Ga-ga (lit. "touch-touch") is a variant of dodgeball. The game combines dodging, striking, running and jumping with the object of hitting opponents with a ball below the knee while avoiding being hit. The game can be played by groups of individual players, teams and in one-on-one matches. The game may sometimes be referred to as "Israeli dodge-ball".
Other names for the game include Octo-Ball and Panda Ball.
Ga-ga is played in a large octagon or hexagon called the Ga-ga pit. Ga-ga begins with someone throwing the gaga ball up into the air. When it bounces the players say "Ga" each bounce for the first three bounces (sometimes two). The player's back should stay on the wall until the three bounces are done. After three bounces the ball is in play and the game starts. Players "hit" the ball at each other in the ring. A player cannot "hit" the ball twice in a row unless it bounces off a wall or another person. When a player is hit, he/she leaves the game. A player who hits or knocks the ball out of the pit is also out. If a player catches the ball in the air, the last person to hit the ball is out.
- A player can hit the ball with their hands, but picking up the ball and throwing it at a player is not allowed. Also scooping is not allowed. In some games, only open hand hits are allowed to prevent striking injury to small children and also allowing better control of the ball to keep it low and prevent head shots.
- If the ball touches a player anywhere on or below the knee (in some versions, below the ankle or waist), that player is eliminated from the game.
- If a player pops the ball up into the air it can be hit down to keep it in the game or let it go.
- The player cannot kick the ball. (As this is touching the ball below the knee.)
- Wall jumping is not allowed (holding onto the wall while jumping).
- If a player hits the ball out of the arena and hits another person the person who touches it last is out.
- No double tapping. A player is allowed to hit it against the wall to keep it in play but no more than 3 times.
- A player must step out of the pit to show that they're out.
Popularity outside Israel
Ga-ga was played in the Australian Jewish community of Perth, Western Australia from the 1960s. The 1980s saw a thriving period for junior competition Ga-ga. The game was introduced through the exchange of Israeli madrikhim (counsellors) to Australia or Australian madrikhim returning from Israel.
In July 2012, The New York Times wrote that "to the surprise of parents who recall the game from their youths, gaga is solidly mainstream." Among the things that contributed to ga-ga's expansion, the article credits children's love of the game. "They are teaching it to their parents and not vice versa. It’s not like baseball or football or tennis, where they have to emulate someone else. Kids own it.” Children often learn about ga-ga ball through summer camps that are across Canada and the United States, with varying sizes of pits.
United States Expansion
It is believed to have been brought to the United States by Israeli counselors working at Jewish summer camps.
Ga-ga continued its US expansion to Manhattan with the opening of The Gaga Center, New York's first facility dedicated to the sport. ABC News was the first broadcast news organization to cover the sport of Ga-Ga at The Gaga Center, labeling it the "kinder, gentler version" of dodgeball.
Ga-ga has become a mainstay in Salvation Army Camps of the Empire State Division, with Long Point Camp boasting one of the most used pits outside of Israel.
European and US championships
The Ga-ga European Championship was first held in 2000 in Lisbon, Portugal. Highly competitive, 36 countries participate every summer in game play. Ga-ga gained momentum in Latin America in the 1970s through the efforts of Professor Ueve, founder of the Ani Be Ata institute.