Evidence of games similar to footbag can be found throughout history in many different countries and cultures. Its roots can be traced back to games such Kemari (from Japan), Sepak Takraw (Malaysia) and Tsu Chu (China). These games often use their own individual sets of rules and a larger ball, but the basic premise of keeping a round object up in the air using all parts of the body except the arms and hands remains the same.
The modern game of footbag was invented in 1972 in Oregon, USA by two men named John Stalberger and Mike Marshall. They gave their first footbags the trademarked name of ‘hacky sack’ and proceeded to try (successfully) to spread their new sport across the United States and eventually the world. Although the name was sold to the Wham-O corporation in 1983, today the game of footbag is still known to many people as ‘hacky sack’ or ‘hack’.
Footbag in 2007 remains true to its roots. The majority of players value sporting behaviour and there is a great sense of group participation at all levels of the sport. It is a way to meet new people as well as keeping fit and improving co-ordination and flexibility.
Official global footbag competition is monitored and supported by the International Footbag Players’ Association (IFPA). The IFPA is a non-profit organisation which sponsor 20-30 competitions around the world every year and publishes the ‘Official Rules of Footbag Sports’ where you can find full rules for various forms of the game.
Popular forms of footbag:
As the name suggests, this game is played by teams of either one or two on a court divided equally in half by a net five feet above the ground. The court dimensions are officially set at 20 feet wide and 44 feet long with the court being split into four equal portions by the net and a centre line running at right angles to it.
Games are played to either 11 or 15 points, with the winning team required to be two points ahead to complete their victory. Players serve cross court from behind the service line and a point is won on serve if the opposing team fails to return the footbag within the allowed number of touches (two for singles, three for doubles).
Fouls are caused by a player touching the footbag more than once (singles) or twice (doubles) in a row, touching the net during play, stalling the footbag on purpose or impacting a player from the opposing team on their side of the court.
Moves often include a similar sequence to that found in volleyball, with a bump, set and spike used to return the footbag to the opposing side of the net. The spike is often a highly impressive move performed with the kicking player’s foot stretched above the net.
Special footbags are often used for footbag net which are harder and more durable than standard freestyle footbags.
A full list of the official International Footbag Players’ Association rules for footbag net can be found at: http://www.footbag.org/rules/chapter/300
This type of competition sees each player performing a routine of choreographed tricks, sometimes to music. They are scored by presentation, difficulty, variety, and execution.
The top players in the world can perform truly amazing sequences of advanced tricks. The winning routine from the 2006 World Footbag Championships performed by Vasek Klouda can be watched here: http://www.footbag.org/gallery/show/10103
In a typical competition the judges will be the competitors themselves due to the high level of expertise required to evaluate certain tricks. This means that players must adhere to the values inherent within footbag from the street upwards, and be fair in their judgement and scoring.
A full list of the official International Footbag Players’ Association rules for footbag freestyle can be found at: http://www.footbag.org/rules/chapter/500
The most common form of footbag. Players stand in a circle and pass the footbag from person to person, trying to ensure that it doesn’t hit the floor whilst performing tricks when it is their turn to kick the bag. This is not an officially recognised competition form of footbag but is practised by almost all footbag players, whether world champions or complete beginners.
There are a loose set of rules which consist of: always serving to someone else in the circle, not apologising for dropping the footbag and never using the arms or hands (unless serving).
A more detailed look at street footbag along with a selection of basic moves can be found at: www.kemariworld.com/content/tricks