Teaching a kid to throw a curve ball is easier said than done. Same goes for the perfect spiral, jump shot, or free kick. Even the best high-school-athlete-turned-parent can struggle to convey proper fundamentals ⏤ grip, stance, and release ⏤ to a kid who’s never played sports before. Which is why ESPN’s line of Future Pro Balls are so clever: They’re emblazoned with hand, finger, or foot prints to show kids exactly how to hold or kick a ball.
Just out this year, the new Future Pro series includes five balls from all the big sports ⏤ baseball, softball, football, soccer, and basketball. They’re all sized based on age and feature either a Butyl bladder or performance cork core, and they play like everyday balls. The only difference, of course, is that when you pick one up you know exactly where to put your hands to not brick that free throw.
The full-sized baseball and 11-inch softball (ages 5-12-years-old) have two different colored finger and thumbprints, red to throw a two-seam fastball, black for a curve. It works for both righties and lefties and there are instructional videos on the website to walk kids through the full pitch, although they don’t go into too much detail.
The other balls are similar: The 27.5-inch basketball has left and right handprints to show how to hold the rock/take a jump shot while both sizes of football (Pee Wee or Junior) include prints for throwing a spiral and targets for kicking or punting. Same deal with the Size 3 and 4 Future Pro soccer balls, which provide markings to show both where to hit the ball (and with which part of the foot) to curve, bend, or chip it. Again, they provide coaching videos on the site to demonstrate it all.
ESPN Future Pro balls are sold on Amazon and at Walmart, and they range from $5 for a baseball or softball to $15 for the football, basketball, and soccer ball.