Updated: December 2017

Volleyball Reviews:

Volleyball and the beach are as American as apple pie and ice cream - and a whole lot better for your body. An intensely physical game, volleyball actually began as a less rough past time for older members of the Holyoke, Massachusetts YMCA. In 1895, YMCA physical education director William G. Morgan needed a game that could be played indoors, by any number of players. He needed it to be less physically demanding than the new fad of basketball, which had been developed just a few years before. He came up with Mintonette. Morgan's game was a pretty forgiving version of today's competitive volleyball - players were allowed a serving re-try and there was no limit on the number of ball contacts for each team before they put it over the net - but it laid the groundwork for what would become one of the most popular sports in the world. Today, volleyball is still played indoors - and still played at the YMCAs where it was born - but it is also played quite frequently on the beach or on grass. While official leagues require teams of six to take the court, all a friendly pickup game needs is a few players, a net, and, of course, the ball.

Choosing the Volleyball Ball

- If you play volleyball, you know the ball isn't just any ball. When you're playing in your backyard, you can use anything you want - kids have even been known to use balloons. But the material from which the ball is made, as well as its design, is important. Not only do leagues have rules regarding the ball, but it makes a difference to your own comfort and ability to control ball movement. So what should you be demanding from your volleyball ball?

*Are you going to be playing indoors or out? If you are playing inside, you'll find that there are balls designed specifically for this type of play. The outer cover of these balls is made of leather. This allows players to have a terrific feel for the ball. But what happens when you wear your leather boots out in the rain? Not good, right? It's the same with leather volleyballs. Outside, they are vulnerable not only to rain, but to dew or high humidity. If you plan to play outdoors, choose a synthetic material that mimics leather. You'll get the right type of feel (not exactly like leather, but good enough). The benefit is that it will be weather-proof.

*Do you need to meet standard regulations? Again, for a casual backyard game, who cares if the ball is exactly 65 to 67 centimeters in circumference? If you want to conform to the standards set by the FIVB, or the Federation Internationale de Volleyball, you'll need a ball with those measurements. Weight needs to be between 260 and 280 grams, with an inside pressure of 0.30 - 0.325 kg/cm2. Your league may have specific requirements, so make sure to ask before you purchase your equipment.

*What are the top brands? Wilson, Spalding (who, according to some historians, created the first official volleyball in 1896), Mikasa, Tachikara, and Molten (maker of official NCAA and USA volleyballs) are all excellent brands with long histories of providing outstanding volleyball equipment.

Let's take a look at some of the best volleyballs so you can get a great idea of what to look for and how much to pay. You can browse the best selling volleyballs here.

Best Volleyballs:

Tachikara is a Japanese company that has been producing volleyballs since 1915; Tachikara volleyballs used to be the official balls for a host of international teams, and they remain a solid choice today. The Tachikara SV-5W Gold is one of the most popular with consumers and players. It reviews very well with those on Amazon, Buzzillions, Epinions, Dick's Sporting Goods, and volleyball forums, and was a top pick of Volleyball.About.com. It features double bladder construction for improved ball flight and reduced stress on the fingers, butyl bladder, US premium leather cover, 25.6 inch to 26.4 inch circumference, 9.1 to 9.8 ounce weight, and NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) approved colors. Most customers appreciate the supple feel of the ball; synthetics can sting the arms, but the real leather of the Tachikara is a much more comfortable feel. The SV-5W is about $43 on Amazon. This is an outstanding indoor volleyball. Other great indoor volleyballs to try include the Wilson 6000LE, Mikasa VFC 200, and the Spalding TF4000. Let's head to the beach. Wilson made the official balls of the Professional Volleyball Association, the now defunct beach volleyball tour. Wilson volleyballs remain a stellar brand, however. And Wilson did co-star in Castaway with Tom Hanks. It has a lot going for it. The Wilson Leather AVP Beach Volleyball is a bit of an oddball. We just told you that outdoor balls should be synthetic, and here is a leather one. This ball is not for everyone; it is heavier than other outdoor balls, and it does have the disadvantage of being vulnerable to moisture. That being said, though, the Wilson is a favorite with players. It features a 2 play rotationally molded polyurethane bladder, full grain leather, 18 panel hand sewn construction, and multiply lining for extra softness and true ball shape. Some say that this ball is preferred by "old school" players - and there's nothing wrong with that! A reviewer suggests only "volleyball snobs" buy it. If that's you, get one fast because they're getting harder to find. iVolleyballs.org has them for about $72. Wilsons other beach volleyball choices are also top notch. The Wilson AVP Official Gameball Volleyball (Yellow) is a more accessible choice. The "leather composite" construction offers a similar feel to the real deal. This ball costs about $45 (view all Wilson volleyballs here). The Mikasa SCV200 FIVB Sand Champ Championship Volleyball is another favorite for outdoor play. It had the honor of being the official ball of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It conforms to IFVB regulations and features micro cell composite construction, patented controlled stitched panels, butyl bladder, and two-year warranty. It is impervious to water and is a durable, rugged ball for outdoor play. The Mikasa volleyball is $34. Look for other Mikasa volleyballs here. Whether you are a serious player or a backyard baller, you can find the right volleyball for your needs. The brands we've mentioned will provide excellent play and durability. Volleyball, or Mintonette, was created as a game for everyone, and this is how it should be. Get out and play!