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A footbag is both a small, round bag, and the term for the various sports played with one – characterized by controlling the bag by using one's feet. Although often referred to generically as a Hacky Sack, that is the trademarked name of one specific brand.
Footbag-like activities have existed for many years. There are documented examples like Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan practice and policemen are seen playing it using a shuttlecock in the 1955 movie To Catch a Thief, but the current Western incarnation of the sport was invented in 1972 by Mike Marshall and John Stalberger of Oregon City, Oregon with the Hacky Sack, the rights to which are now owned by Wham-O.
For circle kicking, it is very common to use a crocheted footbag, which is usually filled with plastic beads. Casually, footbags are often differentiated as normal (indicating a plastic-pellet filling), or as "dirt bags" or "sand hacks" (indicating a sand filling). Sand hacks are typically considered ideal among casual, beginning, or intermediate players, who use them as a learning tool, as they are easier to control and stall than a crocheted bag filled with plastic pellets.
In the freestyle footbag discipline, a 32 panel bag is the generally accepted standard (the number of panels on commercially available bags can range from 2 to 120 panels). Stitchers generally use Plastic Poly Pellets, sand, BB's, steel shot, lead shot, seed bead, or tungsten shot as filler. Most professional stitchers use a custom combination of different fillers to make the bag play better. Bags usually weigh between 40 and 65 grams, depending on the type of filler and amount of filler used. 32 panel bags do not stall as easily as a "dirt bag" or "sand hack," but set truer from the foot, allowing for more complex tricks. Professional footbags are usually made out of the fabrics ultrasuede light, facile, or amaretta. While these bags can last a long time with proper care, they are quite fragile relative to their more common crocheted cousins.
The footbag net discipline uses a distinct bag, characterized by a harder outer surface than other footbags. These bags are not suitable for freestyle, and vice versa.
There are also several novelty products available, including glow in the dark, chain mail, and even flame retardant bags that can be set on fire and played with. The fire footbag has been banned in South Australia.
Several shoe modifications are common in freestyle footbag.
In order to make toe stalling easier, many players use special lacing patterns that pull apart the sides of the shoe near the toe area, creating a broad, rimmed platform. Modified lacing is augmented by cutting away the stitching that joins the row of eyelets to the toe. The area that is created by completing these modifications is called a toe box.
Shoes can be further modified for freestyle footbag by removing layers of fabric from the inside, outside, and toe surfaces. These modifications are advantageous because they allow players to more accurately feel the bag on their foot.
Freestyle footbag is a sport in which the object is to perform tricks with the bag. The ending position of the footbag on one trick becomes the starting position of the footbag on the next trick. Tricks are created by combining different components between contacts with the bag (contacts can be either stalls or kicks, though stalls are more frequent). Components include spins, dexterities (using a leg to circle or cross the footbag's path in mid-air), jumps, and ducks (letting the footbag pass a few inches above the neck). Contacts are usually on the inside of the foot behind the opposite support leg (Clipper Stall) or on the toe, however many inventive possibilities remain and are used to create an endless list of tricks. A partial list of freestyle footbag tricks can be found at the official Footbag WorldWide Information Service.
Various styles have developed as the sport has become more popular. Players can choreograph routines to music, alone or in pairs, executing difficult moves in sync with the music—the result is something like a cross between rhythmic gymnastics and figure skating.
In footbag net, players (either playing individually or with a partner) volley a footbag back and forth over a five-foot-high net. This game combines elements of tennis, badminton, and volleyball. The court dimensions and layout are similar to those of badminton; the scoring is similar to the old scoring system in volleyball (a player must be serving to score); and serves must be diagonal, as in tennis. Footbag net games can be played to 11 or 15 points, although the winners must win by at least two points. Rallies in footbag net look a lot like volleyball (e.g., bump, set, and spike), with players spiking from an inverted position in mid-air (over the net) and opponents often digging very fast spikes into bumps or sets. Play in footbag net is very similar to Sepak Takraw. However, in footbag net, it is an "upper-body foul" if the footbag touches any part of a player's body above the shin.
Circle kicking is the most common game played with a footbag, and is often what people mean when they use the term "hacky sack". Players stand in a circle and keep the bag moving around the circle, with the goal of keeping the bag from touching the ground. There are a variety of terms used by different groups of players to note when the footbag has been touched by every member of the circle.
Circle kick is generally accompanied by an unwritten set of etiquette guidelines designed to keep the game fun, friendly, and open to everyone including new players. The most basic rule is to respect all other players. Some other general guidelines include picking up the footbag after you drop it or kick it away, rather than having someone else retrieve it; not serving the footbag to yourself; not spitting in the circle; and not hogging the footbag (often called jestering, or the player may be called a hack-hog) and making sure to pass the bag to players who have not gotten it recently. Most circles are very open to new players and will not ostracize anyone for being less coordinated or well practiced than the rest. Some circles have an unwritten rule that there is no apologizing when a person drops the footbag. This guideline is designed to keep the new players from feeling as if it is their fault that the game is slow, and it keeps the experienced players from having to constantly reassure the new players that it is not their fault. Variations on circle kicking are numerous and spontaneously created.
Basse is an old Norwegian foot bag game reminiscent of bag ball, where a player defends their circle. Usually there are five to six players - where everyone plays against everyone. The aim of the game is for a player to defend their own field while attempting to land the Basse inside the field of an opponent. There are World Cup rules, Series Games and Cup Games.
Buce is a game in which players in a team must juggle the footbag across a field to the opponent's half and score a goal, by kicking the footbag into a small, cylindrical container, usually a bin or pot plant. The sport was invented in Australia in 2007 and is played there with two annual national competitions.
Footbag Golf is a game in which a player must kick the bag towards a designated target (18 inches in diameter and 18 inches off the ground) while navigating the course. A course is usually made up of 9 or 18 holes, and the distance between the tee and target varies from hole to hole. The game can include any number of players. A player begins a hole by teeing off from a six foot by six foot box by tossing the bag in the air and kicking it with the intention of getting the footbag as close to the target as possible. Where the footbag lands and comes to a complete stop is called the lie. After all players have teed off, the player furthest from the target marks the lie and tosses the bag for another kick. All kicks must be made behind the lie and a player cannot move past the lie until the kick is completed. Once all the players have successfully kicked their bags into the target, they may move on to the next hole.
Horse is a game that can be played with any number of players and is a great way to improve one's freestyle. One of the players performs any freestyle move he/she chooses, then passes it on to the next player who then attempts to perform the same move. If he/she performs the move correctly then that player performs a different move of their choice, and then passes it on. If he/she fails to do the move then they get a letter "H" (if they miss again on the next round they get an "O") and passes it on to the next player who chooses a new trick. Once a player spells the word "Horse" they are out.
Kick Back is a game at which a player can kick the footbag against the backstop of a handball court, alone or with others. It needs a very firm footbag to bounce back. A simple score can be kept or not.
Knockout is a game that can be played with any number of players, in which players are eliminated by failure to hit the hack. The hack is passed around randomly to any player, and the goal is to keep it going indefinitely; if the hack lands on the ground near another player who could have hit it (within 2 feet of him/her), that player is eliminated for the failure. If the hack lands drastically out of range of any player, then the player who kicked it out of bounds is eliminated. Some groups can apply a more strict rule where, when the hack drops, any player who lifts their foot off the ground in an attempt to kick it is eliminated.
Number Catch is a game where any number of players (best played with 3 or 4) have to alternate turns hitting the footbag as many times as possible and must catch it for the points to count if the bag is dropped the player must subtract the points from his/her score. This game may be played to a certain score or a certain time to get as many points as possible.
Numbers is a game in which players form a circle and the person who starts kicks the hack once. Then the second person kicks it twice and so on and so forth. If the hack touches the ground before the player achieves his/her number the player gets one chance to start where he/she left off. If the player does not achieve their number they pass the footbag on to the next player, and if they achieve that number the previous player is out.
Shark is a game where two or more players can play. The goal is to hit the sack a previously set amount of times before a player catches it and says: "shark." When the person says "shark" the other players must stay where they are, and the "shark" has the ability to throw it at any player. If a player is hit, the player is out or has a point that goes against his/her score. Last player standing wins. When a player says "shark," the others players can move only one foot once to reposition themself. It is common to use that one move to dodge the sack.
War is a game for any number of players. The footbag is served and after a predetermined amount (usually 3) of kicks (whether by one person, or collectively as a group) everyone tries to catch it. The person who catches the footbag throws it at one of the other players who try to either dodge or catch it. If the footbag hits someone they are out, but if they catch it the person who threw it is out. The game can be played with any number of outs. Also known by the names "Pelt", "Three Balls of Fire", "Three Hit Kill", "Three Hack Wack", "Red Dot", and "God".
The Guinness Book of World Records has recognized footbag consecutives world records since the 1980s. There are several categories of records, all variants of the "consecutives" discipline. The current records are listed below.
There is also an unofficial records list for consecutive individual freestyle moves.