Gather your group inside a structure or indoor hall with four walls, or designate a large circle in which to play.
Announce that the goal for each person is to remain in the game as long as possible.
Using a soft ball, if an individual is hit anywhere on their knees or below, they are eliminated.
Announce four parameters to govern safe and fair play:
– The ball must always be hit with an open hand;
– A direct hit, or one that occurs after one or more bounces, will eliminate anyone it touches;
– If someone is touched by a rolling ball, he or she is also eliminated; and
– Anytime the ball is caught (without a bounce) will cause the ‘hitter’ to be eliminated.
Invite your group to spread out across the playing space, and then introduce the ball into play.
Game continues until one person remains in the playing space.
Play a second round, or try a variation.
How To Play Narrative
You first learned to play Dodgeball or Bombardment at school, right? Enough said. This ain’t the same game. This is Ultimate Hand Ball.
The game works best if you can play in a large arena or hall, because four walls will prevent the balls from escaping. However, if you don’t have a big hall, take a look at one of the later variations.
Ask your group to stand anywhere within the defined playing space, and explain that there are no teams, ie basically, it’s every person for him or her self.
Introduce one or more soft, rubber-coated balls and explain that whenever someone is hit or touched below the knee by one of the balls, they are deemed ‘out of the game.’
The game continues until one person is left standing.
There are several rules which will assist you to keep the game safe, fun and fair:
All hits of the ball must occur with an open hand;
A direct hit, or one that occurs after one or more bounces, will eliminate anyone it touches;
If someone is touched by a rolling ball, he or she is also eliminated; and
Anytime the ball is caught (without a bounce) will cause the ‘hitter’ to be eliminated.
Naturally, with two or more balls in play at any time, the action can be quite intense.
Just one word of caution – alert your group to the tendency of some who like to ‘wind up’ before hitting a ball. As people often crowd around a ball as it approaches, it is possible for someone to whack another as they swing their hand high before attempting to strike the ball.
Otherwise, stand back and enjoy the action.
Practical Leadership Tips
Ga-Ga literally means ‘touch touch’ in the Hebrew language. A classic game, it’s essentially a variant of dodgeball that is best played in a ‘pit.’
For the purposes of physical education, the game is ideal because it combines the development of dodging, striking, running, and jumping skills.
Some schools, camps and playgrounds have dedicated Ga-Ga playing spaces, which come with circular walls. These are the ideal structures if you can access one, but the absence of one should not stunt your enthusiasm for the game – see Variations tab for non-wall options.
If you are playing in a tight space, you may wish to set a limit to how high a hand can be raised for a hit to be deemed valid. That is to say, if someone raises their hand above this limit (eg above one’s waist) the ball will not eliminate any person it may touch.
You could integrate Ga-Ga as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different scenarios.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
Playing such a high energy, physically competitive activity will provide your group with ample opportunities to explore a range of social interactions. For example, here are a few conversation starters that target the development of specific social and personal skills:
Goal-Setting – What was your goal? Was it explicit or implicit? What process did you apply as an individual to achieve your goal? Did you have a process to strategy? Was there a group goal?
Resilience – If you were often eliminated early from the game, what did you say to yourself? Were you able to bounce back into the game easily? What stopped you?
Decision-Making Skills – Were there interactions or decisions made that concerned you? If you could have your time over again, would you change anything?
Reverse Elimination: To give the game a little longevity, announce that if a ball is caught (on the full) the ‘hitter’ is eliminated as per the rules, but, everyone who is ‘out’ can return to the game.
Shoot A Goal: Play on a basketball court (with hoops present.) If a ball is caught by anyone who has been eliminated (as they stand on the sidelines,) they are entitled to take a shot at the closest goal from where they were standing. If they score, everyone is back in the game.
Circle Play: If outside, designate a large circle in which to play. Retrieve any stray balls as they occur, and explain that only hits made inside the circle are ‘official.’
Team Competition: Separate your group into two teams. One team stands to form a giant circle, while the other team plays ball on the inside. As playing team members are eliminated, they join the circle team. If a ball penetrates the circle’s perimeter, a member from the circle team may strike the ball back into play, eliminating an opponent perchance! Swap teams at half time.
A classic, highly interactive tag game with longevity.
Dead Ant Tag
Zany & highly interactive tag game for large groups.
Simple, energetic ball-striking game for teams.
Useful Framing Ideas
Some people describe the world in terms of ‘dog eat dog’ meaning it’s everyone for themselves. Now, this may be a rather dark perspective on life, but shades of this approach may appear familiar to you in this next, fast-paced elimination game…
All things being equal, is your dominant approach offensive or defensive? That is, do you tend to behave proactively, or do you do your best to keep out of the way. This next activity will shine a light on this preference…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this highly energetic tag game:
How did the competitive element of this game affect you? Good or bad?
What strategies did you employ to stay in the game? Attack, defend, avoid?
How did you react when you were eliminated? Did it seem fair?
How might Ga-Ga reflect elements of real life?
Is competition good, or bad? Why?
The inspiration for Ga-Ga, and many more highly energetic group tag games, was sourced in the following publication: