Skin in the Game: How to Choose a Football

If you’re in the market for a football for yourself or your athlete, here’s how to choose the right football.


The sports equipment market offers so many football choices that it can be overwhelming to decide which ball is the right one for you. Wilson understands your dilemma, and we have created this guide to help you choose the best product for you, your team, or your child.

Wilson adheres to the highest manufacturing standards in the industry, so no matter which football you choose, you’re going to enjoy a quality product. You’ll make your decision based on size and usage, with some optional features to make things more fun. When you’ve finished reading, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to feel good about your decision.

Gauging Football Size

Say you’ve been watching your child become interested in football, and you think that they have grown out of the foam ball in the back yard. If you’re ready to purchase something more like the real deal, you’ll want to check out youth footballs. Youth footballs cover sizes for kids ages 6 to 14, broken into three categories: pee wee, junior, and youth. Here are the specifics:

Pee Wee

Pee wee footballs fit the hands of children ages 6 to 9. These small footballs allow children to grip the ball correctly and enjoy the success of learning to throw it accurately. This ball size also doesn’t overload the child’s arm with excess weight that could cause injury. Our Hylite ball is a great pee wee ball.


Children ages 9 to 12 are ready for Junior class footballs. These children still have smaller hands than adults, but they also have more experience, skill, and strength. They can handle this larger ball without issue— consider a junior ball like our Hylite.


Youth size footballs accommodate players ages 12 to 14. These balls are close in size to the official college balls and meet the needs of experienced players. At this age, players grow quickly, and this size football fits those developing hands. Check out a ball like our Youth GST.

youth football sizing graphic

High School and College

These footballs measure slightly smaller than an official NFL-sized football. Depending on the player’s hand size, either of these balls works well for ages 14 and up. For these players, shop our GST ball.


Buying for Usage

Here at Wilson, we define the two usage categories as recreational and avid or competitive. Recreational use is occasionally throwing the football in the yard or playing a random game with friends. Avid usage applies to players on school teams or in leagues. Each of these groups requires separate ball characteristics. Let’s go over them:

Recreational Use

Generally, a football made for recreational use is easy to throw, easy to catch, stands up to normal wear, and feels comfortable in the player’s hand. These balls cost less than professional-grade balls because they are made from composite leather and not full-grain hide.

The texture of composite footballs makes them easy to grip, and the material resists moisture better than natural leather. These balls are suited to play on grass or turf, and they look just like their natural counterparts.

Wilson’s composite football designs have optional team branding for added flair, and the balls come in all sizes. For recreational use, consider our GST Composite ball

Competitive Use

Competitive players can choose from composite or leather footballs and be happy with either choice. Although all of Wilson’s footballs are excellent quality, leather balls are handmade, enjoy the reputation of exclusively serving the NFL, and are exceptionally suited for daily play.

The leather tanning process gives the surface a natural tack that improves grip, and their construction provides superior endurance. Leather footballs cost more than composite balls and are an investment in great gameplay. Competitive players should shop our GST ball!


Decisions, Decisions

In general, for both recreational and competitive youth players, parents and coaches tend to purchase composite footballs for their children and teams, even though leather balls are available in these smaller sizes. Their soft feel and grip, and lower price point make them an excellent choice for all youth levels. For instance, the Wilson K2 serves Pee Wee players and teams ideally with the combination of its soft feel and small size. The Wilson TDJ and TDY composite balls provide economy and durability for Junior and Youth players.

Once avid players reach ages 14 and older, it’s time to consider purchasing leather footballs. This gameplay requires more durability, and team players at this level are likely to continue their interest in the sport. Wilson’s High School and College GST, or even the official NFL Duke balls, serve this age group well.

Finally, adult recreational players can have fun personalizing their composite NFL Backyard Legend football by choosing to have their favorite team’s logo and date established embossed on it.

Wilson’s Football Product Line Manager Keith Mahler explains the football shopping process in this video:


Remember, shopping for a football should be fun, and the goal is to enjoy the game. We are continuously adding fun and informational content, so check back with us often.

Updated September 13, 2022