The 10 Best Volleyballs
This wiki has been updated 31 times since it was first published in April of 2016. Designed specifically for use outdoors on grass, asphalt, or sand, these volleyballs are perfect for letting you get some exercise in the fresh air. We've included models that are manufactured to be soft on the hands, so they're good for casual games and kids, as well as regulation size options suitable for competitive players. They should keep you busy and active, wherever you choose to play. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 08, 2020:
If you plan on playing volleyball outdoors, it is important that you get the right kind of ball. There are a number of differences between models intended for indoor use as those for outdoor use, with the most major being the materials and construction methods. Indoor models are often heavier and have glued panels. Conversely, outdoor balls are usually going to have stitched panels and have a cover made from a fully synthetic or composite material. However, there are exceptions. For example, the Molten Super Touch has a Japanese leather exterior, which means it will break in nicely the more you use it, but it should be kept away from water, as it will absorb it, increasing the weight of the ball until it fully dries again.
Synthetic and composite leathers, such as those found on the Wilson Official AVP, Mikasa VLS300, Wilson Cast Away, and others on this list, are designed to be very durable and not absorb water, while also being softer on the hands than low-quality plastic models you might find at your local big box retailer.
If you are just a casual player and aren't planing on any serious competitions, an affordable choice like the Wilson Soft Play, Wilson Cast Away, or Molten Recreational should probably work for your needs. However, those who want something of official weight and size akin to what can be found on professional tours should consider the Wilson Official AVP, Molten Elite BV5000, and Mikasa VLS300, the last of which was actually used in the London and Rio Olympic Games.
June 01, 2019:
How do you make a volleyball that is tough enough to withstand outdoor play yet soft enough to encourage newcomers to the sport? The manufacturers that make our selections manage to strike that balance. Most of the covers are made of polyurethane or synthetic leather, but some are of microfiber, and some feature sponge-backed panels for extra softness. We removed an item due to concerns about its availability and added the Baden Match Point as a great choice from a company that is respected among serious players.
A Brief History Of Volleyball
The sport enjoys widespread popularity, and participation figures to continue to grow.
The year was 1895. The place was Holyoke, Massachusetts.
The young YMCA director there, a man named William G. Morgan, was looking for an indoor game that wasn't too strenuous, so as to be suitable for some of his older clients. Morgan had met James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, a few years before, so that game was fresh on his mind.
Taking some elements of basketball, as well as handball and tennis, Morgan devised a game in which any number of players would compete. Each contest would last nine innings, and each inning would consist of three serves per side. Players were also allowed an unlimited amount of touches.
Satisfied with his new creation, all that was left was to give it a name. Morgan decided to call it..."mintonette."
OK, so he was no great shakes at naming things, but his sport soon became wildly popular. After an early exhibition match, an observer remarked to Morgan that the players were volleying the ball back and forth, and he quickly reversed course on the name, settling on the much-catchier "volleyball."
There's some dispute as to when the first ball was invented, but the sport definitely had a dedicated model by 1900. That same year, the game spread beyond American borders, as Canadians quickly took to the game.
While they were the first to adopt the sport, Canadians were far from the last international country to play. American servicemen took the game abroad with them, spreading it to the Philippines in 1916, and the locals immediately improved upon it, developing both the set and the spike. Four years later, the "three hits" rule would also be implemented.
Meanwhile, beach volleyball likely started in Hawaii in 1915, while the two-person variation was created not long after in California.
Some of the first people to recognize the attraction of the game were nudists, who started playing as early as the 1920s. Soon, volleyball courts would become fixtures at nudist resorts.
It would take a couple of decades for an international governing body to be created, but world championships were held for men in 1949 and in 1952 for women. It would be added to the Summer Olympics in 1964.
Beach volleyball would join its indoor counterpart at the Games in 1996, with the U.S., Brazil, and Australia being the powerhouse teams. Volleyball even has a place at the Paralympic Games, where there is much more parity between countries.
Today, volleyball is played in virtually every high school and college in the United States, as well as on beaches across the world. The sport enjoys widespread popularity, and participation figures to continue to grow.
So, next time you find yourself on an unfamiliar beach, ask the locals if they're up for a game of mintonette. Let us know how that goes.
Choosing The Right Outdoor Volleyball
While you might think that there's not a lot of difference between volleyballs, there's enough variation to affect how you play — and whether you'll dominate the beach or skulk off with your tail between your legs.
Most beach volleyballs tend to be softer, so steer towards a super touch if you're going to be playing on the sand.
First, pay attention to whether it says "super touch" or "pro touch" on the label. Super touch balls are usually light, and bounce less when hit — you'll have to really put some oomph behind each pass. Pro touch, on the other hand, are more dense and respond better to being hit, although your arms will pay the price for it somewhat.
Most beach volleyballs tend to be softer, so steer towards a super touch if you're going to be playing on the sand. Pro touch models tend to be superior indoors, though.
The material is another important consideration. Traditional balls are made with leather, but synthetic microfiber covers have become more popular in recent years. This is likely due to the fact that they can withstand inclement weather better, and are less likely to trap dirt and grime.
In the end, though, picking a volleyball is like picking your spouse (except way more important). It all comes down to what's best for you. Take the time to test out a few models, and see which one suits your game the best.
And remember — the most important consideration is how the logo on the ball will look when you imprint it on your opponent's forehead.
Tips For Beginning Beach Volleyball Players
If you've ever seen Top Gun, then you already know how glamorous playing beach volleyball can be. However, if you've never played before, there are a few things you need to know.
First of all, you'll likely find that you get tired much easier when you're slogging through sand. Be sure to ration out your energy smartly, so that you have more than enough to get you through the match. Stay hydrated, and wear plenty of sunscreen.
If the sand is too hot, burrow into the cooler sand below, or find some water to cool it down.
To get a game, try to show up before the rush to claim a court. If all the spaces are taken, you can ask to play the winner of a currently on-going match — just be sure to scope out the talent so that you don't bite off more than you can chew.
If you play with the same partner regularly, develop a code or a set of signals to set up your upcoming moves. This allows you devise strategy on the fly without tipping your hand to your opponents.
On windy days, use the conditions to your advantage. Adjust your serve based on the strength and direction of the breeze, and during a rally, try to bump the ball as high over the net as possible. The wind can make these balls move in unpredictable ways, a lot like a knuckleball in baseball, giving you a little extra edge.
Ditch your shoes and go barefoot, as well. This allows you to dig deep and use your feet as shovels, allowing for quicker movement, especially laterally. If the sand is too hot, burrow into the cooler sand below, or find some water to cool it down.
Once you start playing, don't be surprised if you catch the bug. It's extremely addictive — and it gives you an excuse to skip out on chores to go to the beach.