Some youth soccer programs these days provide new players with a ball to take home and use for practices. Most of the time, however, the coach brings a bag full of balls to practice and collects them at the end, leaving parents to figure out what kind of ball is appropriate for their child's age and skill level. In this guide, we walk you through the different sizes of soccer balls and the considerations for choosing the right one for you.
Soccer balls for on-field use come in three basic sizes:
There is a fourth category of on-field ball, known as a Size One (1) or a "training" ball, which is 18-20 inches around fully-inflated and is used for training players of all ages in ball-control skills. Occasionally you will see Size One or, more rarely, so-called "Size Two" (21-22 inch) balls used as the on-field ball in preschool age soccer. There is also some overlap between small-size balls and promotional/souvenir balls that are not suitable for any kind of game or training use.
The balls described above are what we call "on-field" balls - balls to be used in outdoor or indoor artificial turf play. There are also special types of balls made for use in hard surface indoor soccer and its close cousin, the game of futsal. Indoor soccer balls have the same sizing scheme as the on-field balls above, but may be covered in gym-friendly material similar to a tennis ball. Futsal balls have their own unique sizing system and are designed not to bounce on hard surfaces.
Because a futsal ball has minimal rebound, it's important not to mistake a futsal ball for a regular soccer ball, particularly if your youth player is in a league that permits heading.
The age categories above roughly approximate the correct size ball to purchase for your child. Most youth soccer leagues these days will tell parents in advance which size ball their child will be using in games and practices. If you only purchase a single soccer ball for your child, follow the league's preference as a guideline.
That doesn't mean, however, that practicing with other ball sizes won't benefit your child. As a general proposition, our rule of thumb at Omega Sports is that you can never go wrong with a ball that's smaller than appropriate, but you can buy a ball that's too big. By that, we mean that even the best adult players can benefit from training with a ball that's "too small", because smaller soccer balls force players to develop precise footwork skills to control them (hence the popularity of Size One training balls even for the pros). In contrast, a ball that is too big (and heavy) may be difficult and discouraging for a child to kick. In some instances, trying to kick or head a too-large soccer ball could also put a child at risk of injury.
Omega Sports stocks a range of soccer balls suitable for all game-play and practice environments, as well as a full range of cleats, shin guards, and other gear for your youth soccer player. Come visit us today for all of your soccer needs.