Soccer Ball vs. Volleyball (Can You Use Them Interchangeably?)

Girls playing beach volleyball with the ball in mid-air and opposing teams ready to hit it.

Many popular sports tend to have gameplay that revolves around a single item. In most cases, that item is a ball.

Making the gameplay revolve around a single item makes the game easier to follow. This is especially true in team sports be it soccer, volleyball, basketball, cricket, and baseball. 

But why is that? Why use a ball at all? Are there other alternatives?

Why are Balls Popular in Games?

The answer is pretty obvious.

The ball is simply just the defining object in a game. A role is given to the item (the ball) and teams have to do their best to direct the item to its intended position. This makes the game easier to follow.

Consider soccer—the point of the game is to get the ball past the goal post. There are certain limitations to what you can do with the ball according to the rules, but essentially, the rule is simple: Get the soccer ball into the goal post. That’s it.

The reason a ball is a popular choice is it provides an equal point of contact on all sides. The point of contact is consistent throughout. This is essential in games where the ball needs to have consistent contact with the ground.

Can you imagine a game of soccer being played using a disk? That would be weird. The same thing applies to basketball or volleyball.

Some games can get away without using a ball-shaped item, though. These are the games that don’t need consistent contact points to the player or the ground. Rugby, American football, and hockey are examples of this.

Can You Use the Same Ball for Different Sports?

Technically, yes, you can do that. However, it’s not recommended.

Ball size differences across different sports are essential to their gameplay. The ball size recommendation is there for a reason. Different sports will have different requirements for their balls. In basketball, for instance, the ball needs to be bouncy, whereas, in soccer, bounce is very minimal.

Sure, you can use a basketball as a soccer ball, but it wouldn’t result in a fun experience overall.

The two sports balls that seem to be the closest in terms of size are soccer balls and volleyballs.

Size Difference Between a Soccer Ball and Volleyball?

A soccer player wearing soccer cleats, with their foot resting on top of a soccer ball on a grassy field.

At first glance, these two balls seem to share the same size. They are both smaller than a basketball. Most players would have no problems picking it up in one hand. Both of these balls seem a perfect size.

But according to their official measurement, the soccer ball is larger.

The difference is not that big though. It’s 27″ to 28″ circumference for a soccer ball, and 25.5″ to 26.3″ circumference for a volleyball.

There is roughly 3 cm of difference between these two balls. If you are only playing casually, you likely wouldn’t notice the size.

Surface Area Comparison Between Soccer Ball and Volleyball

It follows that the surface area of a soccer ball is larger than volleyball. And since surface area increase is somewhat exponential, the difference is larger than their 3-cm-size difference would suggest.

The surface area for a soccer ball is between 1472 to 1560 cm² compared to 1340 to 1430 cm² of a volleyball. That’s a difference of around 200 cm². That may not seem a lot, but if you’ve played soccer, you know how important that 200 cm² are.

Volume Comparison Between a Soccer Ball and Volleyball

The volume difference between these two balls is ever more pronounced. Since volume increases exponentially, the gap between these two increases considerably.

The volume for a soccer ball is between 5310 to 5790 cm³. The volume of a volleyball is between 4640 to 5080 cm³. That’s a difference of around 700 cm3.

For reference, the volume of a baseball is roughly 200 cm³. A difference of 700 cm³ means that a soccer ball is larger in volume by about 3 to 4 baseballs. That’s huge.

Other Differences Between Soccer Ball and Volleyball

A soccer player holding a soccer ball, its entire weight in their hand.

Apart from the difference in sizes, one of the biggest differences is the weight.

Soccer ball needs to weigh between 410 g and 450 g. In volleyball, where the ball needs to fly high, the weight is a manageable 260 g to 280 g.

If you hold these balls in both of your hands, the difference is very obvious. The main reason volleyball is lighter is the fact that volleyballs need to bounce and fly high. 

Hands are naturally weaker than legs. Since the point of action in volleyball is on the hands, it makes sense that the ball must be lighter. Can you imagine volleying a 2-lb. ball across a 1-hour game? That would absolutely wreck your arms.

Now, as for the soccer ball, it makes sense to give it more weight. Too light and it will be too bouncy for dribbling purposes. The weight must be just right to be conducive to gameplay.

Layers of the Ball

Soccer balls consist of 3 layers: the bladder, the inside lining, and the external lining.

The layers are self-explanatory. The bladder contains the air. You can adjust the amount of air in the ball using a pin, so long as it adheres to the range allowed by the rules of the game. The internal lining consists of polyurethane foam, cotton, or polyester. This gives it a bounce.

The external layer is made of synthetic leather. It gives it some type of texture and durability. This texture is important because you don’t want the ball to be too slippery and hard to control.

Volleyball, on the other hand, consists of only two layers: the bladder and the external layer.

The reason volleyballs don’t need another layer is they don’t need the extra durability and texture. They get passed around using your arms. 

It doesn’t need to be as durable as a soccer ball, which receives violent kicks throughout the game while being played on messy and uneven fields.

Can You Use a Volleyball as a Soccer Ball?

Well, yes. But you really shouldn’t.

The difference between the two balls is too much to ignore. The only acceptable reason you can interchange the two balls together is if you only have a volleyball but want to play soccer, and vice versa.

But even then, why not just use the ball for its intended sport? It all depends on how easily you can ignore the difference.

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