Gamefying Sport Training For Youth: Gaga Ball

“One of the biggest mistakes well intentioned youth sport coaches or trainers make is trying to train their young athletes by modeling what coaches of college or even professional athletes are doing.” -International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA)

Here at Breakaway, we take slightly different approach. A big aspect of our youth program is incorporating purposeful games, where A) we get the athletes to give an all out effort and B) we can layer in all types of training.

One of my favorite games to incorporate for our youth programs is gaga ball. You might be wondering, “what the heck is gaga ball?”

Let me tell you a short story before I get into the details of the game. This game came into my life, not when I was a kid (I feel like I missed out!), but when I was at an IYCA workshop in Charlotte. Imagine 10 or so fitness professionals in an arena, playing gaga ball. After playing this game for about 10m, I felt exhausted, excited, and had a black eye (I like to compete). I knew I was bringing this game back to our facility. Ask any kid who has played it at Breakaway and I bet they will rave about it!

Ok, details of the game. Well, think of it as dodgeball, but you have to use your hands to hit the ball. We created an octagon arena where everyone competes inside the arena. If you get hit from the knee down, your out. It’s a fast paced game, so if your caught standing around, you may not be in very long!

We throw in different aspects, where you can get back into the game or I throw two balls in the arena instead of one. Always fun mixing in different variables.

The idea of the game to the athlete is to be the last one in, but what I see as a coach is more than just the game happening. I see the competitive side of athletes, leading to improvement in communication. More importantly, in the eyes of a strength coach, I see athletes training on performance and movement. Just from a game! You might be asking, “What type of skills are they working on?” Well, the skills being developed in this game are…

Agility

Conditioning

Balance/Coordination

Spatial Awareness (knowing where he/she is in space in relation to teammates/opponents/ and/or objects)

Kinesthetic Differentiation (knowing how much force to produce in a specific direction)

Reactivity

Rhythm (timing)

All these aspects make a well rounded athlete and are easy to train when we play gaga ball!

Our approach to youth athletic development involves of all different types. WE have found through research and practical experience that game play is symbiotic to sport. Often I find that as kids are coming up through the various levels of physical and mental development, they can perform well in specific drills but, when placed within a realistic context similar to a sport, like Gaga ball, those improvements don’t crossover. 

Because of this, we’ve found that one way to improve their chances is to create more opportunities for them to perform in a more realistic context. This is where games like Gaga ball work perfectly!

We can develop athletic skills in a manner that brings out maximum effort and is much more fun for the kids!

If you’d like to get your athlete started, check out our 6 Week All Around Athlete Program!

Strength Coach,

Silas Perreault BS, CSCS, IYCA-YFS, HSSCS

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