It doesn't matter whether you're a professional player, semi-pro or someone looking to kick around with his mates. Learning how to inflate a soccer ball the correct way is very beneficial.
There's a number of negatives that'll happen if you don't inflate your ball enough, or worse yet over inflate the ball.
Playing with a deflated ball will feel horrible. It doesn't bounce as well & is incredibly consistent while striking. Over inflated balls on the other hand are at a greater risk of bursting at the seams.
If you're using cheap training balls, ball maintenance may not seem like a big deal to you. However if you do want your ball to last longer I suggest paying attention while reading this article.
Getting to know your ball(s)...
The bladder is the layer of the ball which holds the air. There's 3 different types though the most common are Latex & Butyl.
Most balls that aren't premium match balls will use Butyl. This provides the best air retention with good enough contact quality.
Latex bladders are said to give a more natural bounce and are slightly softer. It doesn't hold air as well as Butyl though so you'll have to inflate it more often.
There's an air valve on this layer too. It's what stops the air escaping and is what makes the pump hard to get in if you're not using glycerine oil.
What you'll need to inflate a soccer ball
1.) Ball Pump - It's not mandatory that you have one of these, however it's much easier. If you want to know how to without a ball pump, got to the bottom of this article.
Ideally you'd have a soccer ball pump with a gauge on it. This will allow you to get the correct amount of air and pressure in the ball.
I personally recommend this Under Armour Dual Action Ball pump. It comes with 2 needles and a gauge which tells you the ideal PSI levels.
I don't have a pressure gauge on my pump, what can I do?
I recommend having one, it'll help you gauge the right pressure and increase your balls lifespan. You can get one from amazon.
2.) Gylcerine Oil - Again not mandatory but is a useful lubrication. This will allow you to not only clean the ball pump needle but lubricate the valve for easier insertion.
It helps to keep the air valve clear of any unnecessary dirt that may lead to poor air retention.
3.) Learn how much to inflate a soccer ball - No matter what you read or watch, this will be different. It definitely varies ball to ball. You'll have to learn the sweet spot for your own ball.
Despite that, in the FIFA rule book they give a PSI range where the ball HAS to be between.
The soccer ball has to be between 8.5 PSI & 15.6 PSI. This is a massive window and will allow you to find the right pressure for your ball. Match officials check balls before kick off to make sure the balls are in this range, if they aren't they'll inflate/deflate the balls.
Where to pump the soccer ball
Anyone that's pumped up a soccer ball before will know where to insert the needle. Though there's some people that haven't done this before and don't know.
On your ball you'll find an air valve like the one below:
Chances are it wont be as obvious on your ball. The ball shown in the photo above has a specific valve marker. Just rotate your ball until you find the valve.
Inflating the soccer ball
Now that you know everything you need to know about pumping up a soccer ball, we're going to get into the actual inflation of the soccer ball.
Step 1 (Optional): Grab your ball pump needle and apply a slight amount of Glycerin oil to the needle.
Step 2: Apply the needle to your pump if it isn't already. Find the air valve on the ball and gently insert the needle.
Step 3: Begin to slowly pump the ball up. You don't want to go too fast otherwise you may risk snapping the needle, breaking the seams or over inflating the ball. If your pump has a built in gauge keep an eye on it. If not, keep checking with a standalone gauge after every few pumps.
After you've reached the ideal pressure (this varies between balls), slowly remove the needle from the ball.
Before placing the pump back in your bag or another place that you can remember, take the needle out to avoid bending it. Some pumps will have a slot to place the needle in, others will unfortunately not.
Inflating without a pump
It's very common that I'll misplace my pump and will not be able to find it before I go out to play. On days like these you can be resourceful and inflate your ball without a pump.
If you don't already own a pump, you should. Find out what the best ball pumps are here.
Compressed Air Can - If you don't have a pump you can pick up one of these from your local hardware store. They come with a plastic nozzle which fits in the balls air valve. I'd be weary of it snapping though. The plastic could really mess with the bladder and even burst the ball from the inside.
Local Gas Station - Head on over to this website and find out which gas stations offer free air. You can take a ball pump needle and apply it to the free compressed air machine. Again, be careful using this method. It's very easy to over inflate a ball using these.
Bike Shop - If you have a local bike shop it's very possible they'll be able to inflate your ball for you. Go in and politely ask if they have a bike pump and maybe even a ball pump needle. You'll probably need your own ball pump needle though.
I've done this on occasion and they've been more than willing to do it for free. If not I'm sure they'd do it for a dollar or two.
Long story short, it's a lot less hassle to have your own ball pump. There is alternatives but you'll have to go out of your way to pump up your ball. It's just not worth it when you can buy pumps for as little as $6.
Increase your balls lifespan using these tips
Adding too much air can warp your ball, tear apart the stitching and make it an odd shape with an inconsistent flight path. Not only is it important to inflate a ball correctly, you should know these important tips to avoid damage to your soccer ball's shape.
Don't stand or sit on your ball - It seems incredibly obvious but I still see so many people doing it. Needing a rest but there's no seats around? Just sit on the ball. This is one of the major factors that leads to misshapen soccer balls.
Balancing on the ball is somewhat impressive, sure. However altering the shape of an expensive premium match ball just to show off isn't. You don't have to be the soccer ball police, just avoid these bad habits.
Leaving the ball in front of a radiator or direct heat - A lot of the material used in a soccer ball is plastic. Leaving it out in direct sunlight or infront of a radiator can lead to a change of shape in your ball.
Hard surfaces (specifically walls) - I'm not sure how popular "Wally" is in other countries however in the UK it's probably one of the most played games. It's a street game where you hit the ball of a wall and you lose points if you can't hit the wall.
Smashing the ball off hard surface would scrape & tear the cover as well as lead to potential shape changes. If you're playing games like this, stick to using cheap balls.
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