What is Gaga anyway?

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The game of Gaga is a fixture at almost all of the camps that make their home on the Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds. Also known as Israeli dodgeball, pit dodgeball, octo-ball and panda ball, the game requires a playground ball and a pit or corral of some type. The rules are simple. In most versions of the game one player begins the game by bouncing the ball in the middle of the court. Everyone holds still and yells “ga!” one time for each of the ball’s first three bounces, after which it is in play. At this point, they can hit the ball with only their hands – no carrying or throwing allowed. If the ball hits a player below the waist, they are “out.” The last player standing, of course, is the winner.

It’s a more forgiving game than the traditional dodgeball played in many American schools, more inclusive and fun for kids of all skill levels. But Gaga still provides opportunities for exercising quick thinking and quick reflexes – playing in an enclosed court and allowing the ball to bounce off its sides keeps the game fast and tightly contained. Perfectly suited to a kid’s short attention span.

The game was brought over to North America by Israeli counselors working at Jewish camps (much like many of the programs hosted on HKC grounds), and has been played in the United States at least since the late 70s. Some camps take Gaga to the next level by organizing camper trips to Ultimate Gaga in Syosset, an indoor arena with eight Gaga courts available for play. But it’s safe to say with all the Gaga courts on each of the three campgrounds, the game has become part of the everyday camping experience.

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