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Octagonal Gaga court in Bennington, Indiana at Camp Livingston

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.[1]

General Rules[edit]

  1. A player can hit the ball with their hands, but picking up the ball and throwing it at a player is not allowed. Scooping, or curling one's fingers while hitting the ball so as to project the ball into the air, is not permitted. 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.
  2. 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. This rule, therefore, prohibits kicking of any kind.
  3. If a player hits the ball out of the pit that player is eliminated. The last player to touch the ball before it goes out of the pit, is the player that is eliminated, regardless of who originally hit the ball. In some versions, if the ball hits the wall before exiting the pit, that player is not eliminated because the ball has ricocheted and was not a direct hit.
  4. Wall jumping is not allowed (holding onto the wall while jumping, or otherwise using the wall to assist a jump).
  5. Double touching is prohibited. A player may not hit the ball twice in a row, unless the ball comes into contact with the wall or another player between touches.
  6. A player must step out of the pit to show that they have been eliminated.

Other rules may be added as necessary. For example, some venues do not permit handstands, because eliminating a player that is using handstands would generally require players to scoop the ball. Additional rules that vary in frequency of implementation include the prohibition of blocking, crouching, playing on the ground, and rolling.

Popularity outside Israel[edit]

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.

Mainstream Ga-ga[edit]

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.”[2] 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[edit]

It is believed to have been brought to the United States by Israeli counselors working at Jewish summer camps.[3]

Ga-ga continued its US expansion to Manhattan with the opening of The Gaga Center, New York's first facility dedicated to the sport.[4] 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.[5]

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.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]