An invention

The term 'hacky sack' was trademarked by John Stalberger and Mike Marshall in the early 1970's (US Patent #4151994). The 'official' hacky sack is a leather bag approximately two inches in diameter filled with pellet-like material. The design is a simple baseball-style two-panel pattern, often blue and white. For further info check out footbag.

In other news, Eskimos have been kicking fur balls around for ages. My dad discovered this while talking with Mr. Stalberger some years ago. A friend of mine confirmed this when talking about footbag sports in Alaska.

A group activity

It's easy to kick a hacky sack around by yourself. For some people, the difficulty arises in joining a group. This is similar to the difficulty that some people have with public speaking. Whatever your style, you can still have fun.

There are several different forms that the footbag sport takes on. The patented hacky sack is useful in consecutives and footbag net (where a kick is better than a stall), while the knit (or crocheted) sepah is often best for freestyle (where stalls tend to have greater importance than kicks). Consecutives is a rigidly-defined count-based game for competitions, while footbag net is almost like badminton in terms of competition and play. Freestyle can be competitive, but competition isn't a natural element. Freestyle is the more artistic of the three forms, and thus is the most difficult to judge (if in competition).

It's fairly easy to find people to kick a footbag with: one way is to start kicking one around in a spacious, non-crowded area. Another way is to check out http://www.footbag.org to find official clubs in your area.

Some starting tips

The basics:

  • Pick some shoes. Running or "cross-training" shoes tend to work best. The ideal shoe is fairly light with a few nicely flat surfaces.
  • Get a footbag. Are you just learning about the sport? Try freestyle first: get a "sepah", the knit or crocheted version of the footbag. Again, http://footbag.org/ has helpful information in this area.
  • Read the directions. You don't have to start as a pro; you can practice some. An instruction booklet is included with many footbags these days, and the footbag.org website has some good pointers as well. If all else fails, try the kicks listed below.

Some common kicks:

  • Inside: balance on one foot and bring the other foot straight up, bending your knee to the outside. Try to make this surface of your shoe as parallel to the ground as possible.
  • Toe: this kick is done completely with the knee until good control is developed. Balance on one foot and lift your knee up and forward (in it's normal arc), while keeping your foot below and just a little forward from your knee.
  • Outside: Just like the inside, except bend your knee to the inside, while using the outside of your foot as a kicking surface.

Some notes. The primary position of interest for the footbag is not on the ground. With that said, always keep in mind to kick the footbag "up" more than "sideways". Join footbag circles often to watch others. Above all, have fun!

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