A regulation-sized NFL football seems the right one to get. No one throws around smaller or lightweight baseballs, right? But football is different, and there are some good and sometimes surprising reasons why you should buy a particular type. Here’s a guide to three considerations about football sizes.

The deep-pebbled surface on this model makes it easy to handle. Franklin

A youth-sized football is 10 inches long—2 ½- to 3 ½-inches shorter than a regulation ball—with a smaller circumference. That makes it easier for kids to get comfortable with the shape and learn how to throw and catch a football. Adults can also benefit from a smaller ball, especially after not throwing one for months. A smaller ball allows them to easily practice a throwing motion before moving on to a regulation-size ball.

Great Value

This professional-sized version is made with durable composite leather. Wilson

Adults often throw a regulation-size ball better than a smaller one because the weight and size balances in the hand better and prevents overthrowing. But kids can benefit from a full-size model too because you do more than throw a football—you place kick it, punt it, hand it off, hold it securely, and of course run with it. On defense, you need to learn how to strip a ball from an opponent. A full-size ball is necessary for kids to learn any of these football skills.

Also Consider

The material on this model is easy to handle with wet hands. Wave Runner

Most football isn’t played on a regulation field with referees in attendance. It’s played mostly in parks, fields, backyards, beaches, and pools. And if a standard football gets wet, it becomes more difficult to grip (which is why a dry ball is rotated in between plays during rainy NFL games). If you’ll be playing in or near water, do yourself and your friends a favor by getting a ball designed for throwing when wet. The textured surface makes throwing easier, and the game a lot more fun.