One of the best things about soccer is that you need very little equipment to get started. But it’s a bit hard to play soccer without a ball! So if your child is keen to play soccer, you will need to buy a soccer ball. Faced with a whole range of possibilities, it’s not easy to know which ball is the right one for your child. So let’s take a look at how to choose the right soccer ball.
The first thing is to visit a store that has a good selection. If there are only one or two choices, how can you possibly know you’ve bought the right one? If possible, the store should have several brands available, and at least a few choices of ball for each brand. It also helps if the store has knowledgeable salespeople, so it might be a good idea to ask around.
One of the easiest things to look for is whether the ball has been stitched or laminated. A laminated ball has been glued together and will generally be harder. Generally the higher quality balls are stitched, with some of the most expensive balls being hand stitched.
Apart from the “hardness” of the ball, the feel of a soccer ball is affected by the type of bladder. This is inside the ball and holds the air. If the ball has a butyl bladder, it will usually be harder and cheaper. More expensive balls tend to have latex bladders.
Some players will prefer the harder type of soccer ball, particularly if they’re planning to use the ball for striking practice. However if you’re buying a soccer ball for a younger player, it’s probably best to choose a softer ball, particularly if they will be using it to practice heading. A PVC plastic ball may be an option, if it’s specifically designer for youth soccer. You can check the hardness of a soccer ball by pressing your thumb into it. Also remember that the ball may feel harder if used in cold weather.
Another factor to consider is the size of the ball. As a general rule of thumb, 8 and unders use size 3, 8 to 12 year olds use a size 4, and from 13 years of age on a size 5 ball is used. Size 5 is the standard international size soccer ball. Although it may seem more economical to just buy a size 5 ball and not a smaller size, it can be difficult for a younger child to swap from one ball size to another, for example if they play in a team which uses size 3 balls.
The manufacturer’s reputation can also help you decide which soccer ball to purchase. Ask the team coach or an experienced player which brand they recommend. Check to see if the ball has the words “FIFA Approved” or “FIFA Inspected” if you’re buying an expensive ball.
Finally, have your child test the ball if you possibly can, even if it’s just a few gentle taps around the floor of the sports store. They’ll soon tell you whether they like it or not.
A few final words of advice. Remember that soccer balls sometimes go astray, so make sure you put your child’s name on the ball if they’re taking it to school or soccer practice. And buy a good hand pump – it’s important to keep soccer balls properly inflated to avoid damage.