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How to Play Hacky Sack

Updated on September 30, 2012

The ball is called a "hack," a footbag, a sack, a bag, or a hacky sack. Never call it a ball unless you want to look like a dweeb.

Like many great games throughout history that have captured the hobby time of countless lives, hacky sack, or sometimes called hackey sack or footbag, is incredibly simple. The goal is to keep the hacky sack in the air as long as possible without the use of your arms. That's it! As you can imagine, this leaves a lot of room for innovation, and that's all part of the fun. This hub will cover individual hacky sack games and "circle hack".

Footbag

Pros

  • Extremely soft and less densely filled
  • Incredibly easy to stall
  • Smaller, easier to carry in pockets

Cons

  • Much harder to chain basic hits together
  • Smaller target to hit and see

Hacky sack

Pros

  • More densely filled, easier to do basic hits with
  • Bigger, easier to see and hit
  • Harder to break or bust

Cons

  • Takes much more practice to efficiently stall
  • Harder to maneuver

The best starting bag for beginners: hacky sack or footbag?

Actually, the sport is called footbag, and hacky sack is just the trademarked term invented by John Stalberger and Mike Marshall in 1972 in Eugene, Oregon and then sold to Wham-O. The brand name soon became synonymous with the sport. The two sacks or bags however are very different. Which one is "better" will depend on your play style. Once you get more comfortable playing, your unique style will show. I came from a soccer background and have a lot more fun doing as many hits as I can in a given time frame. My friend is the opposite and happens to be a huge weirdo; he pulls off crazy stalls on the oddest parts of his body. (More on what stalls are later).

Both sides, whether you pick hacky sack or footbag, can be pretty stubborn about what they play with. Usually, it's what you learn with that determines what side you're on. Going from one to the other greatly affects your game. Going from a hacky sack to a footbag feels like playing basketball with a deflated basketball. Going from footbag to hackey sack feels like stalls are impossible and like you might as well play with a tennis ball. In the end, try to give both a chance and see which one you like better! Also, if you've seen players with a style that you want to emulate, look to the pros and cons on the right to determine the fit for you.


Filling and making your own hacky sack

The bags are filled with all sorts of stuff! Footbags are generally filled with fine sand while hacky sacks are can be filled with plastic beads or metal shillings. With a sandbag, you really don't want to get it wet as the sand will clump into mud and be difficult to play with. This is a reason why hacky sacks with plastic or metal filling can be better for rainier climates. When making your own hacky sack, fill it with whatever you like! Just try try to keep it consistent and don't mix and match material or it will get lumpy. You can use plastic beads, dirt, and some people have used coffee beans! Be careful about food though, you wouldn't want to play hacky sack with a worm filled bag...or would you?

Of course, this video shows how to make a pretty decent footbag, but just to make something playable isn't hard at all. Get the tips of a pair of socks and fill one with uncooked beans, then staple, sew, or rubberband it shut. Now, put the other tip of the sock over that bag so that the opening is opposite the bag's opening. Close it shut, and you have a make shift bag to play with until you get a real one!

A perfectly timed picture of a sack.
A perfectly timed picture of a sack. | Source

The basic hits and moves

It can be difficult to name hits and moves in such an inventive game. The Internet and organizations like footbag.org are helping to solidify and attribute names to moves and identify "basic" moves, but if you invent a move, name it! The four basic hits are:

  1. The toe hit: when the sack is hit off of the top of your foot, either on your toes or your metatarsals.
  2. The instep: when the hack is hit off of the "inside" of your foot. Similar to properly passing a soccer ball, the inside hit follows the line from your big toe to your heel and can include the inner ankle.
  3. The out step: also known as the outside hit, the side hit, etc. This is hit off the line made by your pinkie toe to your heel, including the outer ankle.
  4. The knee hit: when any part of your thigh/knee is raised to hit the hacky sack.

Along with the basic hits, remember that you can use any part of your body aside from your arms, this includes your chest, head, and shoulders. Some players prefer to use only the feet, but this can cramp play styles. The other important dynamic of the game is stalls. A stall is any time the hack comes to a complete stop on your body. I also go more in depth with this in another hub, How to Do Foot Stalls in Hacky Sack.

Personally, I differentiate two different kinds of stalls. There are the regular stalls which involve bringing the hack to a stop by slowing down along with it, and there's the "pinch" stall. I define a pinch stall as when a hack is brought to a stop while "pinched" between two body parts, e.g. when a hack is nestled between the neck and shoulder. A good example of this is shown in the video to the right. It's very subtle and hard to notice if you're not experienced. At about 1 minute 30 seconds into the video, Felix Zenger pinch stalls the hack behind his knee using his calf and hamstring. Then he raises his leg to release the hack, dropping it on the foot of the same leg. Don't expect to get that on your first try! Or anything else he does.

I can also fan out my toes to help support the hack from rolling off my toes. Wear whatever is most comfortable and fun!
I can also fan out my toes to help support the hack from rolling off my toes. Wear whatever is most comfortable and fun! | Source

I cover a specific lacing method to tie your shoes in for maximum flat surface on a shoe and other tips for beginners in my hub, Tips for a Hacky Sack Beginner.

Shoes and clothes for hacky sack

This question does come up quite a bit. As for clothes, the answer is straight forward. Of course you should play in what you feel comfortable in but make sure that you can maintain your flexibility and mobility. Most expert players typically wear shorts and tighter clothes. The reason being that the hack is less likely to be hit off its course by loose pants or shorts.

As for shoes, you would want to choose something that is flat for all the basic hits and stalls. This means a wide toe spread, flat instep and out step. I usually stuck with Vans throughout high school. Many expert players like tennis shoes, but the "official" shoe of the International Footbag Players Association is the Adidas Rod Laver.

My personal opinion is don't worry about it. Unless you've already logged about 5,000 hours of play or just really want to start off by buying the best shoes available, play with whatever you have on. Learning to play in any shoe will have transferable skills. I had a friend who played in steel-toed combat boots and did it very well, and another who played in sandals or bare foot. Now, I just play with my toe shoes. Every foot and shoe is particularly shaped and the more you play on it, the more used to it you will get.

Nick Landes performs a choreographed routine.

Shredding: a series of tricks done one after another in a short amount of time.

When everyone in the circle hits the sack, it's known as a "hack". When everyone hits it twice, it's two hacks. This is a common goal while playing.

Don't forget to check out my hub Tips for a Hacky Sack Beginner for general circle hack etiquette!

Individual play and circle hack

There are quite a few games for individual play but far more for circle hack. Individual play is mainly keeping the ball up as long as you can and shredding. For competitions, this can also be a series of choreographed tricks and movements done to music as seen in the video above. Circle hack is the same with more people! A circle hack is two or more people. (The largest yet being 946!) All you have to do is stand in a circle, and now when you mess up and kick the ball in a random direction, it will sometimes look like you meant to pass the hack on purpose!

Circles come in all types!
Circles come in all types! | Source

Definitely not a "boys only" sport!

Be inventive!

There's no limit to the amount of games you can play. Create new moves and name them, but if you want to see what's out there, search. Don't let not having a hack stop you! Many Asian countries play with coins. When pressed, I don't hesitate to use coins, bottle caps, soft balls, and some friends have thrown in their old cell phones. There are many games out there both simple and complex. Below is just one that uses a five foot high fence with similar rules to volleyball and tennis.

Which do you prefer?

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    • annerivendell profile image

      annerivendell 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      How did I miss this game? I know I don't live in the US, but some would say that Ireland is closer in culture to the US than to our nearest neighbour, the UK. Never heard of Footbag or Hacky Sack. Looks like fun. Hub voted up