Thursday, July 8, 2021

Gaga for GaGa Ball

Yes, GaGa Ball is a real game. No, we did not make it up. This summer, GaGa Ball has become one of our family's favorite pastimes. And we often get questions about it. If you've never heard of this sport, you're not alone.

GaGa Ball is like dodgeball, but in a fenced-in hexagonal (or sometimes octagonal) pit, and the goal is to knock out your opponents by striking them with a bouncy ball below the knee. There are a few more rules, but that's the gist of it. It's a simple, fast-moving game, fun for all ages and group sizes.

We enjoy pairing GaGa Ball sessions with a bike ride on the greenway (it makes for a fun destination activity) and sometimes ice cream or Slurpies after.

While the origins of GaGa ball are a bit of a mystery (it's thought to have debuted in the United States in the 1950s, having originated in Israel and been introduced here by Israeli counselors working at summer camps. Gaga in Hebrew means "touch touch.") there's no denying it's grown in popularity in recent years. Local kids are likely to have played it in school, at camp, or with friends in the neighborhood.

The beauty of the game is that, besides the pit, all the equipment you really need is a light, bouncy ball and some supportive, comfortable shoes. I do recommend throwing some water bottles in your gear bag; it's easy to work up a sweat when you get to playing.

We've found a few public pits in and around Charlotte (they're often at schools or churches). Our favorite is in the corner of the soccer fields at Dilworth Elementary School (405 E. Park Ave., Charlotte, N.C., 28203) because it's large, flat and shaded. And there are public restrooms and water fountains at the adjacent Tom Sykes Recreation Center

Some of our other go-tos are:
  • The playground at St. Patrick Cathedral (1621 Dilworth Rd. E., Charlotte, N.C. 28203, just down the street from Dilworth Elementary)
  • Beside First Baptist Church Uptown (301 S. Davidson St., Charlotte, N.C., 28202)
  • In the far corner of the track across the street from Eastover Elementary School (500 Cherokee Rd., Charlotte, N.C., 28207)
Know of other GaGa pits around town? I'd love to hear about them. A quick search for a local directory came up empty. Maybe we can create one here.

I know GaGa Ball sounds newfangled. Or maybe made up? But, when it comes to schoolyard games, this one's a classic. And I recommend giving it a try. Go on. Go gaga. It's fun for the whole family. 

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