10 Secrets To Getting Good at Footbag

I know a lot of players ask themselves this question. I used to ask it often, myself.
I’ve beenthrough a lot in this sport. I used to have THE worst form that I’ve ever seen. Players have literally told me my game used to be “hard to watch”. I used to hunch like I was looking for a contact that fell on the ground. And I used to land on the ground like I was trying to murder the cement, amongst many other terrible habits. I’ve changed all that now. I wanted to write this up because, unlike some players who just “get it” right away, I experienced more problems than most players have in the sport and I wanted to share my “secrets” that I’ve found through my 6 or 7 years in footbag. Also, I’d really like to spare some players the agony of being injured in any way and the wasted time trying to get good the wrong way. And yes, I know I’m not amazing at footbag (I don’t claim to be.. maybe one day), but I have learned a lot and I think I can sow some seeds of knowledge to sprout some future shredders.

Some of my footbag “secrets”:

1) Choose your trick arsenal and stick to it for a while:

­I used to practice EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME. Very scattered. Monday: Mirage, Tuesday: Torque, Wednesday: Whirl, etc… then in several months with this schedule layout, I realize I could now do all of those tricks, about 50% of the time. You really don’t want to jump around too much while drilling. Your best bet is to choose a few concepts (2 to 3) and make them your main focus of the current month. Then next month, either continue with those 2 to 3 concepts if you are dissatisfied with them or pick 2 to 3 new ones if you are satisfied with the first month.

2) Practice your basics… not the bigger versions of the smaller tricks:

­Basics, people. I used to ride dirty and drill the bigger tricks that I wanted. Take it from me, practicing the bigger version of a trick gets you a one way ticket to Injured City. It’s not fun there and all they serve for dinner is pocket lint and old nachos. For example, if you want to get really good at Ripwalk, you don’t want to just keep trying to hit Ripwalk. Instead, you want to dissect that bigger trick and work towards OWNING the severed limbs of it.
Dissection of Ripwalk:

  • ­ss Clipper
  • op Clipper
  • ­Infinity
  • ­Stepping Far Clipper
  • ­Stepping ss Clipper

To own Ripwalks, you should work towards owning all of these tricks… meaning that you can hit them 100% of the time or just about. Your goal for any trick should be consistency… being able to hit it into and out of any other trick. (*1a)Sure, cool, you hit Scorpion’s Tail. Awesome, I guess. But can you do it to something other than a sloppy Legover? (I used to be one of these “ADD hunters” too, so don’t worry if you’re one of them). Having great consistency with all of the smaller tricks within the bigger trick will make that bigger trick much more attainable and easier to hit. Some players call this the “Trickle­Up Effect”.
Try it out and you’ll understand better.

3) Stay on your toes:

­I’ve had so many experienced players tell me to stay on my toes. I never listened and it ended up really hurting me. Hurting my body AND hurting my game! When you stay on your toes, you are

cushioning the impact of the trick. Think of landing on your toes as landing on springs. The springs will absorb the blow your legs would be taking if you landed on your heels or flat­footed.
Its tough to really keep on your toes for every session at first. It sounds goofy, but one thing that helped me adjust to playing on my toes was walking with my weight slightly on my toes for the majority of about 2 weeks (on­and­off). Just watch any good player, you will rarely see their heels make full contact with the ground. I think Evan Gatesman is a great example of this. When I made the switch from flat­foot/heel shred to toe shred, I almost immediately was able to string better, hit my tricks more easily, and finally learn how to shuffle (*b).

4) Give yourself some space but not too much:

­I think a big one for me, which I realized semi­recently, is to give yourself some room to hit the tricks you’re trying to hit. Sometimes you’re trying a trick and you’re jamming yourself by setting it too close to you. Give yourself a nice window and execute the trick. You don’t want to set it super far away from you, of course. A nice image to think about is one that my footbag teacher, Bob Reifer, gave me a while back… Pretend you are in telephone booth. No tricks happen outside of that telephone booth. Your leg might go through the figurative glass window for a Whirl dex or something, but you get my point.

5) Paying attention to set height:

­I can’t tell you how many times I suck at a trick, then I realize I’m setting too high. When in doubt, watch David Clavens or Vasek Klouda.

6) Play in your head/Shadowbagging:

­Vasek mentions it in his manual, but from experience, I know it works. Even when you’re not playing, picture yourself playing and doing certain tricks/links that you want to hit. Doing the motions without a footbag is really helpful, too. Using these 2 methods is how I first hit Mobius b2b. It works, just try it.


­”Shut up, Nick, I know I should watch videos already… it’s fun and you’re stupid.” Duh, we all watch videos, but some of us may not be watching them correctly. If you’re like how I used to be, you aren’t watching them properly.. you’re just marveling at the awesomeness. That is always fun and certainly hypes you up to go shred face. But you can use videos as an incredible tool to get better. I have to thank Matt Kemmer for this little trick. Downloading videos off of youtube/vimeo and watching them in slow motion.. (Use this site to download off of youtube/vimeo: http://clipgrab.org then you can see, frame­by­frame, how certain tricks are done). This pushed my game a tremendous amount when I started doing it. I suggest it to both newer players and more experienced players. A really great idea for newer players is to download some of the more well done Level 1 badge videos and watching those in slow motion. You can get a lot of out doing that.
What to watch for in a video (stuff that you might not have thought about):

  • ­Set height
  • ­Bag placement (is it a straight set? Is it slightly offset and aimed across the body)
  • ­Knee height
  • ­Eyes (where the bag is when player is spotting it)
  • ­HIPS (really crucial to watch, check out how the hips are turned/where they are in relation to the bag)
  • ­How the body moves around the bag
  • ­Bend of the support leg (how much bend?)
  • ­When/how quickly feet are planted
  • ­Angle of leg(s) during dex(es)
  • ­Timing of dex(es), duck, spin, etc…

8) Push your record:

­Some players don’t do it as much, but it’s helped me out a lot.. Finding the tricks that repeat and push your numbers on them… Consecutive Clippers, Legovers, Pickups, Toe ss Mirages, Infinities, Osis, etc… As soon as I started pushing my Infinities, I noticed my game get visibly stronger within just a few sessions of that.

9) Ask for advise at jams:

­Don’t miss your opportunity. If someone is good at a concept you’re trying to get good at, just ask them for some tips in his/her downtime. Most players will be happy to give you some pointers or watch you do it and try to help critique a bit. Matt Kemmer is an miracle­working, critiquing savant. He is the best at critiquing, hands down. Just sayin…

10) Don’t start one trick until you have finished the previous one:

­A few things I want to cover here… freezing your Clippers and inside stalls is a great way to practice this. Hit a Clipper/Toe Delay, then hold it for 3 seconds> hand catch/other trick… that drill does wonders for a Clipper/Toe Delay in need of some help. But my main point here is to hit a trick, finish the trick with a nice stall (this is where the Clipper/Toe freezes come into play), then hit your next trick like you’re just restarting the string, and so on. You want to treat strings kind of like you are doing a bunch of single tricks, instead on links. Each trick starts on one surface, and ends on another, where the next trick begins. So if you can hit a Toe op Mirage, and you can hit a Toe op Legover, then you should have no problem doing Mirage>(x) Legover if you treat the (x) as a restart point. Sorry this one was wordy and a bit confusing. I hope I made it clear enough.
(1 extra, for your health!)

11) 1:3 Rule:

­Just one extra one I had to include about getting better at flipside. Bob always told me, “For every time you hit a trick on your strong side, hit it 3 times on your flipside”. Following that simple rule will do wonders for your game.
Well, I hope this was an enjoyable read and such and such. Maybe you knew some of these already, but I hope you learned something from this.

(*a)I wanted to include this bit in #2, but it was too drawn out. ADD hunting is beyond lame. If you’re a beginner/intermediate player and you’re throwing up a bunch of videos of you hitting big 5/6 ADDs on your strongside while being able to hit maybe 10 tiltless contacts… then this is directed at you. Unless you’re hitting maybe 50 tiltless contacts, you shouldn’t even really be thinking about trying 5 ADDs. But if you are starting to experiment with 5’s, you should be able to attempt the trick on both sides and come relatively close. Also, if you are only using your strong side, that’s also lame. No one wants to see a string with just strong side tricks. I was a living breathing example of this. Seriously, catch your flipside up, even if you think you can pull this off, unless you have an injury on one side. In that case, do what you can to keep playing and I prop thee.

(*b)Shuffle means to link multiple tricks with both an uptime and a downtime component (ie.Ripwalk> Blur, Atomsmasher> Dimwalk)

Written by Nick Polini

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.