MU systems administrator performs hacky sack dance in Speaker’s Circle

Derrick Fogle uses creativity for hacky sack and AV systems on campus

By Marcie K. Veit

When playing hacky sack in Speaker’s Circle, Derrick Fogle sports only a pair of bright red shorts and tennis shoes.  But as an MU systems administrator, Fogle dons glasses, a plaid button-up shirt, dress slacks, and a bandana that he describes as his “one wacky thing” at work.  

Fogle embraces such drastically different looks that some people do not even recognize him as the same person.

“It’s such a dichotomy between what people see out on Speaker’s Circle and what people see from me professionally…” Fogle said.  “It’s amazing how many people see me in both places and don’t realize that I’m the same person.”

Fogle, 49, is known by some as Columbia’s “Hack Man” for playing hacky sack in Speaker’s Circle on the corner of Ninth Street and Conley Avenue on the MU campus.  Fogle, born in Topeka, Kan., moved to Columbia 19 years ago and has been playing hacky sack for more than 30 years.  

Fogle owns about 100 hacky sacks and kicks with eight hacky sacks most Thursdays for two hours.  Fogle described a hacky sack as a soft, round bean bag filled with small, loose pellets.  

Fogle’s daughter, Grace, 17, has tried playing hacky sack a few times, but was “really terrible at it,” she said.

Having grown up with hacky sack as a norm in her life, Grace Fogle does not see her father as the hacky sack guy.

“He’s just my dad,” Grace Fogle said.  “He’s always been my dad, and he’ll always be my dad.”

Fogle used to play hacky sack, also known as footbag, competitively.  Footbag has existed as a competitive sport since 1972.  However, now Fogle focuses on choreography.

“What I’m trying to do is a hacky sack dance to the music,” Fogle said.  “It’s incredibly hard.  I’ve worked on this for 30 years, a lot more intently for the last 15 years, and I still suck at it.”

Because Fogle spontaneously choreographs the hacky sack routine just as the song begins, he uses a lot of creative thinking to time his moves to the music.

“I do have a very strong creative drive, and it does come out in the footbag, in the choreography,” Fogle said.  “That same creative drive is something that I use extensively in my work and my job.  That’s one of the things that really ties my job and hacky sack together.”

As an MU systems administrator, Fogle works on the audio visual (AV) systems on campus to ensure the technology in different venues functions properly.

“It requires a lot of on-the-fly, on-site, troubleshooting, and problem solving,” Fogle said.  “We have to get really, really creative with the cables and to mount equipment.”

Co-worker and technology specialist Zach Gerding, 28, describes how working with AV systems on campus requires finding solutions to consistently arising problems.

“Every day is always different,” Gerding said.  “It’s always a different problem every day.  It can be fun, but it can also be frustrating.”

Fogle connects both aspects of his life—hacky sack and his computer background—with his online username, h4x354x0r, which is the computer hacker spelling of “hackysacker.”  Fogle applies his username to all of his social media outlets, such as his blog, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to maintain a unified presence on the Internet. 

Fogle created a hacky sack blog four years ago because he wanted to document the impact of the aging process on an athlete’s ability.  While Fogle’s physical ability has waned over the years, he remains enthusiastic about continuing to play hacky sack. 

“I’ve lost the ability to do some moves I used to be able to do at this point, but I still love to kick,” Fogle said.  

Fogle has suffered four ankle injuries throughout his life, two of which occurred while playing hacky sack.  

At the beginning of October, Fogle injured his ankle trying to break logs in his backyard and could not walk on it for two weeks.  He waited every Thursday for his ankle to heal, hoping to return to playing hacky sack because it had “been so gorgeous out,” he said.

With an aggressive recovery regiment in place, Fogle has returned to playing hacky sack for a limited amount of time each week to avoid further injury.

Fogle’s social media presence has also created an environment in which he can communicate with students more directly.

“It’s really given me a chance to not just be out there and have the students see me,” Fogle said, “but be able to interact with them some more and get to know them a little bit.”

Fogle documents his hacky sack progress online through text, tweets, posts, photos, and videos.  Fogle’s most viewed video, receiving almost 52,000 views since January, is titled Hack Man vs. Preacher.

In the video, Fogle challenged Sister Cindy, a preacher who frequents Speaker’s Circle, by playing hacky sack right in front of her.  The students cheered, “Hacky sack!  Hacky sack!”  

Preachers in Speaker’s Circle voice their religious doctrine, but Fogle considers hacky sack his religion and salvation because it changed his life.

Before he discovered hacky sack, Fogle described himself as a typical teenager who indulged in underage drinking and drugs.  After his first experience with hacky sack at a party at age 17, he was hooked and wanted to improve his skills.  Hacky sack gave him “that spark of dedication” to continue practicing to get better.

Because of the dedication he learned by practicing hacky sack, Fogle refocused his life and obtained an associate’s degree in computers and technology.

“Hacky sack is my salvation,” Fogle said.  “It’s what saved me from a life of poor choices.” 

Suddenly, Everything Changes

I’ve been a solo freak show on Speakers Circle for so long, I didn’t really remember anything else. 

Now, that’s all changed. 

Credit goes to Lance, my new serious (as in he shows up to kick every time serious) kicking partner. He broke the ice, cleared the logjam, whatever; once he started kicking with me, the rest of the footbag players came out of the woodwork, too. I’m not a solo freak show anymore; I’m the leader of a Speakers Circle Footbag Gang

I gave Lance my MIZ footbag. 

All kinds and manner of thanks go to the Accordion Playing Gorilla this week, too. The typical scene is me using my boom box to drown out the preachers; but this time, it was just the gorilla and his accordion. I was really happy to get to kick to his playing (and he was playing really well!). I didn’t even need my boom box this week. Win! 

It’s been a long time since last post. But, I’ve mostly just been slogging along a very slow, very frustrating ankle injury recovery. I doubt anyone really wants to hear it, but… here comes the boring details anyway: It still hurts. But, I have better days that keep getting better, and Thursday was one of the best so far. While the rest of the circle was taking a break, I managed to nail a really nice, well above average, “best solo rally so far.” 
There’s no doubt I’m recovering, but this injury has been a lot worse than I ever wanted to believe it could be. It’s really brought me down. 

Playing footbag always makes my ankle feel better afterwards. It’s incredible physical therapy for this kind of injury and recovery. However, just walking on it a lot, it seems, not so much. At least I have still been playing. Even if I have to limp over to pick up a shank, I’m still out there. Still pushing myself. Not giving up. With that, I need to total up my “Hours Played” since last post: 

Fri. Nov. 9th: 1:30 
Sat. Nov. 17th: 1:30 
Thurs. Nov. 29th: 2:00 
Thurs. Dec. 6th: 1:30 

Total for 2012 so far: 78:30 – w00t! I’ve got about 2 more chances this year to put in another 1:30 and hit 80 hours for the year, despite a total of about 10 weeks off due to injuries this year. 


Thanks for tuning in!