Mamba GaGa is jointly owned by Chris Wallendal and Adrienne Gentles. Chris and I met in the early 90’s when we both worked together. We met again after almost 20 years, began dating, and eventually combined our five children in a household in June of 2012. When we got together and blended our two families we tried to find activities and games or have events that would tie our children together, hoping one day they would love/hate each other like siblings. In late July, I took my kids and a friend’s child to Bible camp in NJ. The camp had a gaga pit and at the end of the camp day the kids would run back up to the gaga pit and play for hours in the sun and blaring heat. As the car pool mom, I was responsible to show up with kids by dinner time, but hours later I still could not convince them to leave. I sent a text picture to various people, amused by their obsession with the game. The pit seemed relatively easy to build, being plywood sheets cut in half length wise and attached by hinges – rudimentary, but effective.
Chris and I decided that a gaga pit at our house would be great for parties or just something fun that our kids could do together. So Chris and I built a wood pit made of plywood capped with a wood railing to avoid splinters and rounded the edges for safety. The wood pit was a hit! Our kids and their friends played endlessly. Great fun, but it was essentially a not too attractive permanent structure in our back yard. Each of the eight pit sides weighed approximately 50 lbs. and moving for mowing or when not in use did not happen, it was just too heavy and cumbersome. Even though GaGa had been around for almost 30 years and kids everywhere love the game, it really was not a residential friendly sport. Thus began our mission: How to make a high quality gaga pit light enough that one mother could quickly and easily set up or take down the pit by herself at home.
To reach our current Mamba GaGa pit design, Chris and I spent countless hours watching kids playing the game, received valuable input from kids, parents, and educators, consulted with our suppliers and manufacturers, and held endless brainstorming sessions. Our goal was to create the perfect product to enable GaGa to be played everywhere kids gather – gyms, schools, in neighborhoods and at parties. Chris milled hundreds of wooden prototype hinges of various forms and we had the kids test them on pits in our basement. We tried various materials including PVC, round steel tubing and trampoline materials, to name a few.
For various reasons, we returned to sides that feel more like a baseball pitch back, not only to enhance the sport but to make each panel light enough to carry, assemble/disassemble and store by one person in the minimum amount of space. The open net panel design also enables observers to see the activity in the pit, something we felt was important both for spectating and adult supervision. We added a pinned hinge to allow for flexibility of pit shape and the ability to adjust the number of panels used to allow for unlimited pit sizes. This would allow future specialized goals and other sport panel options to be easily incorporated into existing pits so that new games could be added as well as enable a single player to practice their skills. The pits could also be assembled or disassembled in minutes without using tools.
Our hope was that this “awesome game”, as it was described by “newbie” teenagers when they tested our pits, would unite our kids of various ages, talents, interests and athletic ability and help them see that “What binds you as a family is more important than what divides you”. GaGa has truly been that with us and now is a family project. We believe that it can do the same for your institution, group, neighborhood or family. Young kids to adults can play at the same time with varying degrees of athletic ability because Mamba GaGa’s pits have a way of leveling the playing field – there’s nothing like seeing 14 year old athletic superstars being humbled by 8 year old girls. What is great about GaGa is it is a “Kid Owned Sport”, not a sport a parent has to teach, referee or provide lessons to learn. Thanks to GaGa we nag our kids a little less often to be nice to each other. Whatever the reason, GaGa is a whole lot of spontaneous addictive fun! One day we believe Mamba GaGa pits will be everywhere, at your school, church, camp, in front yards, and neighborhood cul-de-sacs alongside the familiar basketball hoops and soccer goals. “Gaga for GaGa!” is so appropriate.
And in case you are wondering how we came up with the name “Mamba”, it is the first letters of our kids’ names.