Hitting the sack

By Casey Toner

Hacky sack, made famous by the “California Games” mini-game where a player could down a flying seagull for bonus points, takes over the Student Recreation Center every Monday and Wednesday night.

At the practices, held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Rec’s racquetball courts, NIU Footbag Club members and recreational “hackers” practice by kicking, balancing, shooting and passing a circular, malleable, sand-filled footbag into the air.

Travis Matthews, secretary of the Footbag Club, said footbag practices get the heart pumping, the brow sweating and the bodies moving.

“We’re in the racquetball rooms, so it gets kind of hot in there when you have 10 to 15 people. Plus, you’re hopping around,” Matthews said.

Of course, hackin’ isn’t that simple. Footbaggers hack using a variety of moves and styles. While some hackin’ enthusiasts kick the footbag quicker and keep it lower to the ground, others stall — or balance the footbag on their leg, heel, shoe and everything in between, said Pat Carone, vice president of the footbag club.

Advanced footbaggers choreograph their routines, yet Matthews insists they don’t necessarily practice dance routines.

“We’re not looking for that kind of commitment yet. No one’s going to be that skilled to start off,” Matthews said.

Matthews has, however, looked into holding footbag tournaments with other footbag clubs from Midwestern schools such as Western Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University.

The Student Association recognized the NIU Footbag Club on February 9, but they can’t apply for student fees until next year, Pat Carone said. After hopeful student fee allocation, Carone and Matthews will try to organize statewide tournaments.

At the proposed tournaments, teams would compete in games, like “three and out,” as well as individual freestyle competitions.

In “three and out,” participants gather in a small circle, kick the footbag three times then attempt to kick it at someone. If the attacker hits the defender without the defender kicking the hacky sack, the defender accumulates a point. Three points and that person is out.

But take out the seagull, and the game is yours.