What Is a Reaction Ball?

Tara Barnett

A reaction ball is a training device used to improve reaction time and agility in a number of sports. The ball itself is not shaped like a sphere, but rather like a number of spheres melted together. Usually the ball is made of rubber that bounces well on hard surfaces and is colored brightly to allow practicing athletes to see the ball easily. Athletes use this ball during training by bouncing it and attempting to catch it, which is difficult because the ball bounces unpredictably and quickly. Many different sports require agility, hand-eye coordination, and fast reaction times, so a reaction ball is a very popular training tool.

Baseball players can use a reaction ball to become better fielders.
Baseball players can use a reaction ball to become better fielders.

Sometimes called a reflex ball, a reaction ball works because of its shape. The many different sides of the ball cause it to bounce in a way that athletes do not have the ability to predict. Of course, the ball is not actually bouncing randomly but in accordance with physics. For training, the only important feature is that the athletes themselves cannot determine which direction the ball will bounce. As such, it does not matter what precise configuration is used when designing the ball.

Tennis requires players to be very agile.
Tennis requires players to be very agile.

There are several different ways to use a reaction ball. If one is playing by one's self, it is possible to bounce the ball against a wall so that it comes back toward the person who threw it. This is important, because it can be nearly impossible to catch the ball if it bounces out of one's reach. For practice with two athletes, each person can take turns bouncing and catching the ball.

One wants to make it difficult to catch the ball not because one must run to reach it, but because one must decide in which direction to reach. Many people find that making a game out of practicing with the ball can help influence a person's drive to catch it. Making quick decisions and improving the speed with which one acts on those decisions is essential to many sports. Baseball, basketball, and tennis are all sports that require this capacity to change one's directive on the fly.

Even if one is not training for sports activities, playing with this device can help keep one's hand-eye coordination in good condition as well as provide exercise and entertainment. Having good reaction times can be useful for real-life activities such as driving as well. Keeping all the different aspects of one’s physical fitness maintained is a difficult task, but a reaction ball exercises a wide variety of mechanisms, all while playing a simple game.

Many different sports require excellent hand-eye coordination and fast reaction times.
Many different sports require excellent hand-eye coordination and fast reaction times.

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Discussion Comments


I have never heard of or seen a reaction ball before but they sound like a lot of fun. As a kid I used to spend hours throwing a baseball up against the garage. I have a ten year old son and I think he would get a kick out of it.

Where can I buy one and how much do they cost? I can't remember ever seeing one in a sporting goods store.


Anyone that has played in the infield in a baseball game at any level knows how hard it is to react to a rocketing ground ball. They move in unpredictable ways, they have weird spins on them that make them hard to catch and they can run out of gas at a moments notice like they had hit a wall.

I played in the minor leagues for a while and we used reaction balls to improve our fielding skills. They really did help, but they do not look or feel like a baseball and the speed is different too. What I am trying to say is that you could get really good at catching a reaction ball and still be a terrible fielder.

I was a hockey goalie in college and coach had me do a lot of stuff with reaction balls. They were great for improving your hand eye coordination. I had always been better with the stick than the glove but by the end of my first season I was catching pucks regularly.

We also did work with a tightly packed rubber ball that loosely resembled a hockey puck. If you threw it at a wall it would come rocketing back to you. It was good for developing fast reflexes and getting used to the speed of a slap shot.

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