Derrick Fogle has been playing hacky sack, or as he likes to call it, footbag, for 35 years. Since his move to Columbia about 22 years ago, he’s been more commonly known as the “Old Shirtless Speakers Circle Hacky Sack Man“, according to his Facebook page. He usually schedules a block of time on Thursdays to come to Speakers Circle to play some kick the hacky sack around.
“I’ve always loved coming to Speaker’s Circle because it is such a visually appealing place,” Fogle said. “It’s got about the right amount of space, and then the crowd is nice. Having all the students around all the time is really cool. The students like seeing me do it, and they give me props for it.”
Fogle was born in Topeka, Kansas and moved to Chicago until the 5th grade when his family relocated in Kansas City, Missouri. Growing up, Fogle moved around a lot for his parent’s various jobs. He usually spent his summer breaks in Summit County in Colorado, where his brother lived. A party he went to in the mountains one summer had guys outside playing a sport he’d never seen or heard of before. He was only 17 years old. “They told me they were playing hacky sack and asked me to try it,” Fogle said. “I was terrible when I first started. But unlike any other sport I had ever tried, people encouraged me and totally accepted me into the circle no matter how bad I was. Once I got my own hacky sack, I was totally hooked.”
Since then, Fogle has compiled a collection of about 100 hacky sacks, and goes through 4 or 5 bags in a year. Fogle says hacky sack was his salvation as a teenager, and still is today. “When I got into hacky sack, I quit all that other bad stuff I was doing at the time, like petty vandalism and soft drugs,” Fogle said. “I got so into footbag that I dropped everything else so I could keep getting better. The sport has taught me the value of hard work, dedication, and really what you can achieve if you stick to something. It’s been a foundation and a springboard for my entire life’s success.”
“It washes my soul clean, and refreshes my spirit. When I finish and I’m completely mentally and physically exhausted, that physical euphoric high that your body gets when you’ve completely drained yourself of energy, thats what I love most about it.”
Since Fogle and his wife have lived in Columbia, they’ve raised two children: their 20-year-old daughter, and 17-year-old son. His son is a senior at Hickman High School, and his daughter is taking classes at Moberly Area Community College. “I don’t think my son knows where he wants to go to college yet,” Fogle said. “But I encourage him to try Mizzou of course. But ya know it’s his choice.”
One of the struggles of playing hacky sack in the Midwest is finding somewhere to play in the winter. Fogle is excited about a new development this year that’ll make it a little easier. “The recreation center on campus has started up a new program this year to make it really affordable for the university staff to use the facilities,” Fogle said. “I’m going to be able to go there and reserve a handball court this winter so I can go in and kick it whenever, and I’m really excited about that.”
Fogle has noticed there’s been a pretty big increase in internet traffic, with students talking and tweeting about his presence on campus in more recent years.
“As soon as I’m done kicking one day, I always run back to my computer and see what people have said about me on the internet. I search Twitter to see who’s tweeted about me,” Fogle said. “Sometimes people will tweet ‘hey I saw the hacky sack guy in Speaker’s Circle today, it made my day!’ Ya know, that stuff is fun to see. It makes me feel so good. It makes me feel like I can inspire people.”
Fogle says a majority of the comments have been positive.
“Every now and then, people are offended because I don’t wear a shirt when I’m out there kicking. The reason I don’t is because I perspire so much. But most of the time it’s funny stuff, like kids guessing my age. I get 60, 70 years old sometimes. They get up into 80s and 90s. They’re just making fun of it. It’s funny to see.”
It’s also not uncommon to see students or other people that pass by, joining in the hacky sack circle. “Over the 20 years that I’ve been kicking here, there have been waves of kids that come kick with me, then they’ll eventually all graduate and move off or whatever and I’m alone for a while,” Fogle said. “It’s almost like the tide coming in and out, it’s like I’m the one steady thing, I’m the constant. I’m always out there whether or not anybody else is.”
Though Fogle is in incredible shape for being 52, he admits he’s unable to do certain tricks like he used to when he was younger. “There’s kids out there right now that make me look like I’ve got broken legs,” Fogle said. “There’s guys that can swing their foot around the bad twice for every time I do it once. I was top 10 worldwide for the freestyle division for a while. I still just love to do it, age has just taken it’s toll.
Hacky sack means a lot more to Fogle than it might for other people. “The reason I do it is because I love to do it and it makes me happy. I want people to know it’s so important to find something like that in your life that you can do long-term. Whether it’s inside your work or outside, I want to inspire people to find something where they get the payback out of it that I do with hacky sack.”
Fogle plans to keep up his footbag game for as long as he can, and you can check his Facebook page to see when he will be at Speaker’s Circle next.