To embrace or eradicate? Whitman’s hacky sack epidemic

Maura Kelly, Opinion Columnist

Hacky sack circles are so hippie-dippy-liberal-artsy-granola-college it’s disgusting, and I’m a massive fan. I was vehemently opposed at first. You would not catch me making a fool of myself doing weird little step hops to kick a tiny beanbag — that’s embarrassing. Do you know what’s more embarrassing than having bad foot-eye coordination? Being vehemently opposed to hacky sacking because you’re lame. Don’t be that guy. 

Walking around the first few weeks on campus, I observed Whitties traipsing around with only the essentials: their phone and a hacky sack. I would scoff internally and postulate — how on earth is this real life? Suffice it to say, I’ve come around. 

Hacky sacking has long been used as a tool for meditation, relaxation and bonding. It has a deep history and cultural significance in ancient Asian civilizations. Dating back to 200 BCE, the game originated as a Chinese sport called Jianzi, and it was played by nobility, often partnered with dance and musical performances. In some cultures, Jianzi and hacky sack were a part of philosophical and spiritual practices like Buddhism and Taoism. 

My friends and I acquired a hacky sack for “the bit,” not intending to become viciously addicted to this silly activity. We decided to start hacky sacking around because it was amusing and we needed to build up our hacking confidence. We needed to practice if we were going to make it to the big leagues: the big leagues being a drunken 16 person hack circle outside of Fiji on a Saturday night. 

It’s intimidating to be an inexperienced hacker in the hack circle. Nobody wants to be that guy who can’t connect foot-to-sack to save his life. And to be clear, my friends and I are all horrifically inferior compared to master hackers like campus celebrity Mason Hardbarger. If you struggle with social anxiety, the perceived pressure to perform well and fit in with the group might cause feelings of self-doubt and dissuade you from joining a hack circle. If you are feeling intimidated, start small. Find some people who are willing and eager to build their skills and start tossing a sack around. Practice the basics and get acquainted with the feel of the sack. The hack doesn’t discriminate against ability levels. Plus, the worse you are, the funnier it is. Everyone is on the same team and there’s no pressure to win; it’s just a bunch of people hanging out.

The hack circle is meant to be a welcoming and inclusive space. What better way is there than hacking to insert yourself into a group without having to make small talk? You have a shared activity and a shared goal that you can bond over. It practically eliminates all awkwardness — now you’re just hanging out and hacking. It’s something chill that you could spend hours doing and not realize how much time has passed. Plus, it’s a mobile activity that you can do anywhere (except for the library – they don’t like that). It is the best study break. It resets my brain and gets my blood moving, and it motivates me to hunker down and work when I sit back down. 

Illustration by Hayden Garner.

Hacky sack is also a fun improv exercise: the more you do it, the better you get at thinking on your feet. You have to be alert and ready to adapt to the changing circumstances and movements of the people in the circle. Hacking is an art of collaboration and improvisation. You get better at anticipating the movements of people around you with time and experience. You and your friends are working together to build on each other’s movements, to create something new and unexpected. It’s rewarding to get an unpredictable or incredible hack and a definite cause for celebration.

You have to celebrate the small stuff and keep the momentum going. Negativity has no place in the hack circle. Nobody wants to hear you moan and groan and perpetually apologize about how you suck so bad. 

Maybe you think hacky sack is stupid, maybe you’re apprehensive due to your ability level or maybe you just don’t understand the appeal. Some people argue that hacky sack is a pointless sport and a senseless, unproductive and childish way to pass time. I think it’s maybe the best thing since sliced bread. If you don’t possess enough of a childlike sense of wonder and playfulness to appreciate hacking, maybe you need to look inward and reassess how you’re living your life. 

I’m thinking maybe we don’t place enough value on hacky sacking. There are physical and mental health benefits: it’s a reflex and coordination exercise, it stimulates creativity and experimentation, it’s a playful and engaging way to pass the time and there’s no blue light. It feels too good to be true. Overall, it’s a lighthearted game that cultivates a sense of community that is indubitably Whittie. Just embrace the hacky sack circles — it’s not that serious.