How to Check Air Pressure in a Volleyball? (SOLVED)

how to check air pressure in volleyball

Using a volleyball with the right air pressure is extremely important to be able to execute all volleyball moves flawlessly and without the risk of causing hand soreness …

That’s why, it is very important to check air pressure of your ball constantly before every game or practice sessions!

In this article, I breakdown the best and easiest ways to check your ball pressure quickly and accurately …

First … How much air pressure should a volleyball have?

According to the rules, a volleyball should have an interior air pressure of between 4.27 – 4.62 psi (Pounds per Square Inch).

There are differences though between the pressurisation of balls used for different levels and variations of the sport …

For youth volleyball, the internal pressure should be 4.3 psi, whereas in the adult variant of the game, the pressure should be anywhere between the 4.3 and 4. 6 psi levels.

Although not a lot of difference numerically, the lower pressure helps younger players to palm the ball and also force it over the net. And it means that the ball is slightly less hard on young hands.

This is important, particularly for beginners, who have not yet mastered the techniques involved in striking the ball correctly.

Beach volleyballs have a much lower PSI – between 2.5 and 3.2. This is because the external conditions – the sun, the wind, the UV rays – completely change the pressure requirements…

In particular, sand is completely different in texture and composition than the floor of an indoor court, and requires a lower PSI to accommodate it.

How do you tell if a volleyball is properly inflated?

With Equipment

The best way to measure the pressure of a volleyball is to use a hand pump (Check this example Here at Amazon).

The first step is to locate the valve opening on the ball itself and to moisten it. This can be done using water, saliva or a substance like Vaseline or petroleum jelly.

Insert the pump needle into the valve, ensure that the needle is level with the surface of the volleyball. Inserting it at an angle carries with it the risk that the ball may burst.

Once inserted, read the pressure level on the gauge of the hand pump.

An alternative is to use an air compressor pressure gauge (like this one), but care needs to be taken to ensure that the gauge is sufficiently sensitive to be able to measure accurately the pressure range needed for the ball.

When determining the ideal pressure of the ball, attention should be paid to the type and level of the game that will be played with it, although many manufacturers will actually print this on the ball itself.

Without Equipment

One way to tell if a volleyball is properly inflated, even if a gauge is not available, is to bounce it in the floor of the court, like players do before their serve …

If it is very hard, but a new ball, it will stretch and should settle down with play.

However, if it remains hard and the indications are that it will not stretch, then it is better to take some air out of it, and reduce the PSI (Pressure Per Square Inch).

Playing with a ball that is too hard is not a good playing experience for anybody because it hurts the arms when passing and can bruise the hands when engaged in actions like spiking and digging.

On the other hand, a ball that is too soft will often fail the “squish test” because it will go in when pressed before going back out again.

How does air pressure affect Volleyball playing?

Even if you choose the Best Volleyball Ball out there, still the amount of air pressure in a volleyball affects how far and how hard the ball will travel when struck by the same force.

It also means that there is a direct correlation between the air pressure and the power that can be generated by a serve, a smash or even an effective block.

The pressure in the atmosphere also has an effect. The lower the pressure the less friction there is for the ball to travel.

Air pressure helps determines the ball’s level of stiffness. Higher air pressure generates more energy, and permits the ball to keep its shape after it has been hit.

This is one reason why beach volleyballs are inflated to a significantly less degree than those used by their indoor counterparts.

Air pressure in an indoor court is normally consistent in the course of a match, whereas that in beach conditions can vary, depending on local weather patterns.

In terms of actual moves, ball pressure would have an effect on a number of positions.

For example, with the server, if the pressure were too low it might be hard to clear the net, but too hard, and it is hard to judge the distance and keep the serve in bounds.

With the block an under-inflated ball might not reach the outstretched hands or then come off  the hands and fall on the wrong side of the net.

An overinflated ball would not only sting the hands but also might rebound off in any direction  after the block was made.

And the hitter -or spiker – might find that it would be difficult to judge their leap with a low pressure ball because it would not rise up as high as expected, whereas in the case of over pressurisation, the flight might be too high, and the control and direction of the final shot would be more difficult accordingly.

Setting, digging, and passing would all be similarly affected.

If you check this article where I did a soccer ball vs a volleyball comparison, you will learn more about the air pressure effect!

What causes the ball deflation?

There can be a number of reasons why a volleyball deflates

The first reason is that it is just a natural process. From the moment a ball is fist inflated, it starts to deflate and lose air. Balls are not designed to be absolutely air-tight, and there are enough gaps, especially around the valve, for air to gradually escape even if it is not used at all.

Then there is frequency of use. As a general rule of thumb, the more a ball is used, the faster it will deflate. The accumulation of hundreds of serves, passes, blocks and spikes is bound to take its toll, and although it will not be immediately apparent, the ball should be regularly checked to ensure the psi stays within prescribed levels.

Rarely a volleyball can get punctured. They are designed to be sturdy and resilient, but if the ball strikes a particularly sharp object this can happen, For example, if playing beach volleyball, it is recommended that the court should be set up on the sand away from any nearby rocks.

Paradoxically enough, one of the easiest ways to make a ball deflate is to over-inflate them in the first place. Balls are not meant to be pressurised to such an extent and will react by trying to expel the excess air.

Does the ball overall quality impact the ball pressure retention?

The quality of a ball matters for a variety of reasons – durability, ease of play, handling ability, and touch and feel.

This also translates into ball pressure retention!

The first thing to be noted, however, is that all balls will deflate over time. Their core consists of a bladder with a valve and it is impossible, even with modern manufacturing techniques, to make the process completely air-tight, even were such a thing desirable.

However, due to the materials used in superior quality brands like official ball used (Check it Here) for major events like the Olympics and the World Championships, which tend to be constructed with genuine leather as opposed to synthetic materials, balls do keep their pressure longer.

That is not only because a tighter seal around the valve is generally found in such balls, but also because the adhesive seams are tighter and less likely to fray.

How is this different from other sport balls?

The air pressure used in balls varies between sports.

In soccer the FIFA laws of the game currently state that a regulation ball must be between 8.5 psi and 15.6 psi. Anything less than 8.5 psi and it is more difficult to kick and pass through the air. However, too much pressure and the ball is harder to control, and will bounce off the ground or the foot.

Basketball is not so prescriptive. There are really no rules as how much air pressure a ball should have, although, at the elite level, like the NBA, it is recommended that balls should be between 7.5 to 8.5 psi. For recreational games, however, it comes down to the individual preferences of the players.

A new tennis ball has an internal pressure of 14 psi. Once a can is opened, however, the pressure drops. That is why in professional tennis the balls are changed every nine games.

The legal total pressure for any NFL ball is between 12.5 and 13.5 psi. Anything under or above these limits will be judged to be either deflated or over-inflated. Famously, legendary quarter-back Tom Brady was given a four game ban after being found guilty of using deliberately deflated balls during the AFC Championship game in 2014, playing for the New England Patriots against the Indianapolis Colts.

Final Thoughts …

I highly recommend you take into consideration the tips I’ve included above! In fact, a slight pressure deficiency might really have a huge impact on the game by making it less enjoyable …

Indeed, by making sure your ball has the right air pressure you will notice that all your volleyball moves are done flawlessly and with very big ease.

Finally, I recommend checking this comprehensive article on how much do volleyballs actually weight! I think you will find it useful …

Carissa Harmer

Carissa Harmer has over 6 years of volleyball experience between playing the sport at a semi-professional level, following the biggest volleyball teams & leagues out there as well as helping beginners to get started on the right path.

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