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History of Footbag

Mike Marshall

Footbag as we know it today is a young sport. Its roots can be traced to the year 1972, when Mike Marshall and John Stalberger from Oregon City in Oregon invented a kicking game using a homemade beanbag. Mike was using it to improve the flexibility of his previously injured knee. Since John had a background in football , baseball, and physical therapy, he decided to improve on the design and created a new type of kicking object. The very first Footbag was made from 2 pieces of fabric, similar to a baseball, and filled with plastic pellets that allowed for better control of the kicking trajectory. John soon began to figure out the best ways to kick the bag for this new game. Mike and John decided to try and bring the idea to the bigger audience, and so they named the game “Hacky Sack” and that very moment history of footbag was born.

The foundation for the sport was quickly created. Emphasis was put on proper kicking technique and equal training of both sides of the body was advised. Players also used their upper body and arms to keep their balance. The game was promoted at festivals and workshops and soon began to gain more and more popularity. One of it’s main appeals was the fact that it could be played by people of almost any age, and used both as a warming up technique, and as a fun, active and social pastime. With time, the players become more and more skilled, and soon began to compete against each other in different ways (consecutive kicking being one of the most popular).

John Stalberger

Mike Marshall died tragically in 1975 at the age of 28 from a heart attack. John decided to continue the promotion of the brand, and started a Footbag manufacturing company under the name of “The National Hacky Sack Company”. It was the first company in the world to start organizing workshops and teaching the footbag concept in Oregon schools. The next big step was the formation of “The National Hacky Sack Association” (the NHSA) which was led by John Stalberger and Ted Huff. It was the first official governing body for the sport of Footbag. The NHSA was responsible for sanctioning and sponsoring different tournaments in the U.S., one of them being the “Footbag Nationals” which later on evolved to become World Footbag Championships, an annualy running event that has awarded the title of World Footbag Champion since 1980.

The NHSA ceased to exist in 1984, and was replaced by the World Footbag Association (WFA). Its founders were Bruce Guettich and Greg Cortopassi. The organization quickly grew into a touring team and a footbag products company. It also published a footbag magazine showcasing the current events inside the scene. In recognition of a need to further regulate the sport, the WFA formed the International Footbag Advisory Board (IFAB) to oversee the official Rules of Footbag Sports. This allowed the sport to become more consistent, and laid the foundations for further growth.

The next big event in the history of the sport was the creation of The World-Wide Footbag Foundation, Inc., which was incorporated as a California non-profit corporation in 1994 by Steve Goldberg, Julie Symons, Brent Welch, and David Butcher. That very same year, WWFF took the responsibility of hosting of the World Footbag Championships in San Francisco and Menlo Park, California. This marked a time of dynamic growth in the number of players around the U.S. In the following years, the World Footbag Championships began moving to a different cities, as since the creation of WWFF sanctioning process it was possible to decide which city would host the tournament using specified criteria. In 1994, thanks to the leader of the project, Steve Goldberg, the WWFF created and set up online the Footbag WorldWide Information Service. It became a platform for the exchange of information and media and allowed the sport to grow internationally.

The WWFF changed its name to the International Footbag Players’ Association, Inc. (IFPA) in the year 2000. The IFAB, which until that time had been the governing body responsible for the rules of the sport, reincorporated as a part of the IFPA and changed its name to the International Footbag Committee (IFC). The IFC has been the driving factor in the consolidation and improvement of the Official Rules of Footbag Sports, which can be found here.

The competition itself has evolved through the years. In the early years, it consisted mostly of Consecutive Kicks records attempts (both solo and doubles). Soon, more events began to emerge in the form of Footbag Net, a direct competition over the net with impressive aerial spikes, and Footbag Freestyle, a timed performance with emphasis on creative ways of controlling the bag without letting it drop. Those two branches proved to be the most popular, and to this day are the Footbag Disciplines most often represented at tournaments.

History of footbag is a history of a game invented by two passionate individuals, that has evolved into a international sport enjoyed by thousands of players. From this perspective, it can be said with certainty that the dream of Mike Marshall and John Stalberger became real.

Hanna Mickiewicz performing a freestyle move
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How to take care of your footbag

Before you start using your brand new footbag, there’s a couple of things you should know. Since footbags are made to be kicked, they are quite durable, and if you don’t abuse them, they will serve you for a long time. Still, if you don’t know how to take care of them properly, their lifespan will be much shorter and their condition will detoriate more quickly.

The first thing you should remember, is that while kicking your footbag is what it was made for, excessive force might prove to be too much for it. It is perfectly fine to kick the bag high in the air with a flashy jumping trick, but don’t go overboard. If you are thinking about having a contest with your friends about who can kick your bag the hardest into a nearby spot on the wall, I would ask you to use your soccer ball instead.

Second important thing, that a lot of players forget about, is that professional footbags really don’t like being scraped against hard surfaces. It wears down the fabric and will cause holes to appear over time. Not to mention the panels will start looking rough and jagged, instead of nice and smooth. This means that you should avoid picking up the bag from the ground using your feet only. You can see it often in hacky sack circles – someone will drop the bag, and instead of picking it up with his hand, he will scrape it with his shoe against the other shoe to put it on the toe area. This can quickly ruin your footbag, so please make sure to avoid it.

You wouldn’t want to be in that footbag’s place, right?

If, by any chance, your footbag gets wet (for example by landing in a puddle), the best course of action is to let it dry first before attempting to kick it again. While water will not damage the fabric, it is important to know, that wet seams will become softer, and more prone to stretching. If you don’t want to turn your footbag into an eggbag, make sure to avoid kicking it when it’s wet. Another piece of advice that will let you avoid stretching your bag is to make sure you don’t store it in a tight place, where it will stay squished for a long periods of time. Your footbag likes to be free, so when it’s not in your pocket just let it rest on a desk, or another flat surface.

How to wash your footbag

What to do when your footbag becomes dirty? Well it’s not really something you can avoid, but the solution is easy. You simply need to wash it. The recommended way to do it is to use cold water to preserve colors, and clean the bag with regular hand soap. First, rinse your bag in the water, then apply a moderate amount of soap and start gently rolling the bag between your hands.

Rinse your footbag in cold water

It’s important that you don’t scrub against the fabric. Simply roll the bag and squeeze it (don’t use a lot of force) until you manage to work the soap into the bag. After a few moments of washing your footbag, rinse it again. Make sure that when you squeeze the water out, it is able to flow through the seams, and not through the fabric. This way you won’t damage the panels. Repeat the process until the water that comes from the footbag is clean.

Rinse your footbag carefully.

Now your footbag looks like it’s brand new! After you are done, make sure you don’t put your footbag directly on any sort of hot surfaces (like radiators). First dry it off with a towel (without using too much force or rubbing against the fabric). Then let it dry in room temperature, and if you want to speed up the process, gently massage it in your hands from time to time.

Use a towel to dry off your footbag.

How often should you wash your footbag? It depends on how often you play with it. If you kick every day, washing it once a week should be enough. But if you notice that your bag has accumulated a lot of dust and grit, don’t hesitate to do it right away.

Looks brand new!

If you use the advice provided above, your Haniabag will remain in a great condition for a long time. Thanks for reading, and have a lot of fun kicking!

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Which footbag should I buy?

Not sure which footbag you should choose to best fit your needs? Fear not, I’m here to help! But first let me ask you a few questions:

Are you a new player, and your footbag journey has only just begun? If the answer to that question is “Yes”, then I recommend to you my handmade 8 and 14 panel footbags. If you are mostly interested in learning different tricks, and prefer to stall the bag on your foot, the 8 panel footbag will be the best choice. Bigger panels allow for easier catching of the footbag, allowing you to master your first freestyle tricks very quickly. If you kick a lot in a circle with your friends, the 14 panel footbag will be better for you. It is slightly less floppy and easier to control while kicking.

If you are an advanced player, and are looking for the best professional equipment available, look no further. The Haniabag 32 panel footbag has been used by multiple Footbag Freestyle Champions and is considered to be one of the best footbags in the world. For your first bag I recommend you the regular size. You can also try the mini size, if you want your freestyle to be fast and precise.

If you are looking for something unusual, you might be interested in a spike footbag. It is easy to see and stall because of the soft spikes – great way to impress your friends! There’s also an XL sized footbag, that can be used for demos and presentations. It is much easier to follow then the smaller bags, and will make your audience appreciate your skill even more.

Last, but not least, there are the custom footbags. If you are looking for a unique gift for someone close to you, that plays or used to play hacky sack or footbag, a customized footbag is a perfect idea. I can make it looks like a character from a favourite movie or cartoon, just contact me and we will decide on something amazing.

As always, remember that with each bag you can choose your own colors! I hope that I helped you to make a choice – feel free to browse my footbag store!