older competitors. The first game was designed to have nine innings of three serves apiece, and you could hit the ball as many times as necessary before sending it to the opponents' side.
The sports equipment manufacturer Spalding created a ball for the game in the late 19th century, and the sport quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. The set and spike were invented in the Philippines in 1916, and the three-hit rule followed not long after. Even the American Expeditionary Forces got in on the action, distributing around 19,000 volleyballs to allied nations around the globe, helping spur the sport's growth.
Volleyball was displayed as a demonstration sport at the 1924 Olympics in Paris, and it was successful enough that several governing boards were established to try to get the game fully included. It made its debut as a medal sport in 1964, with the Soviet Union and Japan taking gold in the men's and women's events, respectively.
Japan and eastern European countries would dominate the Olympics for the first few decades, with American teams largely a non-factor until the 1980s. However, around that time, stars like Karch Kiraly and Paula Weishoff helped the U.S. begin to enjoy some success, although they would soon face stiff competition from countries like Brazil and China.
Today, volleyball is one of the most popular games on the planet, with over 800 million people playing every week, including 46 million Americans. It's a great sport for players of all ages, even if it does occasionally require me to explain to the ER doctor how I managed to get myself hopelessly trapped in a net.
How To Choose The Right Volleyball
Buying a volleyball seems like it should be simple: just ask yourself, "Is it a volleyball?" and, if yes, buy it. However, not all balls are created equal, and the one you buy could have a surprising impact on your game.
However, not all balls are created equal, and the one you buy could have a surprising impact on your game.
First off, there's a difference between a ball designed for indoor play and one made for the beach. Indoor balls are made of leather, and are usually heavier than their beach counterparts. This allows them to be moved faster, since power and speed are prized in the sport. Beach volleyballs tend to float, which is helpful when there are only two players to a side, but can really affect an indoor game.
Not all balls have the same amount of touch, either. Touch is basically the ball's responsiveness to being hit. If you like to play a power game with lots of spiking, you'll want a harder ball with more touch. If, however, you're newer to the game and your reaction time needs some help, a softer ball with a lighter touch could make the game more fun for everyone involved.
It's important to note the materials that the ball is made of, as well. The exterior should be made of a high-quality leather with smooth seams, which ensures that it will bounce predictably. The better the leather, the longer it will last, so if you're playing every week it's worth springing for a better model.
Some balls have specially-designed cores (or bladders) that help them hold their shape and make them more responsive. While not essential, these options can come in quite handy over the long haul for the frequent player.
Many balls will also boast endorsements from various governing bodies, such as FIVB. This doesn't guarantee that the ball will be top-of-the-line, but it does usually lessen the possibility that you'll end up with a lemon.
Taking Care Of Your Ball
While buying a volleyball isn't the biggest expenditure you're likely to make in your life, that doesn't mean that it's fine if it falls apart after a few weeks. Luckily, if you follow these tips, your ulna and radius will break long before your ball ever does.
When inflating your ball, be sure to moisten the needle before inserting it.
When inflating your ball, be sure to moisten the needle before inserting it. Doing so prevents damage to the valve and helps the ball maintain the proper air pressure. Some balls come with their own pumps, but if not, a regular bicycle pump should do the trick. Only inflate the ball to the manufacturer's specifications, as any other pressure could shorten its lifespan.
After every game, be sure to take the time to wipe your ball down with a cloth. If there's dirt or grime on there, you can moisten the cloth or even use a soft detergent on it, but just be sure to completely remove all of the soap and dry it thoroughly before putting it away.
Sunlight is the ball's enemy. Don't keep it outdoors, or in direct light, as this can cause warping. Store it in a dry, well-ventilated place, as humidity is your ball's other enemy (who knew a simple volleyball could have so many villains in its life?).
Beyond that, the best way to keep your volleyball healthy is to simply use it. Hitting the ball releases its natural oils, much like breaking in a new pair of leather shoes. There's no need for leather treatments or creams, either — this is a low-maintenance game.