Who Invented the Hacky Sack? Diving into the History

by Outdoor Diversions | Last Updated:   10 months ago
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The days of fun outside usually involves some kind of ball, and one of the most common ones you can see with students around the world is the hacky sack.

This is a simple game that involves a bag of beans being kicked between friends that can keep many people entertained for a lot longer than most would think possible.

Though it is now something done in almost every country on earth, knowing who created it is not known by most people.

The hacky sack was created by two people, John Stalberger and Mike Marshall in 1072 in Oregon City, in the United States. The game was first introduced to Stalberger when Marshall met him at university, soon the two began production with a standard being created and the popular shape and filling for the hacky sack becoming more set in stone each year.

Knowing who created the hacky sack may not answer all your questions, as you can find yourself wondering just how it became so famous and why it changed shapes and materials through the years.

Hacky sacks have more history behind them than most people realize and the one in your closet may be only one of 1000 that has that unique design and shape.

Getting to know your hacky sack and why it is such a great thing to pass the time with will mean you can enjoy the sport a lot more.

Source: Paul Thibodeau from flicker

What do you do with a hacky sack?

The basic premise of a hacky sack is one of the most misleading and easy sounding things one earth, with many people assuming they could master the sport in only a few minutes.

However, anyone that has tried to play along with friends or just to practice in their back yards will know that playing with a hacky sack can both be the most rewarding and frustrating thing on earth.

The only goal of hacky sack is to keep the ball in the air using only your feet and body, excluding your hands and arms.

This is how you practice when alone and when you play with friends, anywhere from just one other friend to well over 10 in a circle, you will bounce the ball then pass it on. It is this simple nature that makes hacky sack games so much more deceiving.

The art and skill to keep such a small ball in the air take a lot more than most people ever realize and the challenge for many comes into not hitting the ball too hard in the beginning.

Once the strength is sorted comes the coordination, because of their unique shapes hacky sacks tend to always bounce in the same way, if hit in the same way.

What are the main types of Hacky Sack?

There have been many types of hacky sacks and as the popularity of the sport and pass time became more and more popular the versions available became extremely varied.

With some companies making their versions and international communities adjusting as they became more and more aware of the sport.

Many times there would be local manufacturers long before the official hacky entered a country.

  • Denim Sack: For the first year of production the hacky sack was nothing more than a square-shaped backfilled with rice. This bag rarely bounced the same way, and the seams were on the outside, the creators quickly replaced this with their second design.
  • Cowhide Sack: The cowhide sack behaved much better from the start with seams being on the inside of the sack. Consisting of only two panels this bag was filled with beans and would become the standard hacky sack for the next 20 years. In 1975 Marshall died of a heart attack at the age of 28 and Stalberger was left to finish and distribute the design alone.
  • Sand Suede: No one knows when these were first introduced but a popular hacky sack for those looking for something a bit heavier has always been the sand-filled hacky sacks. These require a bit more energy to use but can be a lot of fun as well, usually for the opposite reason than normal hacky sacks.
  • Crochet Sack: This is probably the hacky sack that you know and love, many people may try and make these on their own or bought one for cheap from a random store. The crochet style hacky sack is a simple bag filled with small beans that does everything and more that is required of it. There are multiple origins of this hacky sack owing to the simplicity and effectiveness of its design.

Where were they first used?

The exact origin of the very first hacky sack can be almost impossible to pinpoint, this is because multiple sources around the world have the same style of game.

These games all developed around the same time, but to make things even more complicated is that not everyone has written a history of when they first used a similar bag.

There are legends from China dating to 400BC while Japan has written history showing something similar to hacky sack in the seventh century.

Further, the hacky sack that inspired the game to be developed in the United States was inspired by a Native American game that was being played in a detention facility.

All of this means that there can not be one single point shown as the source of where the hacky sack game truly started. We can only know that the modern version that has become so popular around the world was created in 1972 and that it has been a phenomenon ever since.

In what kind of groups are hacky sacks popular?

Casually hacky sack is played everywhere on earth where a group of students is gathering, while many, many adults love the game the vast majority of players are students that are studying.

This is because the game requires a few hours of free time in wide-open spaces that most working people may not be able to easily gain access to.

However, in 1997 after many years of changes and adapting the International Footbag Player’s Association was created and it has hosted many tournaments throughout the years.

The IFPA has a hall of fame and has been recording some of the best players ever since. This means that there is at least some part of the players worldwide that have dedicated their lives to professionally playing hacky sack.

No one person or group of people can play hacky sack better than others, this is because the sport is both relaxing, fun, and easy to pick up and learn.

It can be played while on vacation with friends or when you are alone waiting for a ride to go home from classes.

You do not need to be part of the specific group but having a hacky sack in your backpack will mean you can make new friends with absolute ease.

Is it still popular?

There was a time that you could not go to any park or college and not see at least 10 people playing some type of version of hacky sack.

The sport took the world by storm and with movies driving it further it seemed like nothing could stop it. However, like paintball and other short-lived sports, it seemed to die without anyone even aware that it was gone.

However, while it may not be a top-ranked sport anymore it is still considered one of the staples of any college or university in the world. There is always some group playing the game in a corner somewhere and most people will quickly welcome new players into their circles as they go along.

It may not be as popular as it was, but it is still not dying, like paintball, there are still people that love the sport and actively enjoy spending some of their free time playing alone or with friends.

Final Thoughts on The Invention of Hacky Sack

Nothing builds and hones hand-eye coordination like trying to keep a small ball in the air without using your hands.

For this, you may think Soccer is perfect, but anything to do with a hacky sack will be perfect to hones your skills to a level you never thought was even possible.

Just be sure you don’t kick the ball so hard you have to get a ladder to remove it from the school roof.

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