This high-octane sport, hilariously spoofed in Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, has actually kept participants in great shape for many centuries. Versions of the activity have been traced to ancient China and Thailand. Even North American indigenous people practiced a version of footbagging.
But the activity we recognize today is still in its infancy, really. The sport’s other name, Hacky Sack, is derived from Hackin’ the Sack, the invention of two Oregon City, Oregon, fellows, the late Mike Marshall and John Stalberger. The latter came up with the idea of using a beanbag to exercise his knees while recovering from surgery.
Today, the sport is endlessly evolving and is more widely known as footbag. One version features a single footbagger performing tricks in a small circle. In a team version that resembles volleyball, players rocket the sack back and forth over a net five feet high.
Regardless of the variation played, the workout is intense. Players are constantly on the move. Quickness, dexterity, explosiveness, and balance are crucial to successful play. The exercise engages your core, neck, shoulders, arms, and—of course—your feet and legs. Footbagging solo for 20 minutes can be more strenuous than a five-mile run. It takes effort and skill to control the bag and keep it in the air.
All you need to get started is a footbag, tennis shoes (optional—many prefer to play barefoot), and a pair of gym shorts. Then draw yourself a circle about twice the size of your body, step inside it, and “bag on!”
Photo © Kamparin – Fotolia.com