gaga ball

GaGa Ball – What Is It and Where Did It Come From?

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If you’ve been to a scout camp in the last four years or so, you’ve probably seen kids playing a lot of GaGa Ball. It’s been the hit of our day camp for the past five years, and it seems like the pit at every resident camp I’ve visited is in near constant use. There’s even a “Gaga Center” on 93rd Street in New York City.

It’s a great game that will keep kids moving, and entertained for hours. It’s painfully simple to learn, and as kids play, they’ll start to develop strategies. Teenagers can play a fast, exciting physical style, and yet the game can be played effectively by kids as young as four or five.

 

The Origins of GaGa Ball

According to Stephen Silver of Tablet Magazine, the inventor of Gaga Ball is Steven Steinberg. Steinberg was a 17-year-old camp counselor at a JCC camp in Maryland, Camp Milldale.

One rainy day in 1975, Steinberg took the six-year-olds in his care to a covered, wall-less shelter. There they started playing a “form of dodgeball”. In order to stop the ball from rolling down a nearby hill, he laid some benches along the sides to contain the ball. And Gaga Ball was born?

And what about the name? Gaga Ball? It’s been said in some places that it’s from “touch touch” in Hebrew, but according to Steinberg, it isn’t quite so cultural. Apparently, during a moment of frustration with the children, he called his six-year-old charges, “a bunch of babies”, and they responded by making baby sounds. Goo goo, ga ga.

The name stuck. And when the activity became scheduled, it was written down as “ga-ga.”

 

Gaga Ball Rules

While the rules seem to vary by location, here are a set of “official rules” according to the Gaga Center in New York, here:

  • All players start with one hand touching a wall of the pit.
  • The game begins with a referee throwing the ball into the center of the pit.
  • When the ball enters the pit, the players scream ‘GA’ for the first two bounces, and ‘GO’ on the third bounce, after which the ball is in action.
  • Once the ball is in play, any player can hit the ball with an open or closed hand.
  • If a ball touches a player below the knee (even if the player hits himself or herself) he or she is out and leaves the pit. If a player is hit above the knees, the play continues.
  • Using the walls of the octagon to aid in jumping is legal as long as the player does not permanently sit on the ledge of the octagon.
  • If a ball is caught on a fly, the player who hit the ball is out.
  • Players cannot hold the ball.
  • If needed, a second ball can be thrown in the pit to expedite the end of the game. The last player standing is the winner of that round.




Making Your Own Pit

So, if you’ve got the time and a suitable permanent location, you can build your own Gaga pit. You’ll just need twelve 2x12x16′ boards, six 1x6x12′ boards, sixteen 3″ hinges, and two pounds of 2″ deck screws. And some tools. And it would help to be a much, much better carpenter than I am. But if you this kind of person, or you know somebody who is, you can find a complete set of instructions at kaboom.org.

 

Or… you can buy an inflatable portable one

As you can see below, Gaga pits are on the expensive side. Probably out of the price range for most packs. But if you’re a council or district representative, you might want to look into investing in one. I know of at least one council that has one and lends it out to packs and troops as needed. They’re great for joining night activities.

The nice thing about it is that it’s portable and relatively easy to set up. It’s a little on the heavy side, but a couple of adults should be able to maneuver it. You will need an outlet to power the pump.

 

Photo by Camp Pinewood YMCA


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Gaga Ball Pit


Easy and quick to inflate, this portable Gaga Ball Pit is a huge hit with kids and adults. Interior playing area of 15′ x 15′, this Gaga Ball Pit entertains lots of people for hours. When the game is over, it stows away neatly and frees up the space for other activities. The FunAir Gaga Ball Pit is made with top quality materials and workmanship and backed by a 1 year limited warranty. Includes 2 FunAir Gaga Balls, FunAir electric pump, PVC repair kit and manual pump for inflating the ball.
New From:$2,495.00 USD In Stock

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