By Joel Smart (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: June 5, 2013

Ever stood in a circle with some friends and tried to keep a small object in the air with only your feet? Some people do it with a soccer ball, others with a shuttlecock usually called a jianzi; some do it with a sepak takraw ball made out of woven rattan. When I was growing up, however, the most popular version I played was with a small, round, crocheted bag filled with tiny plastic pellets – a footbag.

As a self-professed lover of footbag—Hacky Sack is the trademarked name—I was quick to partner up with a friend to start a local organization of footbag enthusiasts. This group, Fraser Valley Footbag, meets during the summer months to play games, usually at Mill Lake or Jubilee Park (especially during the awesome, free concert-and-culture series Jam in Jubilee). Fraser Valley Footbag is open to the community, but it’s also a UFV club. As such, we also meet on campus to play sometimes – usually on the green.

The group came about partly because the popularity of the game had taken a dive in recent years. Footbag seems to be one of those games that takes off as a fad every couple years, and then falls off leaving only a few, dedicated individuals to play mostly on their own.

As our group developed we gained members who knew about more variations of footbag than simply standing in a circle. Footbag includes three major sports, and each are very different.

The first is footbag freestyle, an extremely creative art form similar to dance. Those who play freestyle (or compete in freestyle competitions) often perform choreographed routines in sync with music of their choosing. At competitions, judges will assess the performance in accordance to how difficult it was, how skilfully it was executed, as well as the style exhibited. It tends to be played with a looser footbag, sometimes filled with sand to allow easier stalls and tricks.

The second footbag sport is called footbag net. It’s played on a doubles badminton court with either one or two people to a side. Like volleyball, you’re allowed multiple hits before returning it over the net – two in singles play, or three in doubles. Unlike volleyball, however, arms and hands are strictly off limits. It tends to be played with a harder footbag than those usually used for freestyle.

There is also a sport called footbag golf, which shares a lot in common with disc (Frisbee) golf. In this variant, each player has their own footbag which they take turns kicking towards “holes” that are set up along a given path. Regulation golf holes are 18 inches in diameter and sit 18 inches above the ground. For most people, a small basket or bin is more than adequate. Players are also allowed to bring several footbags of different hardnesses – harder footbags for distance and a very soft one used as a putter.

A fourth footbag game, which doesn’t have any professional regulations, is called footbag foursquare. This game takes place on a foursquare court, or any similar surface that can be  divided into four squares. Here players simply use only their feet to try to keep the footbag from landing in their square.

Fraser Valley Footbag does occasionally play these more sophisticated games, and beginners are always welcome. We also enjoy teaching newcomers how to “stall” a footbag, and appreciate the presence of players of all skill levels. To find out more check out Fraser Valley Footbag on Facebook.