Different Size Balls?
You betcha. If you didn't know that there were different sized soccer balls before, than I'm happy to tell you that your next shopping trip will be easier after listening to this episode or reading these notes. There are different size balls, different ball construction, and even different balls for different purposes. Almost all of them can be labelled as a soccer ball and many of them can be confusing if you're seeing them for the first time.
Best for skills training and decorations or gifts.
18" - 20" Circumference
Ages 8 and Under
23" - 24" Circumference
Ages 9 - 12
25" - 26" Circumference
Ages 13 and Up
27" - 28" Circumference
Keeping Balls Size Appropriate
As kids mature, their bodies can absorb hits from a larger ball and tendons and ligaments can manage pushing the weight of larger balls around. It's a misconception, however, that a larger ball is the only ball older kids should be using. Small #1 balls or #3 balls can help an older player with skill development and ball handling. It's more challenging to juggle a smaller ball than it is a larger one. I've even seen players use tennis balls to perfect their ball handling skills.
Know What To Buy
It's a good idea to match ball size to age, but that is a rule of thumb. It's a good idea to check with your club or league to see what size ball is being used for each age bracket. US Youth Soccer is pretty clear about what size ball they want US Youth Soccer Clubs to use, but Clubs may deviate a little - especially when they have mixed age brackets.
Match Balls vs Practice Balls
It all comes down to materials and touch. Higher touch materials like synthetic leather and latex inner linings lose air quickly, are not as durable, but feel good to the touch and provide good ball control. These balls can be $160 or more.
More durable practice grade balls may be made from a PVC outer layer with a rubber lining. A ball like this will take a beating and hold air for longer, but will not feel as good to a player who knows the difference. These balls can be purchased for $20 or less, but can also be more expensive depending on the brand, design, etc.
I try to keep the balls in my bag at $20 - $25 or less. They hold up well during practice and get the job done without breaking the bank or needing constant refills.
How Much Pressure?
Most soccer balls should be inflated to about 9psi. A simple bicycle pump with the pressure gauge and a needle is all that's needed to keep the balls looking and feeling good with plenty of bounce.
Resources In This Episode
- “Soccer Shop For You.” The Best Soccer Equipment Reviews and Advice, soccershopforyou.com/soccer-ball-sizes-explained/.
- “Soccer Ball.” How Products Are Made, www.madehow.com/Volume-5/Soccer-Ball.html.