This post is based on the Eight Conditions of Learning, a key piece in the literacy development puzzle, created by Brian Cambourne from the University of Wollongong in Australia.
This post will look at using the same conditions for the learning of footbag. Like children learning to read, any new footbag player is faced with a daunting task. This look at the conditions will aim to give some tips for not only new players wanting to learn, but experienced players to try new strategies for both teaching and learning new skills.
Cambourne’s first condition is immersion. The best chance of immersion in footbag is to attend a footbag competition. You don’t necesarily have to compete, but that’s where you’re really going to find out about how everything works. With the game so globally spread, there are chances to compete in places although the world, though the USA and central Europe are still the main hubs for competitions.
If you can’t make it to a competition, there may be a club in your local area. You can look on footbag.org for both upcoming events and clubs in your local area. Many players have started out all alone, but are able to connect through videos on Youtube, communication on the Modified footbag forum or the Freestyle Footbaggers Facebook group. Many local scenes also have their own forums for communication in their own language as well. Even without going to a competition, there are many ways to immerse yourself in the footbag scene.
Cambourne originally had seven conditions for learning, but he found that engagement was the key. Immersion and Demonstration must be accompanied by engagement. The learner needs to feel that it is possible to achieve the outcome. This is a large problem in footbag. The “basics” are quite difficulty to pick up for a new player, and from there it’s a long way to doing four dex tricks.
New players can share their experiences in the community, but may often feel rejected if they are doing a trick incorrectly. Many footbag players “tell it like it is”, which is important for a players development in the future, but may be extremely demoralising for them as they are just picking up the sport.
The beauty of the internet and increases in smartphone technology is that demonstration can now happen anytime, anywhere. You can show a video to someone of the sport, give demonstrations yourself to new learners, or demonstrate how to do a trick to another player.
A question many of us are asked quite often is “how did you learn?” I’m sure the answer they don’t want to hear is that you learned by reading text based descriptions saying things like “circle your foot around the bag”. While footbag doesn’t have too many formal training clinics or places where people can go and begin learning, you can often find a club in your area that has a regular session and learn tricks from more experienced players. Then there are video demonstrations like the Anz’ Trickz series.
For the more experienced players, we need to demonstrate how to play and how to learn the new skills in a sensible fashion. Everyone will find their own way to best describe ways of learning, but it needs to encourage new players to stick around and become further involved in the game.
In the literacy case, this is about giving children the power to choose the style of books they want to read, and the difficulty level. As teachers, we can also allow the new players to target a certain level. While the ADD system is often criticised, it gives us a platform to structure general difficultly levels. Players can then choose the different components they will work on and what suits them best.
A key part to this responsibility is training alone. If you just kick once a week in a regular session, there is no likelihood of significant improvements. Training in between these more public sessions will give you a chance to show improvements in between sessions.
As we learn new skills, we will try and put them together. The beauty of footbag tricks is that to do something slightly different creates a whole new tricks. At the basic level, once you’ve done around the world from in to out, you can try going out to in, then try it on the other foot. Those are four completely different tricks. We can encourage new players to use what they already know as building blocks and then try and extend their game. Teachers are encouraged to accept mistakes and congratulate accomplishments and milestones.
This factor is about the engagement. If players are using the footbag (ie – playing), they are going to be much more involved in the community and likely to continue playing well into the future. Having a regular playing time or competitions to look forward to is a key element in getting those new players excited and training for those events. Showing off their new tricks will also give them a positive feeling about the game.
This one can be see especially in the online communities. New players may be very interested in the history or certain tricks and how everything works. They will also be asking questions at session and looking for ways to improve. A key gauge of the response is if they continue to come back to regular sessions and begin to become more of an organiser themselves.
This is is no expert guide, these were some thoughts I have had after learning about Brian Cambourne and his conditions in classes at university. From the very beginning I thought about how this could apply for footbag. I hope these thoughts may help players from all around the world with some strategies for both teaching and learning our sport.
Daniel Boyle is an Australian footbag player, studying a Bachelor of Education at the University of Canberra. He has done workshops in Australia, Chile and Malaysia and organised the Sport/Life European Footbag Tour.
Photo by Karen McNicol, taken at Liceo Los Almendros in La Florida, Santiago, Chile.