Footbag Reference: Footbag Overview

Footbag Reference

Footbag Overview

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Footbag is a growing sport, originating in North America, though the sport is now played all over the world. Frequently referred to as "Hacky Sack®" (a product manufactured by Wham-O, Inc.), footbag has existed as a competitive sport in several forms since 1972. There are a substantial number of footbag tournaments and festivals each year.

Competitive footbag is governed by the International Footbag Committee (IFC), which publishes the official Rules of Footbag Sports.

The most popular competitive footbag sports are Footbag Net and Freestyle.

Footbag Net

Footbag Net is a singles or doubles court game, like tennis or volleyball, where players use only their feet to kick the footbag over a five-foot-high net. The rules for doubles net are a lot like volleyball: players are allowed three kicks per side, and must alternate kicks. In singles, however, players are only allowed two kicks per side.

Kenny Shults (left) goes up against Chris (Crass) Eddicott at the '96 U.S. Open Championships. Photo by Mike Grueter..

The footbag (which is usually a 32-panel vinyl and/or leather ball) may not contact a player's body except below the knee.

Footbag Net combines the court strategy of tennis with the set-and-spike strategy of volleyball. Players frequently spike the footbag over the net, using either the sole of the foot, a sweeping inside kick, or an outside push. Even more remarkable than the spikes are the "digs" players use to defend against the spikes. Players also block spikes in the air with amazing foot-to-foot battles over the net.

The playing court is 20' x 44', divided into 4 equal serving quadrants, similar to a badminton court. Serves are cross-court, similar to tennis. Scoring is similar to volleyball; you must be serving to score. Some competitions use a pool format, where the competitors are divided into pools of four or five teams. Each pool plays "round-robin", with the top two teams from each pool advancing to a single-elimination play-off. Games can be played to 11 or 15 points, where players must win by 2 points. Matches are usually best 2 out of 3. Most competitions use a double-elimination format, where players advance through the winner's or loser's bracket to quarter- and semi-finals before the final match.

Ken Shults (left) prepares his famous reverse-sole against a waiting Alf Marcussen. Photo by John Caveney.

Footbag Freestyle

Footbag Freestyle is the artistic form of the sport. It can be a flurry of difficult moves the eye can hardly follow, or it can be smooth and flowing, as if in slow motion. This variety makes freestyle competitions very difficult to judge. To simplify the task, competitors are judged along four dimensions: choreography, difficulty, variety, and execution.

Players choreograph routines to music, and are judged on how well their style of play matches their choice of music. They are also judged on their originality and creativity.

Each move or trick has a determinable difficulty rating. The average difficulty of each move and the total difficulty of all the moves in the routine are added to determine a player's difficulty rating. Difficulty is measured in "adds", which represent additional levels of difficulty beyond the basic moves. (A toe delay is one "add.")

For variety, players must perform moves that contain elements from five general categories: (1) leg dexterity (circling the bag with the foot), (2) delays (catching the footbag), (3) spins, fliers, and blind moves, (4) unusual surfaces (i.e., sole, shin, or head), and (5) cross-body moves (made by crossing the foot to the other side of the body).

Execution is judged by smoothness, confidence, and, most of all, the ability of the player to keep the footbag off the ground.

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