I’ve often asked myself, “Why do I play this sport?” It’s a question I’m sure many of us have asked. I am a tiltless player, and I am currently striving to become guiltless. But why? Why should I dedicate time to improve my skills at a sport that doesn’t pay, doesn’t get serious attention, and whose audiences often equate it to Irish river dancing? I could be getting extra hours at work, or studying for a calculus test, but instead I practice footbag. The short answer to this question, for me, is the community.
Hitting a new trick or a new combo is always satisfying, but one can get the same thrill from a sport like skateboarding. The main difference is how the separate communities respond to these new tricks. When a footbagger hits mirage for the first time, they will receive praise from their peers. However, when a skateboarder lands his first ollie, not many fellow skateboarders will be impressed. I have seen people react to skateboarders or BMXers or other sports like it, in a negative way. “Wow, they suck. They’ve been doing this for how long? Seriously?” I’m not saying all people who skate are like this, but it is much more frequent in that community than this one.
With this community, people want to see their peers improve. They want more high level players, and they want the sport to spread. If you tell a person they suck, or that they performed a trick badly, it is very discouraging. If you can’t get paid to do it, and nobody is supporting you, then why do it? In this community everybody helps everybody. I’ve seen guiltless and tripless players give people praise and advice when they hit something like clipper for the first time. The community is there for one another. They will provide pointers and keep new players moving in the right direction. I have never in my footbag career seen a player put another player down.
The community keeps me interested. If I ever feel like I’m not progressing fast enough, I have friends who will challenge me to hit something, or suggest a trick or combo I could practice that will get me to advance my skill. Not only is the community great when you’re a part of it, even outsiders view it and see how helpful everyone is. I showed my mother a six minute footbag documentary I found on Youtube, and one of the first things she mentioned was how helpful everyone seemed. “You can tell everybody really wants to help each other, there’s not a cutthroat attitude to win or anything,” she told me.
Having such a friendly, helpful community appeals to new players, veterans, and outsiders alike. It brings new people into the game, and keeps new players playing. With support from each other, we will help this sport grow, we will keep players interested, and we will eventually get the recognition we deserve. So say what you like about footbag, call it pointless. I know that I’ve got friends here who would disagree.
Written by David Moutard
Photo by Asmus Helms