For all you Lyons Elementary School parents who watched Lady Ga-Ga's, some might say controversial, show during half time at this year's Super Bowl, fear not worried ones, the new Ga-Ga rage at LES has nothing to do with the scantily clad, heavily made up, tattooed singer.
It turns out Ga-Ga Ball, apparently, was devised by some Jewish (ga-ga in Hebrew literally means touch-touch) camp councilors in Australia in the 1960s, and found its way to American mid-west summer camps shortly thereafter. Ga-Ga Ball is a cross between a benign form of dodge ball (no longer allowed on most school playgrounds) and four-square. It is played in an octagon or hexagon pit with a soft surface (at LES it's a wood chip covering). Any number of players can participate at the same time in either individual or team play. A playground ball is directed around the pit at contestants with the hands; the object being to hit the opponents at or below the knees. If one is struck, he or she is out, and must leave the pit until the game is over. If a player manages to catch a ball directed at him or her in the air, the player that directed the ball is out. The last person/team standing is the winner.
According to officials at LES, one of the main advantages of Ga-Ga Ball is that all children, regardless of their athletic skill level, have the ability to participate and even win. Ga-Ga Ball provides a fun way to develop skills that can be applied to other sports. It incorporates agility, dodging, jumping and striking of a ball. It provides great exercise, as players must continually move to avoid being hit by the ball. The game effectively levels the playing field because no one is guaranteed to win every time. Strategy, luck, finesse and even teamwork are important components to Ga-Ga Ball. This allows children, who struggle in more traditional sports, to excel at Ga-Ga Ball; while promoting physical activity. Principal Andrew Moore also noted, that because Ga-Ga is played on an “honor system” (players must call themselves “out” when they are hit) “The game promotes discussions in the classroom about honesty, honor, and good sportsmanship.”
Lyons Elementary School earlier this year erected a Ga-Ga Ball pit. It is a low-walled (about a foot or two high) octagon, about fifteen or twenty feet across. The low wall keeps the action moving, and keeps the ball from bouncing across the playground. The more players, the faster the action. Moore said with a sly smile, “Sometimes we use more than one ball and things really get fast and furious!”
The Ga-Ga pit has become one of the most popular spots on the playground. The kids can be seen getting games going before school, during morning recess, at lunch recess, and after school.