What is this new fascination taking over at youth activities, including the recent 2017 National Jamboree? I’ve read about it, watched a ton of YouTube videos, and actually it just looks like fun. 

Gaga or ga-ga ball is played in an octagonal pen placed on dirt or grass. The pen appears to be about three feet tall, and players jump in and jump out as there is no door. I’d call it a pen, but the Scouts call it a pit.

The game starts as all players are touching the octagonal wall. The “leader of the pit” tosses in a soft ball, about the size of a soccer ball. On the first bounce everyone yells “ga,” second bounce “ga,” and the third bounce they yell “go.” The object of the game is to either flat hand or fist the ball at any other player and hit them below the knees. If a player gets hit, they must leave the pit. When the ball is tossed too high and caught, the tosser must leave the pit. If done correctly, there is a whole lot of running and jumping and dodging going on. I have always been a dodgeball fan, but this appears to be a kinder, gentler version.

Although the origin of ga-ga ball is still in question, the prevailing opinion is that in the 1970’s it was started by a 17-year-old counselor at a Jewish Community Center who was in charge of a bunch of 6-year-old boys. He tried playing with a ball with them, but it constantly rolled down a hill. He brought benches over to surround them and the ball, and they played modified dodgeball. At one point he called them out as being a group of babies. Their response was “goo-goo, ga-ga,” playing as babies. The goo-goo got dropped, but he claims the ga-ga name.

I believe that ga-ga ball is a fantastic sport. Most kids love it. The problem to me seems that many times the game is not monitored by an adult. That means that rules are not always followed. I guess, if I were in charge, I would allow boys of equal size to compete against one another. Then, time should be allotted for boys with limited dexterity skills, so they can also savor the moment. I also feel that playing with soccer balls and basketballs is not what the game is about. Kids have been hurt in the ga-ga pit, and smacking against the wooden pen to get away has to hurt.

So Scouts, play safe, play for fun and “go ga-ga!”

Joyce Olesen
is a grandmother, mother, and daughter of Scouters. She love kids, camping, country music and sport cars. Her Dad was a Scout leader in Chicago in the early 1920’s and having only daughters did not bolster his Scouting hopes. As his "Scout" she was tying regulation knots by the time she was 7.

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