Softball vs Volleyball – What’s The Difference?

With so many different sports and leagues available, it’s sometimes tough to pick the right one.

Often, kids (and adults) will play multiple sports, partly because it’s fun to try out different stuff and partly because they can’t decide which one suits them best.

Two sports that are definitely among the most popular, especially with girls, are softball and volleyball.

These are two dynamic and engaging sports to play and exciting to watch.

Plus, as they don’t feature full contact, they’re relatively safe and don’t carry much of an injury risk.

Below, I’ll take a closer look at each of these sports and compare softball vs volleyball to see what are the similarities and differences between the two.

So, let’s dive in!

ScoringScore runs by hitting and running basesScore points by hitting a ball over a net and into the opponent’s court
EquipmentSoftball, glove, bat, protective gear Volleyball, net, ball, knee pads
Team size9 players on the field6 players on the court
Field/CourtSoftball diamond, with bases 60 feet apart and a pitching distance of 43 feetIndoor court, with a net dividing the court into two equal halves

Softball – Information

Girl sitting on the ground, playing with a softball.

Softball is a bat-and-ball game, rather similar to baseball. In fact, softball was initially promoted as a version of baseball, more suited for indoor play.

Over time, it grew into its own distinct sport, with its own unique gameplay.

The main features that separate softball from baseball is a bigger and softer ball and a different pitching technique.

In softball, pitchers pitch underhand from flat ground. There are two widely popular versions of the sport – slowpitch and fastpitch.

Fastpitch is the one that is mainly played at pro and collegiate levels, while slowpitch is mostly reserved for recreational play.

Softball is played on a diamond-shaped field, similar in layout to baseball, but with smaller dimensions, which makes the game faster and more dynamic.

The pitching circle is flat, while the infield is entirely covered with dirt. The scoring rules and position, for the most part, are the same as in baseball.

Volleyball – Information

Female volleyball player hitting the ball.

Ever since its inception, more than 100 years ago in Massachusetts, US, volleyball has been steadily growing in popularity.

Today, it’s an Olympic sport, played across the globe, with professional leagues on all continents. Even though its full set of rules is quite extensive, volleyball is basically a very simple sport.

One team attempts to send the ball over the net into the opponent’s half of the court in three or fewer touches so that the opposing team can’t return the ball or prevent it from touching the ground or return it. Each rally starts with a serve to the opposing team over the net.

Indoor volleyball is played on a flat, horizontal, and hard surface.

The other popular version of the sport, beach volleyball, is, of course, played on the surface level by sand.

Beach volleyball is basically the same game, with slightly different rules and fewer players on the team.

Similarities and Differences Between Softball and Volleyball

Even though they look very different at a first glance, softball and volleyball do have some similarities.

Players in both sports rely on their arm power to hit the ball as hard and as precisely as possible so that it goes out of reach of the opposing players, but still within the boundaries of the playing surface.

Therefore, arm movement, especially while pitching/serving has some similarities and is based on comparable biomechanical principles.

In both sports, the shoulder is commonly under a lot of strain and is most susceptible to injuries.

In terms of gameplay, there aren’t many similarities, except that in both sports, winning absolutely depends on the level of teamwork.

Neither sport relies much on individual performances, but rather on a synchronized effort of the whole team.


Of course, the differences between the two sports are numerous and more significant, starting with where they’re played.

Volleyball is mostly played indoors, on a hard court, with the playing area divided into two halves by a net.

However, it can also be played on a soft surface, such as sand, as it’s not necessary for the ball to bounce off the ground.

Softball is played outdoors, on a diamond-shaped field, bound by the foul lines extending from home plate at a 45-degree angle.

The infield, which features a pitching circle, is covered with dirt, while the outfield is covered with grass.


The basic equipment for volleyball includes only the ball, while softball players also use bats and gloves.

The inflatable ball in volleyball is spherical, weighing 9.2 – 9.9 ounces, and has 25.5 – 26.3 inches in circumference, whereas a softball is softer and smaller, with a circumference of 11-12 inches and weighing 6.25 and 7 ounces.


Softball teams are made up of nine players, playing games that last for 7 innings. During an inning, each team has its turn at bat and in the field.

On offense, players try to hit the ball with the bat and advance through the bases to make it back to the home plate.

At the same time, the team defending is trying to field the ball to stop the opponents from making their way through the bases.

When a player makes their way around the bases, their team scores a point.

In volleyball, teams of 6 players try to send the ball over the net so it hits the ground in the opponent’s half of the court.

While doing so, they’re not allowed to make more than three contacts with the ball.

A point is scored either by grounding the ball in the opposition half or through the opponent’s errors.

The winner has to win three sets, with each set being won by scoring 25 points first.

Softball vs Volleyball – Which One is More Popular?

Comparison of a female volleyball and softball player.

Global Popularity

Comparing the popularity of softball and volleyball can be a bit tricky, as it greatly depends on various factors, such as region or age group.

Worldwide, volleyball is way more popular than softball. In fact, it’s one of the top 5 most popular sports in the world.

It’s estimated that more than 900 million people follow volleyball globally and the sport has the second-highest number of amateur layers in the world, right after soccer.

On the other hand, softball, while steadily rising its profile across the world, is still mostly played in North America.

Popularity in the US

In the US, things look a bit differently. In terms of participation, softball is probably the most popular sport in the country, with an estimated 40 million people playing the game, at least recreationally.

Volleyball is not too far behind, especially if we combine the numbers for indoor and beach volleyball.

When it comes to organized leagues, volleyball still has a slight edge.

It should be noted that both sports are predominately popular among women. For example, among high school sports, neither is among the top 10 sports for boys.

Among girls, volleyball is the second most popular high school sport with around 450,000 players, while softball holds the fifth position with over 350,000 players.


Playing sports, especially at a young age, is a key to healthy development, learning the values of teamwork, nurturing confidence, and improving communication skills.

Of course, it’s also loads of fun. Two sports described above, softball and volleyball, certainly fit all these criteria.

This is why they both firmly hold a post among the most popular sports, both among kids and adults.

While neither of them features a pro league that can measure in popularity with major American sports, millions of people play them every day.

It’s very likely that, if you walk to a nearby park, you see someone enjoying a game of softball or volleyball.

Paul Hall
Paul Hall

Hello, I’m Paul, a 45 year old passionate baseball fan and the owner of this website. I hope my article could help to answer your questions.

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