A ball is a spherical object created to be a toy or plaything, and can be the focus of many games or competitive sports. Balls can be made of rubber, plastic, leather, or even stone or wood. They may be solid, hollow, rigid, soft, or air-filled and bouncy. Balls range from a couple of inches to several feet in diameter. The composition of a ball is usually purpose-built for the sport in which it will be used. The most consistent characteristic is that they are spheres, though even this is not true of all balls: American footballs
have an oblong almond-like shape that is easier to throw long distances; golf ball
s are covered with small concave dimples that help them fly faster and farther when struck; bowling
balls have three deep holes for the bowler's fingers to grip.
The Ball's Role In Sports
When used in sports, the players' interaction with the ball is almost as varied as the types of balls themselves. They may be thrown, kicked down a field, rolled along the floor, struck with a blunt instrument, bounced on the floor, or poked sharply with a long stick. Whatever the rules of the sport, balls are often used as a focus of the play. Possessing the ball and guiding it to an established goal or end point, in a manner according to the rules, is the general objective of sports like golf, football
, soccer, billiards, or polo. In tennis, the objective is to strike the springy tennis ball in such a way that the other player is unable to return it, and allows the ball to pass them or bounce too many times on the ground. Baseball
is one odd example where avoidance of the ball is key: in baseball, the pitcher throws the ball at the batter, who attempts to strike the ball as far as they can with a baseball bat
; on a successful hit, the batter is obligated to run around a predetermined circuit while members of the opposing team organize to return the ball to the batter before they complete the circuit and score a run for their team. Dodgeball
follows a similar concept of avoidance, but in dodgeball's case there are two teams who face off against each other and attempt to strike members of the opposing team by tossing air-filled rubber balls. Volleyball
is another type of ball where two teams spike, serve, and ace to score a point.
There are some other forms of purpose-built balls that are not used in sports. Medicine balls used for exercise and fitness are leather balls that are solid and quite heavy. Beach balls are large inflatable balls made of thin plastic: their characteristics make them easy to throw and buoyant in water, making them ideal for play near the ocean; beach balls have also become a trope of large rock concerts, when a concert goer might bring a beach ball for the audience to play with while waiting for the concert to begin. Outside of organized sports, balls are a common toy of children and adults around the world. The simplicity of the ball is one of the purest forms of play, and simply rolling or bouncing a ball is a universally appreciated diversion which can lead to infinite improvised games.