Are You Going Gaga Over Gaga Ball, the New Youth Sport? | Sports Destination Management

Are You Going Gaga Over Gaga Ball, the New Youth Sport?

Apr 11, 2024 | By: Michael Popke

If you’re like us, you sometimes stop and read the flyers on display at your local fitness center. Which is how you might find out about Eagle Scouts, Girls Scouts and other community organizations developing community gaga ball pits.

The fast-paced, high-energy activity is played in an octagonal pit, with “the more players the better! — according to The GaGa Center, an indoor facility in Manhattan designed specifically for gaga ball. “Dubbed a kinder gentler version of dodgeball, the game is played with a soft foam ball and combines the skills of dodging, striking, running and jumping, while trying to hit opponents with a ball below the knees. Players need to keep moving to avoid getting hit by the ball. Fun and easy, everyone gets a serious workout.”

Encouraging young people to begin (or continue) participating in physical activity that could eventually lead to playing more organized sports as they get older? We’re all in!

Gaga Ball, the kinder gentler dodge ball“This game really gives the people who don’t play sports and people who are often intimidated by it … to possibly get into more sports,” Gavin Clark, a high school student in Burlington, N.C., told Fox 8 News after his Eagle scout project resulted in the installation last fall of a wooden gaga ball pit at a nearby elementary school, where his mother has been a speech-language pathologist for 20 years. “Hopefully, this game kind of influences some of the students … to draw some interest in sporting and outdoor activities.”

Similarly, Madison Herring, a middle school Girl Scout from Maquoketa, Iowa, recently earned the Gold Scout Silver Award (the highest one possible for her age group) when she partnered with Vestas American Wind Technology in Marengo to sustainably build a gaga ball pit in a local park using recycled blades from wind turbines. The wind company donated all materials to the project.

That kind of ingenuity landed Herring a seat at Maquoketa Parks Board meetings, where she emphasized that her idea “would bring more kids to the park,” according to, and a crew from the local parks department helped build the pit.

Pit materialswood, chain-link fencing, hard plastic, even old wind turbines vary from project to project, but this much is clear: Communities are going gaga over gaga ball. The sport has been played for decades (quite possibly originating in Israel), often at children’s summer camps. Recently, however, the game appears to be surging — thanks to community-minded young people like Clark and Herring.

Gaga Ball, the kinder gentler dodge ball“I was on camp staff this past summer, and every single day we got asked when gaga ball was happening next. It’s just so fun to see how much interaction [happens] — even though there’s not really that much talking — and to see how many friendships are built off this game,” Gab Buelvas, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout from Dixon, Ill., who led a group of about 15 volunteers (most of them his own age) in building an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant gaga ball pit in a local park, told The pit has gate wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. “I don’t just want it to be usable by able-bodied people. As a scout at camp, I’ve seen a kid who could not bend over. All the scouts brought him into the pit. They gave him a stick and he played along just with us and we all accommodated for his ability.”

The rules of gaga ball — which ask players to shout “ga!” each of the three times a ball bounces to begin the game — are pretty simple. Here’s the rundown on the rules, provided by Sport Resource Group, an Edina, Minn.-based supplier of recreational sports products:

  • Players … hit the ball with open hands (but they cannot grab and throw it)
  • Once the ball touches you below the waist, you are out of the game. Sometimes the game is played where only contact below the knee puts a player out
  • If you are the first to be called out, then you will be the person who opens and closes the gate when other players are forced out
  • If you “double touch” the ball, you are out
  • If you hit the ball out of the pit and it does not touch any player, you are out
  • If you hit another player above the waist (or knee in some cases), you are out
  • When only 2 to 4 players are left, another ball may be thrown into the mix
  • The last player in the pit who has not been hit is the winner, and then the game can start again

Click here for more on gaga ball, including additional rules.

“This is another thing [youths are] going to be able to participate in in our parks,” Dixon Parks District recreation director Seth Nicklaus, told about his community’s new gaga ball pit. “We’ve seen [gaga pits] around. They have one of these at our local middle school, and the kids love it. You see them around in different camps. So to be able to add this to our park, we’re pretty excited.”

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