When picturing a traditional playground setting, most people may recall playing on the simple classics- slides, swing sets and seesaws, to name a few. What doesn’t immediately come to mind is a something called “Gaga Pit,” a large wooden hexagon where children play a strange mashup of dodgeball and handball called Gaga Ball. Senior Brendan Hollaway recently vamped up Canyon Ridge Middle School’s playground with one of these devices after deciding to build one in order to earn his Eagle Scout award.
“I am ecstatic to have reached the rank of Eagle Scout after being in Cub and Boy Scouts since the second grade!” Hollaway said. “To me, the rank of Eagle Scout represents that the bearer is someone who exemplifies the ideal of ‘service to the community.’ They also represent the 12 points of the Scout Law: ‘A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient cheerful, thrifty, clean, and brave.’”
Gaga Ball involves trying to be the last one standing by getting others out by hitting, not picking up and throwing, the ball at other players. Players who are hit below the knee are out, and you cannot hit the ball more than once unless it bounces off another player or the Gaga Pit wall.
“I learned about Gaga Ball from a summer camp (I can’t remember where),” Hollaway said. “It was a ton of fun – I also enjoyed the fact that, because you have to target people beneath the knee, no one was getting pegged painfully in the face.”
A fundamental part of Gaga Ball is the Gaga Pit, with the one that Hollaway built being comprised of a wooden hexagon measuring 10 feet on each side.
“The Gaga Pit is an important part of Gaga Ball, because it not only keeps the ball from bouncing off, far away from the action, but serves as a strategic element,” Hollaway said. “The wall can be used to re-position the ball, allowing for a shot to be prepped, making it more accurate.”
Hollaway recently approached CRMS asking about building a Gaga Pit for their students in order to fulfill the requirements for his Eagle Scout.
“After receiving permission, I, alongside my Boy Scout Troop and my friends from school, built the Gaga Pit in a clearing outside of their lunchroom, and gave several copies of the rules to the school,” Hollaway said. “However, these rules turned out to be relatively unnecessary, as the vast majority of kids had not only heard of Gaga Ball, but knew how to play as well! They took the balls that I supplied and got right to having fun.”
The Gaga Pit was built in two phases- the first phase at Hollaway’s house involved preparing the Gaga Pit boards with the help of volunteers from Hollaway’s family and robotics team.
“After around 27 man-hours of work, we had finished sanding and drilling holes into all of the boards,” Hollaway said. “They were ready for assembly! Then, 20 people from my family and scout troop came out to help me assemble, and around 80 man-hours later, there was a fully assembled and ready-to-play Gaga Pit!”
After a total of 154 volunteer hours, the Gaga Pit was ready to be played in and has since been put to good use by the middle school students.
“I cannot give you exact numbers for how many students play (you could ask the school), but I do know that they play during lunch, and I suspect that they play before and possibly after school as well,” Hollaway said. “I know that a lot of students do play in it, however, because when I went back only two days after installing the Gaga Pit, all the grass inside had already been pulverized into dust from intense use!”
Hollaway credits his boy scout program for giving him leadership skills to use later in his life.
“More than anything else, I will take the leadership skills I developed in Boy Scouts with me to college, allowing me to effectively work in groups throughout college and my career,” Hollaway said. “I would strongly recommend Boy Scouts to anyone who is interested! Boy Scouts is an incredibly rewarding experience, and you will make friends that you will keep for a lifetime.”