Gaga Ball Rules: How Do You Play Gaga Ball?

If you haven’t spent time at a summer camp in recent decades, you may not be familiar with Gaga Ball, a fun and fast-paced game that is loved by kids of all ages (including “grown-up” kids, too). 

Gaga Ball provides a healthy way for kids to get exercise, play with peers, enjoy competition, and participate in an activity that does not require a specialized skill set. Even “non-athletic” types love Gaga Ball. And we cannot resist this cringeworthy pun when describing it: kids go Gaga over Gaga Ball!

If you are new to the game, rest assured Gaga Ball and its rules can be picked up quickly by beginners. Because it is such a fast-paced game, you do need to have a good handle on the rules before you start.

Everything you need to know about a fun and fast-paced game of Gaga Ball is outlined below, including what equipment is needed and a little overview of the game’s origins.

Gaga Ball: What is It and How Did it Get Started?

Like many popular games and sports, Gaga Ball is an activity with more than one origin story. There are several versions of how Gaga Ball came to be, though most agree it originated in Israel and made its way to American summer camps in the 1970s. You can read more about Gaga ball origins on this post

The easiest way to describe the Gaga game to someone who has never played is “picture yourself in a pit, playing dodgeball.” Most players would also say it is a safer version of dodgeball (which is reassuring to parents who still have lingering PTSD from the dodgeball games of their youth).

Gaga Ball requires only a pit or “walls” and a ball and is easy to set up and teach. Gaga Ball can keep kids of all ages entertained while also providing the perfect way for them to burn off energy.

Gaga Ball Pits Types

The Gaga pit is the first and most significant difference between Gaga Ball and traditional dodgeball. Whereas dodgeball can be played in most open spaces (a gym, a court, a field, etc.), you need a pit specific to Gaga Ball to play the game correctly.

The pit will be octagonal in shape, and you can throw a fun geometry lesson into the pregame warmup by asking the players to identify their pit’s shape. The pit should be constructed out of durable and stationary materials such as hard plastics.  It is recommended that users stay away from materials like netting where a child can get a hand stuck or any material that can injure a child (like splinters from wood).

Another reason for high quality is that the lower quality gaga pit materials will not hold up in high-use situations where longevity is desired, such as at schools, rec centers, or camps. This is where you will need a strong, commercial grade gaga pit. We sell these to organizations all across the USA. You can view our gaga ball pits for sale here.

What Are the Gaga Pit Sizes?

The size of the Gaga pit will vary based on the number of players. If you need to accommodate groups of 6 to 8, your Gaga Ball Pit should be 15 feet in diameter. For groups of 8 to 12, you will need a pit that is at least 20 feet in diameter from wall to wall. If your player groups typically include groups of 12 or more, your pit should be at least 25 feet in diameter. The height of the pit walls will be about 42”-44”.  Typically you want a gaga pit that is high enough that kids cannot fall out of but also one that kids can see over.  42” high seems to be the perfect height.

Gaga Balls: What Kind Should I Use?

Once your pit is set up and ready to use, the only other equipment you need is a Gaga Ball. The good news here is that a ball you probably already own will work for this game.

Gaga Ball can be played with anything from a soccer ball to a volleyball. Basketballs work, too. The best balls for the game are foam-filled and lightweight, and the type known as “playground balls” are also ideal. Just be sure your ball choice is 8 to 10 inches in diameter, and it will work well for playing Gaga Ball.

While all of the aforementioned choices will work, some opt to purchase the official Gaga Ball, which is the perfect blend of bouncy and lightweight and make a great ball for beginners.

ways-to-play-gaga-ball

Gaga Ball Rules and Guide to Playing

Once you have your pit and your ball, you are ready to get started. We will walk you through the steps and rules so you know exactly how to run a game of Gaga Ball.

How to Play Gaga Ball: The Steps

  • One person throws the ball up in the air and allows it to bounce three times
  • When the ball bounces, all of the players shout “Ga” each time
  • After the third time the ball has bounced, the game has officially begun
  • Players then 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

How to Play: Gaga Ball Rules

  • At the beginning of the game, every play must have a hand touching the wall/side of the pit
  • Anyone can make the first throw
  • Players cannot catch and throw the ball; it must be hit with open hands
  • If you catch or hold the ball, you are automatically out
  • A player cannot sit on the ledge of the pit during the game, but they can use that wall to  place their hand on it to help jump if needed

Variations of Gaga Ball: Change it Up for Even More Fun

While Gaga Ball can keep kids entertained for hours, you may need to change things up from time to time to keep them engaged. There are a few versions you can try, or you can even make up some variations of your own!

Double Gaga Ball

If your group comprises experienced players, you can try a whole game with two balls in play. This creates an even more fast-paced version of the game, and it can be fun for older kids who have mastered the game. 

Unlimited Gaga Ball

The unlimited version adds a fun twist for the game that goes on forever (or at least until the ref or the players throw the towel in). When you are forced out of the game, you must make a mental note of which player hit you. Then when he is eliminated, you jump back into the pit to play.

Second Chance Gaga Ball

While no player likes being eliminated early in Gaga Ball, this version offers a way to make it back into the pit. If you are out and end up catching a ball that a player accidentally hits out of the pit (without touching anyone), you get a chance to jump back into the game.

The Benefits of Playing Gaga Ball and Why Kids Love It

There are so many reasons kids love Gaga Ball, and it is a favorite activity at schools, rec centers, camps, in scouting programs, and more. Beyond the fact that it is entertaining, playing Gaga Ball has a number of important benefits:

  • The fast pace of the game means kids are staying active and healthy. It is an easy way to keep kids exercising without calling it exercise!
  • The game helps kids develop their hand-eye coordination and reaction times, which will serve them well in many other sports and activities as they grow.
  • Gaga Ball is easy for children of all ages to learn and master, making it an inclusive experience and one that large groups can enjoy with mixed athletic abilities.
  • Gaga Ball is a safer activity than dodge ball, with players only hit by the ball below the waist (or the knee). 
  • Kids show up and play as is – no “extra” equipment required.

Ready to get out and play?? We hope you enjoy this awesome sport just as much as our staff.