History of the Wilson Ball


When you hear ‘Wilson,’ what’s the first thing that you think of? For many across the world, that first thought is of the beloved character from Cast Away (2000) who served as a best friend for Tom Hanks’ character in his moment of need.  But for our AVP athletes, that first thought is the best ball for playing beach volleyball. 

Wilson Sporting Goods Co. has been a supporter of the AVP for more than twenty years, and provided the official AVP tournament ball since 1996. Over the years, there have been many iterations on the ball, but one thing remains the same: Wilson. 

History of Wilson 

Wilson was originally founded in 1914 as the Ashland Manufacturing Company as a unique way for its parent company, meat packing firm Sulzberger and Schwarchild, to use every part of the animal. What was an easy way to use leftovers quickly became profitable and in 1915, the company appointed Thomas E. Wilson as president. Wilson saw the potential in sporting goods and pushed the brand to make a name for itself. In 1916, the company separated from the meat packing company and became the Wilson that we know today. 

After successfully expanding the company for two decades, World War II struck. At this point, Wilson had developed into a reputable sportswear company. Whether it was manufacturing football helmets, baseball uniforms, or golf clubs, Wilson was known for creating quality materials — quality fit for the troops. During the war, Wilson retooled their facilities to create duffel bags, tents, and helmets for the troops. When the war ended and the troops came home, Wilson had established itself as a household name and the brand we all know and love today.

The period from the 1960s to the 1980s remained profitable for Wilson, including rapid global expansion so that the brand name was not only known throughout the United States, but also around the entire world. The name Wilson has a long history of success, and has remained synonymous with sporting goods. Few other sporting goods companies have garnered success, and are able to innovate sporting goods as Wilson does today.


Perhaps more iconic than Wilson’s products is Wilson the Volleyball. The movie star, that has its own IMDB page, the 2001 Critics Choice Award for Best Inanimate Object, and has appeared on Saturday Night Live three times, starred in Cast Away with Tom Hanks where it got its initial rise to fame. Contrary to popular belief, the Wilson volleyball was not put in the scene due to contract by the company, but instead was actually chosen by the movie. One of the screenwriters of Cast Away actually put himself in a survival situation for one week in order to gain insight into Hanks’ character. While he was stranded, a volleyball actually washed up on shore, which created inspiration for the volleyball in the film. This case of unpaid advertising is one of the most successful of all time, resulting in a value of between $1.85 and $11.5 million in advertising dollars

The Volleyball Then

Creds: www.GodsToGhosts.com

Since the creation of volleyball in 1895 by William G. Morgan, there has been a lot of innovation in design. When developing the sport initially, Morgan tried to use a basketball, which was too heavy, and a basketball bladder, which was too light, and then asked A.G. Spalding & Bros. to make a ball for the sport. The perfect ball was created using a latex bladder that was constructed out of a material that was similar to a bicycle tire, covered in leather, with a circumference of 25-27 inches, and a weight of 9-12 ounces. Spalding used their expertise from baseball for the game of volleyball, and established a standard that is still used today. The only thing that has changed in regards to construction was the 18-panel construction. In honor of the 2008 Olympics, Mikasa created a newer 8-panel design which was proven to have more accuracy in indoor cases and is currently the standard for competition indoor volleyball.

The Volleyball Now

Wilson’s OPTX AVP Game Volleyball features 18 hand-sewn panels and new VST™ (visual spin technology) which uses strategic color variance to enhance the human eye’s ability to detect spin on the ball, while a vibrant color palette and Optic Flow graphics allow the ball to be more easily tracked in the diverse environments of beach volleyball. Premium microfiber composite leather provides greater resistance to dirt and less moisture absorbency, which helps maintain proper weight and feel.

What the AVP Loves about Wilson

AVP athletes and Wilson are always in pursuit of the same thing: improvement. For our athletes, they’re always practicing for the perfect serve, the best way to set the ball, and how to get to that dig faster. For Wilson, they’re always looking for a way to improve the ball and the game. Whether it’s finding a better way to improve spin detection, such as what they did with the new OPTX AVP Game Volleyball, or improving the texture of the ball for grip and dirt resistance, Wilson is constantly trying to augment the sport. When our athletes start competing in the AVP, they have the opportunity to work with the best. Our partnership with Wilson gives our athletes the opportunity to be the best. 

Category: Beach Volleyball 101

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