Volleyball is a sport that doesn’t require a ton of gear! All you need is a ball, a net, a court (or beach) as well as (if you want) some protection gear…
However, still many people think that the actual used ball is very expensive for what most people can afford! Indeed …
Volleyballs could sometimes be expensive because they are made in a very unique way to ensure a certain weight, feel and features that are adapted for the sport. Also, most players tend to use the higher quality balls rather than the cheaper ones to ensure a better playing experience.
In this article, I breakdown the exact factors that make volleyballs usually costly as well as the difference between quality balls and a cheaper ones.
Other reasons why most volleyballs are expensive …
Unlike other sports, a volleyball should be very specific! It has to be kept airborne for the duration of a play, which means it has to be sufficiently light to enable this, but, at the same time, cannot be too light which could affect its movement (or, in the case of beach volleyball, can be affected by wind).
The ball used for officially sponsored FIVB tournaments, for example, the Mikasa ball (Check this Ball Here at Amazon), has been designed in such a way that it flies through the air smoothly, and gives players a soft touch and feel when they strike or pass it.
The ball incorporates the latest technology, such as the use of dimples in the panelling, to help improve touch, and this comes at a cost.
Then there are the used materials! Top volleyballs are usually made of leather which is wrapped around the bladder of the ball.
There are cheaper alternatives using synthetic materials instead of leather, but these are not approved for official matches, although they can be used by amateurs and for practice sessions.
Last, but not least, there is the branding effect! Top of the range volleyballs come as premium because the manufacturers know they can charge higher prices.
People are prepared to pay a higher price for a name they have heard of and for a brand they can trust than for cheaper versions by an unknown supplier, even if the latter may be just as good in terms of performance.
Does an expensive volleyball always bring quality?
An expensive item, in general, is usually associated with quality. In the volleyball case, there is a premium to be paid for brands like Mikasa and Wilson.
At the same time, it should be appreciated that there is a science behind the design of the right volleyball. At the top end of the market, the companies involved have made extensive studies on what works, and what does not in terms of performance.
That research and development by the leading manufacturers definitely comes at a cost.
The best volleyballs should have a smooth trajectory with no undue deviation or swerve. And this won’t be possible unless you use specific and tested material.
Beyond the price, I highly recommend to check an article I’ve carefully put together where you can learn which volleyball is right for you.
Should you play with a cheap volleyball?
Apart from the price, cheap volleyballs have certain advantages, the main one of which they are lighter and, therefore, move through the air faster and easier.
Helpful Tip: There are some affordable balls in the market that still ensure a decent quality. This Ball, for example, is quite affordable yet it brings quality features to the table.
This means that it might be more appropriate for somebody just starting in the game than the balls designed for competition which are heavier!
Lighter balls also mean that drills can be practised with less risk of the sprains and bruises that are an everyday part of the sport.
Cheap volleyballs do not necessarily mean an inferior quality. There are still some well-known brands on the market that may not be as expensive as the Mikasa ball used for major tournaments, but which are still a decent option for club players.
On the other hand, professionals have no choice. The FIVB has stipulated that the Mikasa ball must be used in their officially sanctioned events, so playing with an alternative is not an option.
At the amateur or beginner level, though, people should play with whatever ball is most suitable for them, and, if a cheap alternative is all they can afford, then so be it.
The important thing, at that level, is that people enjoy the game, not that they have the best and most expensive equipment.
You can learn about what can you use instead of a volleyball! I think you will find it helpful …
Difference between an expensive and cheap volleyball …
Cheaper balls tend to be lighter and made of synthetic materials! On the other hand, the more expensive balls will be made of leather, although, in both cases, the covering will be wrapped around the bladder of the ball.
At the top end of the scale is the Mikasa ball which in 2008, the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), the body responsible for the laws and administration of the game, has decided it would be the official indoor ball for volleyball sports, and the one to be used for all major tournaments.
The Mikasa ball has eight panels with dimples in it, which makes it soft to the touch and with streamlined capabilities. It also comes with a valve that allows for adjustments to the pressure of the ball.
Less expensive balls do not contain features such the dimples, and they tend to be set for one pressure only.
Top quality balls tend to be made of leather, which is a more expensive material than the cheaper alternatives made of synthetic materials.
Leather is expensive because not only is it in comparative short supply – only so much leather can be produced from one animal – but also because there are a lot of chemicals involved in the curing and treating of it.
However, leather balls perform better through the air. They are heavier and more consistent to the touch, and there is less chance of deviation.
They are also softer to the touch. For top volleyball players they need to be able to feel the ball through their hands, because this enables them to control it. This is important not only for the setter but also for the blocker.
That is also why top quality balls have dimples in the panels, something not found in cheaper, generic models.
Brands known by costly volleyballs …
One of the best known of all volleyball brands is the Japanese company Mikasa who produces models targeted at the more elite end of the sport.
(BTW, you can learn more on how volleyball gained a ton of popularity in Japan lately)
Their balls are used for tournaments like the Olympics. Their products are equipped with grip technology and they use the highest quality materials available meaning that their balls can be considered expensive.
Tachikara have been around for more than a hundred years, and has earned itself a reputation for quality. One of the distinguishing features of their product range is that the balls are tailored to the age of players and their skill levels.
They have become renowned for producing balls that are soft to the touch but also aerodynamic, cresting fair game play and consistent touches.
Although Wilson are best known for the equipment they produce for other sports like tennis and badminton, they also produce a range of volleyballs, mainly those used by amateurs and beginners to the game.
They are also known for their involvement in beach volleyball, where they are the official sponsors of several major championships.
Is volleyball gear generally expensive?
Apart from the ball, the most expensive piece of gear associated with the sport is shoes!
Not only do they need gum soles so that the court can be gripped and a player can make turns, but they also ensure that no marks are left on the court.
A good pair of shoes though is a great investment (Check this pair Here at Amazon) and will last an entire season.
And then there is the net. Those used in professional volleyball will include features like an anti-sag winch and measurement tools, which can be pricey, although there are much cheaper options available for those just wanting to play the game for fun.
Other equipment that can cost a little are knee sleeves, which can be almost as expensive as a good pair of shoes.
On the other hand, items like jerseys and shorts do not have to cost very much, unless the preference is to go for those produced by the well-known sports brands.
Final Thoughts …
Hope this article was a great resource for you to understand what makes a quality ball different from a cheaper or lower quality one.
Even if volleyballs could sometimes be expensive the reality is that they can be used for a very very long time. Sometimes for many seasons straight …
So, considering that, the price is not really a major factor comparing to the period of time where you can still be playing with the ball.
Finally, I would like to recommend you to check these interesting differences between men’s & women’s ball. You will find it really interesting …