Sports Balls: An Introduction

Getting to Know More About the Origin and History of Sports Balls

sports balls

In any discussion to do with sports balls, it might be worth our time to think about where sports came from. The fact is that all things about sports balls would not make any sense if there was not the practice of sports, the theory of it in the first place. So, let’s really get to know about the whole history and importance of sport.

Ancient History

The story of sports is, as you might imagine, as long and as complex as possible. Like many of the longest standing traditions in society, sports have a rich story of origin.

Before looking at individual sports themselves, let’s take a look at where the idea of competitive and recreational physical activity comes from. The most commonly understood trail of sports starts around 3000 years ago, in the familiar realm of ancient Greece.

Back then, the notion of playing any sport at all was mostly about physical preparation for war or some sort of battle. Sports were also a great way to do this preparatory work within the context of soldiers in the same space. Specifically, this helped to bring about feelings of camaraderie and bonding.

As you can imagine, sports balls were also not in the most advanced state. Athletes were reportedly using just about anything remotely round that they could get their hands on – even animal and human skulls!

But, eventually, sports gets a bit more sophisticated with time. A prime example from Ancient Greece is the adoption of the formal Olympic games. This happens in 776 B.C. and the events that most of us have seen in movies spawn from this time in history.

Though lacking sports balls, events such as chariot racing, jumping, and wrestling were usually all anybody wanted to see. The crowds were always looking for examples of what they believed to be superhuman strength. If a man could jump and run and fight with physical prowess, it was more than likely that this person would be thrown into some time as an Olympic performer.

But, inevitably, sports become much more advanced as tastes change and society evolved in more ways than one.

As time speeds along, the notion of openly violent sport becomes less and less appealing to the wider public. In fact, the concept of combat even seemed like a logistical nightmare within ancient military ranks – how do you go to war if all your soldiers have beaten each other to a pulp?

Well, that’s where the modern rendition of sports comes into play. Of course, we still have sports such as boxing and mixed martial arts getting more popular every day. But, the most expansive fanbases are followers of organized team activities. that include skill and strategy.

This is where our discussion of sports balls comes in. With each passing decade, the balls used in sports became more and more complicated. They also quickly became the subject of much upgrade and improvement.

And thus, we take a look at all you need to know about the modern sports balls including which sports use balls, which ones don’t, the different builds, and how you can store them.

At the end of it all, consider this as a way to understand perhaps the most important piece of equipment in just about any sports imaginable.

You can also read about: Sports Ball Storage

Different Types of Sports Balls with Names


So, as you may already know, there are plenty of extremely popular physical and recreational sports that use balls. In light of that, this serves as a great opportunity to get a handle on some of the different popular sports balls. What are they made of? What are they used for?

Let’s start with baseball. Baseball is perhaps the oldest sport in the domestic history of the United States. This sport has seen its fair share of societal origins, seeing its way through the pre-civil rights times all the way to its most modern iteration today.

This is also a very static activity that is played with relatively small sports balls. Today’s baseballs are a bit different from what we used to see back in the day. In some of the sport’s earliest origins, the construction was actually a lot more straightforward.

Back then, a common baseball is constructed from a single cut of lightweight leather, made to last. It has some of the more recognizable stitch detailing that pitchers used but was really minimalist otherwise.

These were one of the oldest examples of purpose-driven sports balls. Baseballs were often made by the players themselves and brought to the games.

Today, the technology is very different. These sports balls are made at an impressive rate – over 80,000 per year. The process is fascinating! The central part of a baseball is the solid “cork” that is wrapped in a layer of plastic. Around that is wrapped over three football fields worth of yarn.

From that point, a specifically designed cowhide layer wraps these sports balls up in a coating that the pitcher feels when they launch strikes. That leather is then heated and altered until it is at its fine-tuned perfection. We’ve come a long way from the single strips of basic leather!

The next one we can talk about is basketball. Going away from the sports balls used on the baseball diamond, the ones used on the basketball court are a whole different story.

Basketball was first invented in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith. Put together as something for athletes to play while the weather turned cold in the winter, the game didn’t always have its own sports balls. In fact, the first basketball players were using soccer balls to get their games going.

It wasn’t until 1894 when the first basketball was produced. Much like a baseball, it was made of a leather layer that was then held together by specific lacing. The difference, of course, was that these sports balls were more about dynamism and bounce. Even in its earliest days, when basketballs weren’t bounced as part of the game’s rules, the ball itself had to be relatively mobile in this sense.

This leads us to the modern basketball, which has seen the design fixed in its form for a few years now. The modern-day basketball sees different constructions – NBA sports balls are completely genuine leather while college ones are made from a composite or synthetic leather. Still, the overall design remains the same.

Of course, these two distinctive games aren’t the only ones with particular sports balls designs and histories.

The American game of football made its own use of genuine leather and lacing. The difference with this sport, as some of you may know, is that the shape was very different. As such, it performed different movements and needed its own style of production.

Tennis and baseballs

tennis ball

Likewise, tennis balls look a lot like the baseballs we talked about earlier. These sports balls are almost identical to the ones used on the baseball diamond, were it not for the fact that tennis mirrors basketball in its need for a bouncier ball.

The more dynamic construction of football and tennis is a great example of just how deep the history of sports balls is. Each and every major sport has its own approach to putting together specific sports balls. As such, it’s not just the constructions and materials that can vary.

For those of us not playing professionally, we still have some concerns that are similar to those of the pro teams. In light of that, it’s worth knowing some of the basics of how sports balls are put together. Additionally, as we’ll discuss later in this post, it’s important to know how to store these balls as well.

But, before that, let’s talk about some sports that don’t use balls at all. What team activities excel in the same way as the ones we talked about, but without the use of sports balls?

Sports That Don’t Use Balls

Not all sporting events center around the use of sports balls. In fact, some sports without balls are just as lightning fast and move with just as much strategy as those with them. The example of hockey immediately comes to mind. As a sport, hockey is one of the exceptional team games that needs nothing resembling sports balls.

This is a game that moves at breathtaking speeds, launching athletes on an arena floor made of ice. These players go through plenty of motions that involve running into each other with serious force. The object they all want to get to? A hockey puck.

The puck is a small, rubber object at the heart of all of the ice hockey action. While not technically part of the sports balls category, it is incredibly important in this game. The puck is made of a rubber that has been vulcanized. It’s about one inch thick and three inches across.

Another example of a sport without a ball is that of badminton. Much like hockey resembles the speed and pace of basketball, badminton works in much the same way as tennis.

Instead of any sports balls or hard object being tossed around, badminton has something called a shuttlecock. This is among the more fascinating non-ball parts of any sport. The construction of the modern shuttlecock includes feathers from the wing of either a duck or a goose.

There’s even some chatter that claims the feathers must come from only the left wing of these birds! Of course, that is disputable, to say the very least.

Whether or not this quirky detail is true, the badminton shuttlecock is like the puck in ice hockey. They are both incredibly effective at keeping up with a fast-paced sport. And yet, neither is technically a part of the sports balls category.

Sports Balls Diameter Differences

soccer ball

This section isn’t quite about the specific, technical differences between sports balls. Instead, it’s more of a holistic approach.

When considering what you’re buying for a particular sport, it’s important to think about what you’re dealing with in terms of equipment. After all, is there any list of sports equipment balls don’t fall on the top of?

The most critical thing to keep in mind is that the different diameters and conditions mean there are several ways to maintain and store them.

For example, the leather sports balls (such as basketballs and footballs) could do with some maintenance of their air levels. Additionally, making sure to use the right leather sports balls in the right field or court helps them last longer.

In contrast, baseballs require something completely different. Though they have their own cut of leather as an exterior, these sports balls don’t need air and they can take quite the beating! The same can be said of tennis balls. Even though they’re not quite as strong as baseballs, they do present a better durability profile than basketballs or soccer balls.






Sources: Dick’s Sporting Goods, Wonderopolis, Ballqube

Image Credit: Unsplash