These questions are common ones that were asked to me, Tom A. Kutscher (inventor of this sport). I am answering them with (I hope) enough detail to provide full, complete answers. If any follow-up questions suggest I need to go into more detail, I will. More FAQ’s and answers will be provided over time.
Question 1 – Why is playing barefoot so important?
The benefits of being barefoot outdoors are numerous. Many studies and research efforts have shown that being barefoot on safe natural surfaces, and especially walking and running barefoot, are healthy activities. To quote Dr. Paul Brand (a professor of surgery), “The average person who walks barefoot has much healthier feet than the average person who wears shoes.”
The section of this website titled Benefits of Barefoot Hub Ball goes into these. For a very comprehensive list of reasons to go barefoot, refer to www.barefootkc.com/benefits.html on my website for barefoot walking and hiking. Also the Society of Barefoot Living has extensive information on this, at www.barefooters.org. And there are many other websites that cover barefoot benefits, especially on grass.
But in addition to those health benefits, there are plenty of other reasons to make to this a barefoot sport, as follows.
- Shoes are unnecessary for non-contact sports played on safe surfaces, and this sport is played on grass surfaces that some people routinely go barefoot on (and in earlier times it used to be very common). The sport is as close to non-contact as can be, and the incidental contact should not more risky for bare feet than for bare hands.
- Expensive athletic footwear will not need to be purchased. This may not be much of an issue for those who are well off, but for families on fixed budgets those shoe costs can add up.
- Bare feet on grass is totally natural. Generations of humans have been going barefoot for tens of thousands of years and many millions still do today. We are obviously not born with footwear and we begin to walk naturally without them. Once kids are forced into footwear, their natural gait is changed to adapt to the shoes. This results in some unnatural changes in the way we walk. Refer to the two aforementioned websites for more on this. Barefoot Hub Ball is just one new way to help restore a natural gait and movement of the body.
- With no shoes, there are no cleats or spikes to cause injuries.
- Also with no shoes there is no opportunity to use shod footwear as an accessory to be aggressive; hard, rigid footwear can cause serious bruises and injuries. When used aggressively, for example as seen so often in soccer, this is common. Plus the incentive to trip another player is much higher if a player is not afraid to use their shoe-encased feet to do it. But there is not much incentive to trip another if the player has no footwear and will take the worst of it .
- The footwear companies have an enormous amount of power in worldwide sports. Anyone who doubts that only needs to look into the shoe contracts and endorsements, and other business influences. While I have no issue with shoe companies, I am trying to keep this sport free from any undue influence of any business. This a sport for the masses rather than a sport that will eventually be controlled and manipulated by huge businesses and corporations.
- This sport can be a transition active for those who want to start the process of being barefoot more.
- The human microbiome is the sum of all the microbial life within our bodies, much of which is necessary and even essential for being alive. Studies in recent years are now beginning to show that some exposure to the outdoors where there is direct bodily contact, such as being barefoot or other similar contact (such as gardening with our bare hands) helps the micro-biome be improved. And from that more diversified microbiome we are healthier. While more research is needed on this, the evidence seems to consistently show that this type off actively is good for our microbiome health in many ways.
- Being isolated from touching nature all the time is unnatural, by definition, and tends to imply that we need to fear nature. I do regular barefoot walks each week on grass for exercise and have also done hundreds of barefoot hikes in forest areas and on remote trails. As a barefoot hiker and walker with over 7,500 miles of barefoot outdoor walks and hikes (total), all of which was with bare feet on natural surfaces and NEVER with shoes, I can assure that that fear will go away if given a chance. In all the years of barefoot hikes/walks I have never had a serious injury to either foot, i.e. one that required a doctor. Minor first aid has been all I have ever needed in the infrequent cases of injuries that needed any treatment at all.
- Finally, this is the sport I wish had been invented when I was a kid. There were no organized sports that were barefoot, only kids games and only sometimes without shoes (such as whiffle ball or capture the flag). Shoes were required on official league teams whether you wanted to wear them or not. By making barefoot play MANDATORY, and not just optional, it takes away the stigma that some parents, kids, or adults may have about trying it.
Question 2 – Isn’t playing barefoot risky?
Kids in third world nations routinely play far more risky sports such as soccer barefoot. Often they cannot afford athletic shoes, but also often they can afford to use shoes but prefer not to. That is especially true in tropical locations where the footwear is likely to be uncomfortable (and they have gotten used to being barefoot). But it is also common for people all around the world of all backgrounds to play beach soccer barefoot. Also field hockey is much more of a risk for the feet than Barefoot Hub Ball. Footwear is used now by most nations for that sport, but for years the top teams in Pakistan played field hockey barefoot, and even won Olympics gold medals playing barefoot.
The rules of this sport prohibit intentional contact with the feet or any other part of the body. While there will be much less contact than most sports, it is possible and likely that occasional stubbed toes will occur. That is no different from other non-contact sports where bare feet are typical, such as beach volleyball, beach foot volleyball, indoor gymnastics, or grass outdoor volleyball. Minor scrapes, scratches, cuts, and ligament strains of the toes will occur occasionally, and that is nothing different from any other barefoot sport. And it certainly way less than what occurs in full contact martial arts.
More serious injuries such as a broken toe could occur as well, but that is a minor concession when compared to the long list of benefits of a barefoot sport. Again I will add my own experience – I have never broken a toe in all my years of barefoot hikes and walks, and only had a strained toe ligament 3 times. Barefoot Hub Ball is much less risky than shod sports that allow for rough and dangerous play that lead to serious injuries.
Question 3 – Was Barefoot Hub Ball specifically designed to minimize serious injuries and to be a safe exercise, and how was that done?
Yes, every type of common outdoor sport was analyzed. The pros and cons of all of these sports were taken into consideration. This process was part of its creation in order to minimize the types of serious injuries that frequently occur in existing sports. The design of the sport included the goal of being as close to non-contact as possible for an outdoor field sport with no net separation of the teams. In addition this sport has a wide range of physical health benefits (refer to Benefits of Barefoot Hub Ball). Some of these benefits are found in other team sports, and others are not found in any major team sports.
Question 4 – Is green exercise especially beneficial and is Barefoot Hub Ball a green exercise?
Yes (on both questions) is the answer. Generally green exercise is outdoor exercise done in natural (usually green) environments. A hike on a nature trail in a forest area is a typical example. This type of exercise is well known to provide a wide range of benefits including physical, psychological, and (to many) spiritual benefits. While Barefoot Hub Ball is played barefoot on grass soccer type fields (or similar grass or dirt fields), and is a green exercise, it is not totally a green exercise. The “immersion” in nature is only partial. But it is recognized by many that direct contact with living nature such as being barefoot on grass is a form of green exercise. As stated in Wikipedia in the Green Exercise article, “Barefoot running is an example (of green exercise) …which is conducted so as to provide a greater degree of contact with the surrounding environment (by going barefoot).” Barefoot Hub Ball is designed to include a lot of barefoot running and it requires barefoot nature contact at all times.
Question 5 – Can Barefoot Hub Ball be totally free of risk of brain injuries, concussions and brain damage?
Barefoot Hub Ball is designed to have far less risk of brain injuries than all sports played with a ball on an open field. It should be comparable to disc ultimate in this regard, i.e. very safe. While sports such as soccer that use a heavy ball that can and does often strike the head, the ball in this sport is a smaller, lighter ball. It is not typically going to strike anyone’s head. But if it does, it is smaller than a volleyball which is smaller and lighter than a soccer ball. Also very hard throws at another player, such as in indoor team handball during scoring attempts, are not part of this sport.
Also head-to-head collisions in soccer that can readily occur as two players try to head a ball are extremely unlikely in this sport if it is played and refereed properly. Unlike soccer, players have to maintain their distance by one meter in this sport. Very close defensive guarding is penalized. While it is still possible for two players to accidentally collide, there is no incentive in the sport to do so (unlike in many other sports, especially full contact/ collision type sports). And in fact the rules in this sport make it clear that there is a strong disincentive to do so.
It is a low probability event that two players would collide. Possible, yes. But certainly there is absolutely no reason for the heads to collide as the hands can be used to catch the ball, unlike soccer where the heads must be used to contact a ball at or above head level. Some incidental hand contact with another player (i.e. hand contacting hand) is far more likely than hand to head. Also the contact of another player’s head with a hand or hands is penalized strictly so hand to head contact should rarely occur. Foot to head (or leg to head) contact is extremely unlikely if the game is played and refereed properly.
Also a player can trip or slip or otherwise fall down and hit their head as in any sport, indoor or outdoor. That risk is no different from any sport.
So, while very safe in general, it is not totally free of potential head injury. Barefoot Hub Ball should be about the same potential for head injury as disc ultimate (very low) if played safely and according to the rules and with good sportsmanship. To conclude I would say this sport is very safe for the brain, but it cannot be classified as 100 % free of any risk for the brain, just much, much safer than most outdoor team sports.
Question 6 – What is the minimum number of players required on each team?
This covered in detail in Rule no. 3 in the Barefoot Hub Ball Rules. To summarize, each team normally has 8 players that are on the playing field at a time, with up to 20 total available. Note – while the maximum number of players used in a match is 20 (as there is free substitution), there is no limit on how many can be on a roster. It would not surprise me if someday teams have a roster with many as 25 or 30 or even over 30.
A team may start a match with 7, while fewer than that results in a forfeit. The match can be played with 7, or the 8th can be added if the 8th player eventually shows up late.
For recreational or nonofficial play, 6 is allowable. So in that case the local league or pair of teams can decide whether they can start with 6 and up to 8 can play (i.e. 6, 7 or 8 field players). Or they may decide on an even lower starting number of actual roster team members, such as 5. In the latter case, however, the team with only 5 would need to “recruit” a 6th non-roster bystander/ friend to allow for the match to start, otherwise 5 would result in forfeit. Only one such non-roster “recruit” player is allowed in that case of course.
Of course for purely pickup-type games, these type of rules may be even more flexible, as per the two team captains. The number of players is up to them.
Question 7 – What s the minimum amount of equipment required to play Barefoot Hub Ball?
No equipment is needed. There needs to be some way to mark off the sidelines, the end zones, and the hubs, but that can be done (in various ways) without any equipment.
Question 8 – Why did you invent Barefoot Hub Ball?
Great question…I was glad when someone asked this. I had played on and off various sports over a period of about 30 years, and also officiated, scored, and administered as an unpaid volunteer in one sport (volleyball) over part of that period. Also I have been a sports fan and watched and analyzed sports over a 60 year period starting in 1958. That includes sports in the USA and also in one other country in Europe where I lived for two years. For many years it has been clear to me, and I suspect also clear to many others, that there is a need for one or more safer outdoor team sports.
It also became clear to me that we need a sport that will not be so intense that the parents and spectators will often lose their composure and get nasty, a sport that everyone can just chill out and have fun watching as well as playing.
By 2017 I had already accumulated some ideas on a new sport. By September I began to merge together some different ideas. Certainly news stories on the hazards of some sports in causing CTE, (or at least possibly causing it), made me feel the pressing need to focus on alternatives.
Some specific motivators for me to push ahead with rules development for this sport are as follows:
- Barefoot benefits: I provide free information the benefits of barefoot walking on grass and natural surfaces on another website. I call that natural walking for exercise. And so I felt a new sport that can also provide those benefits would be great.
- This is the sport that I always wanted when I was a kid but it did not exist. It is simple, healthy fun, high in safety, and high in participation, and you don’t need shoes! Someone needed to invent it – I guess that had to be me.
- Seeing soccer fields being unused for most of the week during soccer league season, and hardly ever at all during the rest of the year made me think we need a sport that can use those fields. This sport is easy on the fields; bare feet are not going to tear up a field the way shoes with cleats will and there will be less wear on the fields. Plus, any safe grass field can be used. It does not need to be a soccer field.
- Soccer footwork skills are not easy, and I think kids can learn hand skills more quickly. Anyone who has watched young kids struggle to learn soccer skills can see how frustrated they can get. And just getting used to the special shoes required in nearly all other sports can also be difficult for them. So my thought was “what if young kids whose coordination skills are not very developed had an easier sport to learn?” Hopefully this is that sport.
- As stated above, the reports on CTE being a hazard of some sports was a major driving force for me to invent a brain safe sport. Watching interviews of Dr. Bennet Omalu and Dr. Ann McKee on brain trauma and CTE also made a difference. I wanted to help make a safe sport and this sport as close to totally brain safe as I can get.
- Bare feet on earth surfaces (or grass) provide the quickest and easiest way to do outdoor earthing. The free electron benefits of earthing are real. A sport should be able to provide them and deliver those benefits. So in my opinion it is all “upside” on earthing; it is FREE, and no side effects. At best it has substantial benefits that I can attest to, and at worst, i am wrong about it (somehow, despite the studies verifying earthing benefits) and it is not so effective but harmless. So inventing a sport that has earthing makes sense to me.
- Along with many others, I am just fed up with the amount of injuries I see happen in the most popular outdoor sports. Why can’t there be a sport that is a great way to safely get exercise in a team format, and to learn teamwork and good sportsmanship? And why can’t it be a sport that does NOT provide the opportunity for “clocking”, “spiking or cleating”, or intentionally tripping, elbowing, or knocking over another player? This sport solves those problems fully.
- Finally, I have the ability to do this. I have followed and participated in sports for 60 years, since age 7. What is right and what is wrong with various sports eventually becomes pretty clear after that many years. I feel I am obligated to invent a better sport. So I guess my conscience played a big role. Maybe others will come up with something better, but this is my contribution.
Question 9 – Are there any unusual hazards to be aware of in this sport?
Yes, there are two that I have become aware of in my years of being barefoot outdoors and walking barefoot on soccer fields. There may be others that I am not aware of but these definitely can occur.
Sprinkler heads – On some soccer fields there are automatic sprinkler systems and they are not a problem since that are usually under the surface. They all have heads or nozzles that pop up from the ground. After watering the heads usually drop back below the surface, and they pose no risk or problem at all. But they do not always do that, and when sticking up they can be a hazard to bare feet, especially the toes. So make sure all sprinkler heads are pushed down below the surface before play begins. It is a simple remedy and it the toes will be happier for it.
Beestings and other stinging insects – I have been stung over the years by a bee on grass fields many times (i.e. over 15 total). It is merely a minor annoyance for me since I have developed a threshold tolerance and the stings only bother me for about three minutes and after five minutes I have no pain at all. Also I always feel better for a day or two after the beestings so it may be there are some minor positive apitherapy effects for me. But I do know that some people are allergic to bee venom or other stinging insect venom and can get a serious reaction such as anaphylactic shock. My recommendation for those who are allergic to bee venom (or other stinging insect) is that to avoid the possibility of adverse effects such as anaphylactic shock, do not play Barefoot Hub Ball. I have a general warning in the Rules about avoiding this sport if you are concerned about individual hazards, and in the Disclaimer section.
Anyone who plays (or practices to play) Barefoot Hub Ball absolutely needs to take responsibility for their own health and safety, and to know their own vulnerabilities such as allergic reactions to stings, and take the necessary precautions. This would of course include having necessary medicines with them and other safeguards for their special health needs.