Hacky Sack Information

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dotIt's a simple concept: kick the small ball into the air. Repeat. Just don't use your arms!

This simple concept is the essence of the growing sport of footbag, commonly known as Hacky Sack. "Hacky Sack" is a trademark of Wham-O Inc., one of several North American makers of footbags.

dotThe history of modern footbag is a short one. Two Americans -- John Stalberger and Mike Marshall -- are credited with inventing the sport in 1972. They based it on an ancient Native American game that involved kicking a small, soft object.

The two called the game "hacking the sack," which led to the product they later trademarked as Hacky Sack. Wham-O Inc. has owned the trademark since 1983.

Jeff Millett, marketer for Wham-O, attributes the sport's appeal to its simplicity and its friendly atmosphere.

"There is a wide range of people that can play it," Millett says. "It's not really a competitive sport -- it's an inclusive sport. Whether you're really good or you're new, you can go to a place [and] you can find people who are playing it and you can be included."

dotFor many players, footbag isn't just a sport -- it's an obsession.

"The type of personality that this sport draws is people who tend to be obsessive," says Tricia George of Oregon. "You kind of have to be, to get really good at it."

George should know. She has won more world titles in footbag than anyone, male or female. She has earned more than 50 world titles in the last 19 years.

George and another player, Gary Lautt, hold the Guinness World Record in the category of open doubles consecutive. The two of them kicked a footbag 132,0ll times. The amazing feat (with their amazing feet) took nearly 22 hours.

"We've maintained the doubles record, because who in their right mind would go and kick it for 22 hours?" George says, laughing. "So, we have it based on insanity alone."

dotFootbag is growing in popularity, with organized clubs all over North America, as well as a World Footbag Association (WFA), based in Colorado. The WFA boasts a membership of 47,000 players in 39 countries. Growth is especially strong overseas.

"Western Europe is really starting to explode, as far as popularity is concerned," says Bruce Guettich. He is the WFA director. "I have seen an enormous amount of interest in the last two years."

When a club was started in Finland, it had 800 members within a year. Other European countries are starting to follow suit.

Guettich has played footbag for 21 years, earning numerous world titles. He says the kind of people who play footbag have kept him involved in the sport.

"It's that friendly, welcome feeling that all footbag players kind of exude," Guettich says. "It's an amazing thing -- the energy associated with footbag is what has kept me involved with it for so many years."

dotThere are two popular competitive footbag sports: footbag net and freestyle.

Footbag net is played with one or two players per side, with rules similar to volleyball. Players kick the footbag over a five-foot net in an exciting, fast-paced display of athletic prowess.

Footbag freestyle is like figure skating, with players performing a choreographed routine. Points are awarded for factors like creativity and level of difficulty of tricks.

dotLocal clubs often hold competitions. As well, the world championships are held annually. The Canadian Footbag Alliance (CFA) is hosting the August 2000 World Championships in Vancouver.

Scott Milne, CFA director, expects as many as 300 competitors from Canada, the U.S., Western Europe, and Asia. They'll be vying for a total prize purse of $15,000 to $25,000.

"It's really gotten a lot bigger and more organized than people think," Milne says. "I think you'll see that this year, at the world championships in Vancouver, it'll be the largest [spectator] turnout ever."

Getting Started

dotAll you need to play this sport is a footbag. Most cost between $8 and $20. They vary in size and bounciness. Players' preferences depend on their style of play and the types of tricks they want to do.

A level area of ground free of obstacles is also desirable. You can play with running shoes, sandals, or even barefeet, but tennis shoes are the preferred attire. After that, it's just a matter of kickin' it.

dotFootbag can be played almost anywhere. On the beach, in a parking lot, and even at night by the glow of a streetlight, players can be found. And all you need is a small sack filled with sand or plastic beads.

A popular trick is to "stall" the footbag. This involves catching the footbag on a foot, between the knees, on the chest, on the back of the neck, or even under the chin. This trick is most easily done with a soft footbag that flattens out when it comes down.

Some footbags even glow in the dark. The WFA sells more than 40 styles of footbags from its Web site, including a footbag made of injection-molded latex that's filled with plastic beads and a small flashlight you can turn on. Even nighttime is no longer a barrier to playing!

dotFootbag can be played alone or in a group of any size. To achieve a "full hack," everyone in the group has to kick the bag at least once.

Flexibility, reflexes, and speed are all assets in this sport. However, people without much athletic ability can play. Injuries are not common, but when they occur they tend to be minor.

"If anything, it would be a pulled muscle," Guettich says. "It's really a pretty safe sport."

dotAt the competitive level, excellent physical condition is the norm. Competitors are serious about their sport.

"With the competitive side of the sport, just like anything competitive, you're pushing the limits," Guettich says. "I'm always amazed by the dedication that players have to a sport that there really isn't a lot of money in. They're doing it out of the sheer love of the game, but they're training as hard as any athletes in any other sport."

Because of the minimal equipment required for footbag, few players have sponsors. If they do, it's for items such as bags or shoes. For example, Adidas is a sponsor of several top competitors.

dotTop players can make a living with footbag, but it isn't easy. For Guettich with the WFA, footbag has been his full-time occupation the past 18 years.

"There are people who do this for a living," Guettich says. "I'm obviously one of them, and there are a number of people that work for the World Footbag Association putting on schools and clinics for kids across the country.

"We're always looking for talented feet that can do that kind of work, basically as a performer."

Guettich says such performers are not paid well. Also, living on the road for months at a time can be tough to endure. For some, however, their love of footbag outweighs the drawbacks.

dotTo find out more about this activity, check out your local footbag club. There is also plenty of information online. You can find out all about types of footbags, rules of footbag sports, tips on cool tricks, and much more.

Of course, the best way to learn about footbag is to play it. Buy a footbag and start kicking it. You just might discover a new obsession!


World Footbag Association
P.O. Box 775208
Steamboat Springs , CO   80477
Toll-free :  800-878-8797
E-mail : wfa@worldfootbag.com


The Hacky-Sack Book,
by  John Cassidy
Footbag World Magazine


Creative Athletics
Offers classes, camps, and more for footbag and other unique sports

Footbag Worldwide
Everything you could ever want to know about footbag, from rules to history, from products to records

International Footbag Advisory Board
Official rules of footbag sports, as determined by the International Footbag Advisory Board

Read research papers about footbag

Footbag World Records
Check out current world records for footbag. You won't believe the feats (or feet)!

Wham-O Inc.
A great source of information on the company and its products