Lady Ga-Ga is so last decade. The hottest Ga-Ga trend of 2012 is an Israeli version of dodgeball. Except that you play it in a pit. On the Upper East Side. Once the exclusive province of Jewish summer camps and Day Schools, Ga-Ga went Manhattan mainstream earlier this year (boys from nearby St. David’s and St. Bernard’s schools have been known to drop by) when a pair of moms, Alissa Schmelkin and Marcy Singer, decided NYC was tragically lacking a place for kids (and adults) to spike foam balls inside of an octagon while chanting, “Ga! Ga! Go!”

They promptly rectified the situation by opening The Ga-Ga Center on 230 East 93rd Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues (easily accessible via either the 96th or 86th Street cross-town buses, or by taking the Lexington Avenue subway).

Currently, the center consists of three pits, each a different size (the smaller the pit, the more challenging the maneuvering inside of it), an ample party space on the second level, and floor-seating for caregivers, who need to be pretty nimble themselves in order to duck randomly flying balls – this game is not for the faint of heart or the weak of spirit. It is, lest you ever forget, Israeli. (The name means: Touch! Touch!)

How Do You Play?
You start by filling a pit with eager children, the more the better – though grown ups are invited to join in during birthdays parties or at their own corporate events. A ball is then thrown into the midst of the melee. The object of the game is to smack the ball with your open or closed fist and hit an opposing player between the foot and knee. Here are a few more rules:

– Any player hit between the foot and knee is instantly out and must leave the pit.

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– However, if you hit the ball too high and the player manages to catch it before it hits the ground, you’re the one that’s out.

– Players can run out of the ball’s way, they can jump over it, or they can just hide in a corner and hope no one notices them (the latter is most unlikely).

– Towards the end a round, the referee has the option of throwing in a second ball, making both jumping and hiding much more challenging.

–  If you get hit by a ball you yourself hit, you’re still out.

– Last player standing wins.

And then you start all over again. Be prepared to leave sweaty. An hour long Ga-Ga Center session can host as many as a dozen different matches, and players are required to pretty much be moving the entire time. Not only is it a physical workout, but a mental one, as well, since being alert and aware of your surroundings at all times is a prerequisite for not getting hit. (And a skill all kids and adults are wise to cultivate.)

Who Can Play?
Pretty much anyone. The game is almost intuitive to learn, and no two matches are ever exactly the same, so it’s a new challenge to stay alive each time. The Ga-Ga Center offers weekly afternoon play sessions for grades K-3, Ga-Ga After Dark for tweens and teens, private dates for groups of 10 or more, and regular open times that you can sign up for on-line. The Ga-Ga Center management strongly urges reservations as the schedule varies week to week. They are also open on most days off from school and on holidays. A 5-pack of sessions will run you $175, while a 10-pack goes for a discounted $300. Birthday party options come in Ga-Ga Goodness, Ga-Ga Gold and Ga-Ga Goodies (you might want to practice the tongue-twister before you call to book), and range in price from $995 to $1,395.


The Competition Made Me Do It
Manhattan being Manhattan, the inevitable questions come up: Are there competitions? Are there teams? Is there a league? Are there college scholarships? How soon before we can get Ga-Ga into the Olympics? (New Yorkers can be a little bit type A, I’m not sure if anyone’s noticed yet.) The Ga-Ga Center is currently planning to hold their own in-house tournament, but, as of now, there is no formal league in New York City. However, Ultimate Ga-Ga in Syosset on Long Island does offer weekly matches the results of which are used to tabulate individual points and rankings for kids based on grade level. There’s also a league in Rochester and one in South Jersey.

Now that New Yorkers finally have a place to go Ga-Ga, the rest of those guys better watch out!

Do you think your kids will like Ga-Ga? What other games keep your kids active and having fun?

— Alina Adams