Lake Norman & Mooresville

Cornelius players go gaga for new sport

From left, Jacob Ellenberg, Cole Ceely, Luke Barnes and Meghan McHugh scatter as Alexander James prepares to hit the ball toward them.
From left, Jacob Ellenberg, Cole Ceely, Luke Barnes and Meghan McHugh scatter as Alexander James prepares to hit the ball toward them. Marty Price

Gaga ball might evoke thoughts of Lady Gaga holding a grand dance, but for the children at Robbins Park on Aug. 8, it was a chance to compete for top honors in the town’s inaugural tournament.

Gaga Ball, a cross between handball and dodgeball, is played in a octagonal shaped pit with 4-foot-tall walls. Players can only advance the ball by hitting it with an open palm. To land an eliminating hit, the ball must contact the player below the knees.

Mooresville resident Tresa Mendolia, whose son, Caden, 8, was competing, noted that the relatively new sport was gaining popularity. “It is a much gentler version of dodgeball. We play on our deck,” she said.

Another rule that encourages keeping the ball low: if a player hits the ball high enough to go out of the pit, it is considered the same as being hit by the ball, and that player is out. Players are awarded points for staying in the game, with the most points being awarded to the last player standing.

The tournament, for ages 8-13, was sponsored by the Cornelius Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture Department.

In the 8-10 age group, four of the eight players entered the pit per game, hitting the ball, twisting and jumping as they tried to avoid the ball. For the 11-13 age group, seven of the 14 players began each game.

Each game lasted until there was only one player left, or 5 minutes, whichever came first. The players with the highest scores after several games advanced to the final championship round. Joey Bruce, athletic programs supervisor for Cornelius PARC, said that most of the games only lasted about one and a half minutes.

In the final game for the 8-10 age group, Will DeSena, 10, outlasted his opponents and received a high-five from two of the older competitors. One of them, Rylie Jenkins, finished second, behind Aedan Lambert in the 11-13 age group.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Rylie. “It was kind of scary when the ball was coming at you real fast,” she said.

Will said that being the champion earned him major bragging rights. “It feels awesome. I thought I was going to do pretty good, but I didn’t know that I would win,” he said.

Medals were awarded for first, second and third place in each age group, along with an event T-shirt for each participant.

Bruce said that he would like to have a tournament in the spring and one in the fall if there is enough interest.

Marty Price is a freelance writer: martyprice53@gmail.com

Learn more:

For more information on Gaga ball go to: http://www.gagacenter.com/nyc/about/what-is-gaga/

For more information on programs offered by the Cornelius Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture Department go to: http://www.cornelius.org/index.aspx?NID=124

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