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Portsmouth boy hopes you’ll go ‘GaGa’ over this sport

Kayleb Ruszczyk, 11, is helping to start up a GaGa ball program though recreation department

By Jim McGaw
Posted 2/5/21

PORTSMOUTH — No, it has nothing to do with Lady Gaga.

It involves a sided “pit,” several players and a ball they bat around with their hands. It’s called GaGa (or GaGa …

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Please support local news coverage –

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Portsmouth boy hopes you’ll go ‘GaGa’ over this sport

Kayleb Ruszczyk, 11, is helping to start up a GaGa ball program though recreation department

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — No, it has nothing to do with Lady Gaga.

It involves a sided “pit,” several players and a ball they bat around with their hands. It’s called GaGa (or GaGa ball), and this clever variation on dodgeball has become increasingly popular among the younger crowd.

Now local resident Kayleb Ruszczyk, 11, is hoping to bring it to a wider audience in Portsmouth. He’s teamed up with the Portsmouth Recreation Department to offer a GaGa program for ages 6 to 14 on Sundays from March 7 to April 25. Registration, for up to 84 youths, is now open (portsmouthri.recdesk.com).

Kayleb, a sixth-grader at Portsmouth Middle School, is someone of a GaGa expert. He first learned of the sport three years ago at the YMCA in Middletown. He liked it so much that he built his own GaGa pit for his yard last year. 

The pit is normally a large, fenced-in area shaped like an octagon or hexagon. Any number of people can play, and the game begins when one player or a referee throws the ball into the air. While their backs or hands are set against the wall, everyone shouts “Ga” on each of the three bounces. 

The ball is then in play, and players leave the wall and use an open hand to strike the ball at each other. 

“It’s just a whole bunch of people in a pit,” said Kayleb. “You can’t let the ball touch you below the waste. It’s kind of like dodgeball. You’re trying to hit the other person and make them get out.”

As in dodgeball, the objective is to be the last person standing in the pit. 

Kayleb also plays competitive football and basketball, but said GaGa is more inclusive, and boys and girls play together. 

“You don’t need to be athletic. It’s just for fun,” he said.

Kayleb approached a family friend, Steve Sebolt, about bringing GaGa to the Portsmouth Recreation Department. 

“He was in my flag football league for the town and he came to me and said he wanted to do his own GaGa league. I didn’t know what that was, but apparently it’s taking the youth by storm, or so I’m told,” said Mr. Sebolt, who last summer ran a strength and leadership camp in partnership with the recreation department.

He passed the idea along to Recreation Director Wendy Bulk, who agreed to offer the program.

Mr. Sebolt expects there will be three different age groups and seven players to a team, with four teams making up a division. The program is designed to educate young athletes about GaGa in a safe and fun environment while emphasizing participation and sportsmanship. 

Register by March 1 here.

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