Footbag is actually a very old sport, with ancient roots in both North America and Asia. Evidence has been found of a kicking game that Native Americans played using a sack made of animal hide and filled with sand. Though the idea has been around for thousands of years throughout many cultures, the game as we know it today was invented in 1972 by Mike Marshall and John Stalberger in Oregon. With Marshall kicking around a home-made miniature bean bag as an experimental co-ordination builder, and his friend Stalberger recovering from knee surgery and looking for a fun form of therapy and exercise, the two together created the game they called “hackin’ the sack.”
Mike is considered the first footbag freestyler, and when he “hacked the sack,” everyone wanted to play along. Sadly Mike passed away in 1975 at the early age of 28 but his spirit and inspiration lives on. The classic footbag—or hacky sack—circle consists of two or more players that keep the footbag off the ground and in constant play without using any hands.
Stalberger later sold the concept to the toy company, Wham-O, who marketed and popularized the footbag and game called Hacky Sack, gradually growing the sport through the 80s and 90s. The trademarked name Hacky Sack has become genericized now, and can refer to either the footbag or, a footbag game, though in reality, it is the specific footbag manufactured by Wham-O.
As the sport developed so did the panel design and components of the filler material: from the original two panel all the way up to 120 panels; from the original plastic pellets to sand, then to metal pellets and even to combining several different fillers. Each had unique characteristics in action and play. The first footbag was filled with ordinary buttons. Later, with the development of the two-panel leather design filled with polyethylene pellets—achieving a more playful action—its popularity skyrocketed.
Footbag has developed into a highly athletic and cooperative dance form, offering all the benefits of a complete aerobic workout. Whether your preference is for the sheer joy of dancing together in a circle while working toward a common goal of keeping that footbag airborne, or, competitive footbag events worldwide like freestyling and footbag net, there is no limit to the variations in footbag designs available today.
Here’s a PatentWear toast to Mike and John for having the vision to reinvent this ancient sport—our design is from the original 1979 patent, filed by Robert John Stahlberger, Jr after the untimely death of his friend, Mike Marshall.