The layout of a four square court.
|Setup time||30 seconds|
|Skill(s) required||Manual dexterity
Four square is a ball game played among four players on a square court divided into quadrants. The objective of four square is to eliminate other players to achieve the highest rank on the court, and this is done by bouncing the ball back and forth between quadrants. A player is eliminated when a ball is bounced in a player's quadrant and the player is unable to touch the ball into another player's quadrant. It is a popular game at elementary schools with little required equipment, almost no setup, and short rounds of play that can be ended at any time.
Four square is played on any hard-surfaced court, such as wood, concrete or asphalt. There is no official court size, but typically courts measure between 10 and 30 feet (3-8 meters) on a side, and divided into four smaller equal-size squares. Each of the four squares has a rank and is occupied by a single player. The ranks may be arranged so that either the highest ranking square is positioned facing the lowest ranking square, or the ranks increase as one moves clockwise (or counterclockwise).
The lines on the court are boundaries. The interior lines separating player squares are out of bounds. The ball may not touch any portion of an inside line or the player who hit the ball is in error. The lines marking the outermost edges of the court are typically considered in-bounds. These boundary rules are often described as "inside out, outside in." In recreational play, and even with a judge in tournament play, it is often difficult to determine if the ball hits the line.
Four square is played with a rubber playground ball, typically 8.5 inches (220 mm) diameter, and inflated to 2 psi (14 kPa). However, other sizes and types of balls can be used.
During regular play, or "classic," the ball must be hit with the player's hands only.
In classic play, carrying, catching, or holding the ball during play is not allowed, although putting spin on the ball is allowed as long as carrying does not occur. Prolonged contact with the ball can give players unfair control over the play. Hitting the ball must create a perceptible change in the ball's velocity (speed or direction).
Players may be eliminated from the court because of errors or fouls they commit. Eliminated players leave the court, the remaining players move up to the next highest square, and a new player joins the court in the lowest square. Eliminated players wait in line for their next turn.
The following actions may result in elimination (although many variations exist):
- Failing to hit the ball into another square
- Missing the ball
- Hitting the ball into your own square
- Hitting the ball out of turn
- Hitting the ball with a prohibited body part
- Hitting the ball out of bounds (or onto an internal boundary line)
- Hitting the ball before it touches the ground
For younger players, plain Four Square might get boring. Minigames change and add new rules. What minigames are played is decided by the player starting with the ball. There are hundreds of minigames and every player has different rules for how minigames work. Popular Minigames Include-
- Cherry Bomb- The player starting with the ball kicks the ball as hard as they want in whatever direction they want. Then he calls on another player and tells them to get the ball in a certain amount of time. The player that gets the ball must return to their square with the ball in their possession. As the player fetches the ball, the other players count down and if they player does not retrieve the ball in a certain amount of time, they are eliminated. If they do return with the ball in time, the games continues and everyone plays regularly.
- Tips- The players have to not let the ball touch the ground. They do this by hitting the ball while in the air to another player. If the player does a pass while touching the ground they are eliminated. If they do a bad pass and the intended target does not hit it up, then the passer is eliminated. If they do a good pass, but the receiving player does not pass it correctly and the ball hits the ground, then they are eliminated.
- War- The player starting with the ball declares war on another player. This means that they play regular four square but the players at war only play against each other.
- Don't Break Mama's Dishes- This is a minigame similar to tips, except the players can be touching the ground when they hit the ball.
- Sprinkles- The players can not get eliminated. When a player would regularly get eliminated, they just stay in their square as does everyone else.
- This is often combined with harder minigames like Tips for a sort of practice round.
- Suicides- All the players (except the player starting with the ball) line up at one of the sides of the four square court. They then run to the middle line in the court, run back to the outside line, then run to the parallel outside line. This closely resembles the Suicide drill used in basketball practices.
- Packman- In Packman or Cereal Killer, the players (except the player starting with the ball) run around the court, but the must follow the lines that separate and define the squares. Then the player starting with the ball does the same, but they must chase the players. When they finally catch or touch another player, the player without the ball gets eliminated.
- Players not in the game can stand on the lines of the court, acting like obstacles in the way of the other frantic players.
- Double Tap- In double tap the players can hit the ball twice. This is one of the more popular minigames.
- Another lesser known variant of the game exists wherein there is no ball and there is a person in the middle. The players must swap squares using eye contact and must avoid being tagged by the person in the middle. If they are caught, they go in the middle and the game keeps going.
Four square is a popular game for children and school playgrounds. It is possible to scale the game's difficulty and supervision appropriately for different age groups and ability levels. Schools, churches, and camps often change the size of the court, the type of ball, or aspects of the rules to create variation in play or to suit the players' abilities.
Four square has inspired other similar games. One example is nine square where instead of the grid being two-by-two, it is three-by-three. The king court is in the middle and the ball is served from this position. The rules are similar in how the ball is passed between players by bouncing between squares. Other branches of the game have been popularized in recent years which are played on an aerial grid. It is similar to the original in that four or nine people play in their respective spots, but they must keep the ball off the ground like in volleyball. Rotation and rules are similar to each grounded rendition
Four square dates back to at least the 1950s. A game called "four square" is mentioned in newspapers at least as far back as the 1950s, although the rules are not explained.
Four Square is described with the same rules used today in a 1953 teacher's manual.
The game is known as "King" in Sweden, and many players refer to the person in the server square as the "king."
The Four Square World Championships, is a regional competitive adult four square tournament, which takes place in Bridgton, Maine, USA, each winter season. The Lakes Environmental Association hosts this annual winter fundraiser to support their environment in the lakes region of Maine, USA. The competition draws athletes from the US and Canada, and has registered competitors from Israel to Bermuda. As of February 22, 2014[update], The results of the February 24, 2018, competition are:
- 2020 Men's World Champion, Alec Douglas, Norway, Maine, USA
- 2018 Women's World Champion, Brittany Dunay, Maine, USA
- 2018 Men's World Champion, Christian Housh, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
- 2018 Women's Junior World Champion, Penny Housh, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
- 2018 Men's Junior World Champion, Sabian Hallin, Maine, USA
Prior world championships have been held in January or February from 2005 through 2018.
On August 4–5, 2012, a core group of 17 Needham High School students and alumni — assisted by 50 other Needham residents at various times — broke the previous world record by playing for 34 hours, the previous record being held by 15 Manchester College students who played the game for 30 hours. The world record was previously held by eight Argentinean players for 29 hours in 2008, as recognized by Guinness World Records. The Argentinean record was preceded by a group of teens from Youngstown, OH who also played for 29 hours.
Four Square Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.