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What is footbag?

A footbag is a small bean bag-like round object that is designed to be kicked with ones legs and feet. There are many types of footbags, depending on design, number of panels, size, fabric material, and filler (what is inside the footbag). The ultimate goal of playing footbag is to keep the bag off the ground by either repeatedly kicking it, or stalling it. This can be done by one’s self or with a group of people. Footbags are either hand sewn or machine stitched, and usually at least three times smaller than a soccer ball. They also are designed to have much less bounce than a soccer ball, and in many cases, their function is to land and stay on the foot (called stalling), instead of reflecting off the surface. Here are some of the various styles of footbags in circulation;

What is the difference between footbag and Hacky Sack?

Hacky Sack is a brand name; footbag is the name of the sport in general. Much like Frisbee is to disk, the brand name Hacky Sack is to footbag. Though the name Hacky Sack belongs to a company, the term is still used sometimes to refer to a footbag.

How and where did footbag start? 

The cooperative kicking sport has ancient origins from
China, Thailand, Native America, South America, and many
other cultures around the world. Footbag in it’s modern
form was an American invention, created by Mike Marshall
and John Stalberger in 1972 in Oregon City, part of the Portland area. They coined the name
“Hacky Sack”, and marketed the game to toy companies.
The original Hacky Sacks were made of leather or synthetic
suede, and were only two panels stitched together.

Over the decades footbag has grown to many different
countries, and evolved into a highly technical sport, often
being compared to “break dancing with a hack”. The
practice is still in it’s “X game” stage though, and only
being thirty plus years old, is still considered a relatively
young sport.

What are the different types of footbag games or disciplines?

Footbag has many different types of play. It can simply be kicked around in a circle; this is commonly referred to as Casual Kicking. Freestyle Footbag is when a player learns and executes more technical moves and tricks, such as stalls, dexes, ducks, and spins. Footbag net is played as you would imagine, over a badminton height net. Footbag Four Square is played similar to four square with a regular ball; the first square serves and gets the points, each player battles to keep the footbag from falling in their square and tried to advance to the server square. Footbag Golf is designed similar to disk golf; a player or group of players attempt to kick the bag across a predetermined course, working to get the bag into the hole (a basket essentially) within par.

These are the most popular forms of footbag, below again is a quick list of the various disciplines:

Casual Kicking:
Simply kicking a bag around with a group of people or by one’s self; trying to keep the bag off the ground.

Freestyle Footbag:
Learning and executing technical moves such as stalls and dexterities. A stall is when a player catches the footbag on any part of their foot or leg and holds it, as opposed to kicking it right back up. With a stall, the player’s foot usually drops down with the bag, as opposed to swinging up to reflect the bag. Dexterity is when the player’s foot, leg, or head circles the footbag. This can be completed with either a stall or a kick.

Footbag Net:
This discipline involves kicking a footbag back and forth over a net, similar to volleyball, but with ones feet. The net is 5 feet tall, which allows for aerial spikes and such. The footbag used is completely filled with plastic beads (for maximum reflectivity) and is made of tough synthetic suede. Footbag Net can be played one on one, or in teams of two.

Footbag Foursquare:
Four players at a time compete to gain the server position, and thus accumulate points. The goal is to kick the footbag into someone else’s square, and not have it fall to the ground in your own square. Players are counted out if the footbag does land on the ground in their own square. For a more detailed breakdown, click this link here;

How organized is the sport of footbag?

Footbag has long had a strong organizational level. More recently the International Footbag Player’s Association (IFPA) was formed to further promote the sport. Here is a description from footbag.org;
IFPA (International Footbag Players’ Association, Inc.) is a volunteer-run, charitable non-profit corporation, dedicated to the growth of footbag play world-wide as lifetime recreation and as an amateur, competitive sport. IFPA is a U.S. 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit corporation.

To learn more about the IFPA, check out http://www.footbag.org/ifpa/

Also, a great source of information is the non profit international footbag site, www.footbag.org

What is Freestyle Footbag?

Freestyle Footbag is an evolved form of the kicking sport of footbag. It has become a highly technical and creative practice, where tricks can be strung together to form combinations. Each move a player executes has a point value, and each move can be fit into a combination many different moves. Each trick also has its own name, such as; Eggbeater, Mobius, Blur, and Whirl. There are literarily thousands of moves, and thus an almost infinite amount of possible combinations available for execution. Again, much of what a freestyler utilizes are stalls (delays on the foot), or dexterities (circling the bag with the foot, leg, or head). The points assigned to a trick are also called Adds, which stands for Additional Degree of Difficulty. Basically, the more complicated a move, the higher the Add value.

Are there competitions?

There are many competitions around the world annually, the largest of which is the World Footbag Championships, held usually in a different location annually (examples include Prague, Montreal, Frankfurt, Portland OR.). There are also large regional events such as the annual US Open Footbag Championships (usually held in Portland OR.), and the European Footbag Champions (moves around Europe). There are also many other footbag competitions and festivals which run throughout the year.

For all events around the world, you can go to the events page at footbag.org by clicking here, http://www.footbag.org/events2/list

Where do I find people who play?

The best way to find people to kick with is first to check the clubs page at footbag.org, you can click here http://www.footbag.org/clubs/index

We recommend you become a member of footbag.org; this will help you find other footbag players and gain valuable knowledge on the sport.

If you have not found anyone in your area that already kicks, the best things we recommend is set up a club yourself, and work to bring other people into the game. Remember, if you cannot find other players to kick with, you can create them! Getting your friends interested and kicking is a good start!

How do I learn to get better?

Regular practice is always a good way to go if you want to get better. Working on your fundamental kicks (inside kicks, outside kicks, toe kicks, knee kicks) is very important. Once you are decent control over this, you can choose to move on to trick such as stalling and dexing moves. For this, learning the technical breakdown of the Add System can greatly help you get better. The Add System (Additional Degree of Difficulty) basically is a point system for all of the moves in Freestyle Footbag. Equate Adds with points essentially. Just kicking is 0 adds, but if you do a toe stall, it is one add. If you circle the bag with your foot and catch it with a toe stall, this is two adds. A single move is consists of doing any motion (a dexterity or spin) and a re-contact with the bag to the footbag either by a stall or kick. Technical players can string together a combination of moves, referred to as (you guessed it) a combo. This is a very simple breakdown of the system, you can learn more about it here http://www.footbag.org/freestyle/

We also recommend checking out video, there is a lot of great stuff out there! We offer instructional videos for many of the moves in Freestyle Footbag. You can search ‘footbag tricks’ on youtube, or go to http://www.footbag.org/gallery/video/instruction

Is there a world champion for footbag?

Yup! Once a year, at the World Footbag Championships, a single player in their discipline is crowned the World Champion. The current World Champion is Jan Weber of the Czech Republic (2011-2012). Previous champions include Kenny Shults, Peter Irish, Ryan Mulroney, Damian Gielnicki, and seven times World Champion, Vasek Klouda.

There are also regional champions, such as the US Champion, and the European Champion. Some of the regional events are held before Worlds so the champions for those events can be ranked and titled before they attend the World Footbag Championships. Previous US Champions for freestyle include Scott Bevier, Jim Penske and David Clavens. The current European Champion is again Vasek Klouda.

Are there actual professional footbag players?

Yes, but very few who make a full living on the sport. There are many professional level players, but aside from playing at a professional level they are usually vested in other things such as school or an unrelated career. Some top players are sponsored enough to make their way as only being footbag players however. This involves endorsements from various companies, winning prize money competitions, and touring and performing shows.