I was your typical awkward middle schooler. I wore braces, struggled to talk to girls, and fastened a pocket watch to the belt loop of my jeans. Ah yes, those were the days.
On top of all that, I also embraced a rather nerdy habit. During those 7th grade and 8th grade years, I became a hacky sack fanatic.
Despite my awkwardness, I did manage to have a group of friends. One day, a particular buddy showed up with a hacky sack. We were introduced to a game called KILL. We would form a circle and kick the hacky sack, spelling out the work K-I-L-L. On the fourth kick, the hacky sack could be caught by a player and then thrown by that person at another player. We would play this game insistently before classes, during breaks, and even outside of school.
It wasn’t long before we all had our own hacky sacks. I remember going to a sporting goods store called Gart Sports and looking through the tub of hacky sacks to find the one that was packed perfectly and stitched with a unique design. Because all of us now had our own hacky sacks, we had time to practice by ourselves when we weren’t together as a group. This helped us develop our “hacky” skills.
Pretty soon we weren’t just playing KILL. Our skills had evolved to a point where the primitive game of trying to string four consecutive hits together was too remedial. Instead, we would form a circle and engage in pretty skillful freestyle session where we would kick/pass the hacky sack to one another over the course of long volleys. We also invented our own games. A favorite was the hacky sack equivalent of basketball’s horse—a player would perform a combination of kicks and the next player would have to replicate it. If he messed up, he picked up a letter.
True to my nature, I took the philosophy of “anything worth doing is worth over-doing” to hacky sacking. I would carry my hacky sack with me everywhere in my pocket. At the grocery store? Okay, let’s kick it around in the chips aisle. At a family reunion? I bet my aunts and uncles share my passion for hacky sack too. Watching one of my sister’s gymnastics meets? You think a beam routine takes concentration and skill, watch what I can do with my feet.
I would use my hacky sacks until the colors were faded, the fabric was worn, and the beads were busting out. It had become an obsession.
But at least it was a healthy, albeit nerdy, obsession. The hobby improved my coordination dramatically. It also provided a great way to get loose and stretch out. It proved to be a superb social activity and resulted in countless hours of entertainment.
Once we left middle school, we ditched the hacky sacks too. However, the skill itself hasn’t left me entirely. Even to this day, I can still kick around a hacky sack in a semi-decent manner—which makes me happy—because more than 20 years later I rather be hanging onto a hacky sack over a pocket watch. Don’t Blink.