Built for durability, recreation balls are made of soft synthetic materials for play on nearly any field. Typically, these balls are slightly heavier for beginner’s slower play, yet, competitors of all skill levels use these balls for practice and recreation on hard turf fields due to their resilience. Machine-stitching is the most stand-out visual difference between match balls and training balls and it offers a consistent touch for any player.
New! 2018 FIFA® World Cup Russia Telstar Mechta Ball: Get your own official knockout stage ball, designed with a new red color to represent the host country. While the Telstar Mechta features an intensified look, it has the same high-quality construction as the Telstar 18 ball used in the group phase. Mechta means “dream” or “ambition” in Russian, honoring both players’ and fans’ FIFA World Cup ambitions.
“I kind of feel sympathy for the players and especially the goalkeepers that have to get used to a new ball,” Goff says. So far the Telstar 18 has received criticism from a few goalkeepers that played with it starting in November, unhappy with how it moves in the air and the way the surface feels. Goalkeepers, unlike every other player on the pitch, have to predict where the ball will go in order to block it, while also not having the freedom to run around the field to adjust as the ball flies. That means goalies often have the most complaints about a new design. “Every time there’s a World Cup and a new ball the goalkeepers complain, because they’ve been given a new ball,” says Goff.
When looking for the right ball for your child, you may come across a reference to different sizes of soccer balls. These sizes can vary a bit from product to product but most do conform to certain league standards. A size 1 ball is also known as a mini ball and is typically between 18 and 20 inches in circumference. This size is perfect for toddlers and early walkers to help them develop footwork skills and ball control. A size 3 ball, or a junior ball, is usually between 23 and 24 inches around. This is the type of ball that most peewee soccer teams use as it is designed for children 8 years and younger. As your child grows and continues with their soccer team, they will eventually need a size 4 ball which is 25 to 26 inches. This is known as a youth ball and is ideal for children between 8 and 12 years of age. Finally, the size 5 or adult ball is 27 to 28 inches in circumference. This is the size of the soccer ball used by professional athletes and is suitable for anyone age 13 years or older.
The history of soccer balls date back to ancient times. From a couple centuries BC to about 200 AD, the Chinese used balls made from animal skins in a game called 'tsu chu', in which players had to pass them through a net stretched between two poles. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and even the Egyptians are recorded to have enjoyed a similar game that involved kicking a makeshift ball.
Whatever ball you decide to purchase try to prolong the life of the ball by taking care of it. Don’t let your players stand on the ball or try to change the shape. Don’t leave them outside between practice sessions as prolonged exposure to sun or rain will damage the surface of the ball and dramatically reduce its life. Always try to keep balls clean after play by wiping them down with a damp cloth.
Despite the similarities with the Brazuca, the few differences between this ball and what players have gotten used to over the last four years will have an impact on play, says Firoz Alam, an aerodynamics engineer at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia, who has also performed wind tunnel tests on the Telstar 18. “When the player is making a short pass, they have to push a little harder, because at less then 60 kilometers per hour [or 37 miles per hour]it has more flight resistance than the Brazuca,” says Alam. The mid-range passes and corner kicks that gave the Jabulani so much trouble have been resolved. Compared to the Brazuca, the Telstar 18 is also more aerodynamically efficient in the 40-50 mile an hour range, so Alam says players will actually have to kick a little softer or they’re likely to overshoot. Over 55 miles an hour the two balls will feel very similar.
Although the length of kick may end up being a little shorter, the changes make the Telstar 18 more balanced, says Alam. On other balls, Alam and his team have found that there is a difference in how the ball flies based on where it’s kicked in relation to the seams. His tests have found that the Telstar 18 ball doesn’t have as much variation. The total length of seam of the Telstar 18 is 14.1 feet, 3.28 feet more than on the Brazuca. With the longer seam, and more symmetric panels, no matter how the ball is turned there is the same amount of seam exposed. “The other two balls were not like that, they were significantly different,” he says.
“Had I seen the drag curve for Jabulani prior to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa I would have been calling FIFA and Adidas saying please don’t use this ball,” Goff says. The fact that the Jabulani became unpredictable and beach-ball-like during these long passes really helped Spain win in 2010, Goff says. The Spanish team relied almost entirely on short precise passes, without long kicks that became unstable with the Jabulani ball. “That was the perfect example of a team that really fit the style of play for that ball,” Goff says.
For those taking their game to the next level, it’s important to train with a ball similar to what is used for your matches. Your passing, shooting and general foot skills will be different for lighter soccer balls made with a premium bladder like latex. Try out an NFHS approved ball which is used for some club, high school, and college teams. To be NFHS approved, the soccer ball needs to: