Footbagging to fitness

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Students cheered and laughed as two men flipped the footbag into the air with ease, bouncing it off of their feet and knees then catching it again on the inside of the foot.

But the best way to learn is often feet-on. So Bruce Guelfich, 44, and Peter Shunny, 41, spent the rest of the day at Bordewich-Bray Elementary School teaching the students how to play footbag themselves during physical education classes.

"I like that they can teach us," said J.J. Aragon, 8. "Now, I can teach my sister. It's a fun sport and you can have fun with your feet."

Commonly known as Hackey Sack (one brand name of about 40 footbag makers), footbag is played with a small beanie bag and controlled only with the feet and legs.

The two passed out a footbags to each student in the classes and taught them two basic moves, the inside kick and the knee kick.

"Both feet want to have fun when we play footbag," Guelfich explained. "Don't make one leg for decoration -- use both of them."

P.E. teacher Linda Hurzel was eager to have the pair back for the third time after about a five-year absence.

"They're so positive," she said. "They're energetic. Our kids don't get enough exercise and this is a way to get their bodies moving."

And they don't need a partner.

"It's pretty cool. You just like kick it up," said Pat Scanlon, 9. "It's fun and it's a good game if you're alone and have nothing to do."

Guelfich began touring 20 years ago giving footbag demonstrations. Shunny joined him six years later and they have since traveled to countries around the world and performed at NBA and NHL games.

In the early '80s, Shunny said, they spent about nine months of the year traveling -- hitting three or four schools in a day.

Now, they've modified their program to spend an entire day in one school.

"The kids get more out of it and the teachers get more out of it," Shunny said. "Plus, we don't have to travel so much."

The two spend most of their time operating their footbag Internet business in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and travel about one month of the year.

They spent last week in Carson City visiting Eagle Valley Middle School, Fritsch and Bordewich-Bray elementary schools. They also held a training session for teachers to help them learn to teach both footbag and juggling.

Although new to some, footbag is an old game for others.

Computer teacher Jordan Crittenden played about 20 years ago in high school and stepped into a P.E. class to sharpen his technique.

"I'm learning better foot balancing," he said. "These guys are so good. They command the kids' attention very well."



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