Sean Effel, co-founder of Squarefour, once called the "Don King of competitive four square" and the "baddest ball-slapper in Boston", answers emails about rules and procedure whether you are running or starting to run four square games for people of all ages. Just take a moment and write him a letter and he'll try to help you out.

How big is a standard four square court?

sean - Posted on 26 February 2014

A lot of people from a lot of different industries are looking to us to answer questions about the standards of this playground game. Somehow we have become the official source for rules clarifications, managing behavior, and even consulting about world records. This week we're addressing a couple of questions about the size of a four square court. I will answer your questions in the order they were received...

Dear Sean, I am the technical writer for the American Sports Builders Association and we are updating our book, Indoor Sports Facilities: A Construction and Maintenance Manual. Our members are increasingly telling us they are being asked to add FourSquare lines to gymnasiums and playgrounds. I am wondering if we can get... an official diagram for the game so that our members can make sure they are lining facilities correctly? Thanks, Mary S. 2/23/2014

Mary, it's flattering that you are looking to us to provide standardization. I would love nothing more than to have official guidelines for this game published somewhere that facilitates the construction of more four square courts.

Here is our official diagram straight from our rules page. The court is a total of 16 feet wide and each square is 8 feet wide, all the lines are one inch. If we want to get technical, the total width includes the width of the lines themselves.

Our group plays with teens and adults and we use a court size that is appropriate for their skill level. We have also played with young children and found that sometimes our court is too big for them.

I have suggested in the past that a clever playground designer could make one court that has a large and small set of lines. Perhaps the 16' court is painted in blue and the 10' court is painted in red and they both have the same center point. Then players (or teachers) could decide on their own what size court was best.

When you put together your listing for your publication, Mary, please send us the details so we can circulate it!

Dear Sean, What would be a standard width of the boundary lines for playing square four. I know the length. Just want to know if there is a required width of the tape being used. Thank you. Thanks, Mark A 1/15/2014

Hi Mark. We decided a long time ago that wide lines take away valuable playground space. For that reason, we chose 1 inch as our standard for line width. That means in a pinch we can put up a make shift court with 1 inch wide masking tape. You can often buy permanent court lining designed for asphalt that comes in 1 inch widths.

Dear Sean, I am a promoter from LA who has just moved to Louisville, KY (yes, don't ask why...business) but we are looking to put together a road tour called the unextreme games next year. We've been meeting with various cities and colleges and they like our ideas. The games are basically all the sports we were told to stop playing in 6th grade. A primary one will be dodgeball. Per this, how close can a court be to the next and how do you handle things when everyone starts playing and balls are flying everywhere? Thanks, Robert P. 11/18/2013

Now, this is a game for kids that is also played by adults. For this reason, you have to judge your target age group's ability to get themselves hurt. My rule of thumb is ten feet between the outside edges of two courts. That's a 5 foot border around each one, enough for one person to leap outside of the border and fall onto their face without being trampled. Some kids might want more room, depending on how "aggressive" they are playing.

There, let's hope this post is useful for all you guys making courts out there. Also, please take a moment to stick your new courts on our court map!

"Can I Hit the Ball in the Air?"

sean - Posted on 29 October 2013

Dear Sean,

If the ball enters a square on the fly, and the player hits the ball in their own square before it goes to another square, is the player who hit the ball out? -Jody 10/25/2013

If a ball bounces in a player A's square and player A doesn't hit the ball, then bounces in player B's square, is player A out for not hitting the ball? -Kimberly 9/24/2013

I thought "air hits" (playing the ball before it bounces in your square) was illegal? -Arthur 8/27/2013

Is a player allowed to touch the ball before the ball bounces in their square? -Cody 7/25/2013

and so on...

We literally get this question once a month despite our rules stating the answer to this question quite clearly. The answer is simple. It matters who or what touched the ball last.

Once the ball hits a square, ONLY the owner of that square may touch the ball next. It hits her square, it is her ball. If she fails to hit it, she is out. If she hits it out of bounds, she is out. If someone else hits it before she does, that is called "poaching" and the other person is out.

Once a player hits a ball, ANYONE can hit it before it touches down in a square again. It can ricochet off players countless times without hitting the ground and it's still good. Once the ball drops in a square again, though, only one person can touch it next.

Do you see the parallel construction above? If the ball was: Touched by a square then it's off limits; Touched by a player then it's fair game.

Oh, and to clear it up. You don't have to stand in your own square all the time. You can stand and run anywhere you want. Just don't leave your square unprotected - someone will get the jump on you.

I hope this can finally answered your poaching and possession question(s) and you can get back to playing games!

Live Video Streaming from the World Champs

sean - Posted on 25 February 2012

Provided the gymnasium in Bridgton has sufficient internet service, you can catch live streaming and interviews right here from 5:45PM to 9:30PM on Feb 25, 2012.

Had a Quick Chat with Guinness Book

sean - Posted on 06 January 2012

A couple of groups of college kids had attempted, set and broke each other's world records for the longest marathon game of four square. I first heard about a college in Newfoundland, then a group in Ohio, than another and another.

Each group was composed of a small group of players and a single court. They played long and hard to earn their records and probably felt great about them as they were set. It's a pretty accessible record attempt no matter how you look at it. It's not like you have to grown your fingernails for 25 years or learn how to eat airplanes. You just need endurance and stamina and a love of the game.

This is why I was surprised to get a call from the Guinness Book of World Records when they needed to ask me about the spirit of the game. They mentioned that a group out there had attempted to set a marathon four square game record in which there was one court and 50 people involved.

We talked a little bit about how the Four Square World Championships work in their final rounds, and specifically they wanted to know how many competitors there were at this time of the competition. When determining the title for "world champion" we generally have 8 to 10 players involved in the match. I think this is a great number of people because nearly half of the competitors are actively playing while the other half have about a minute to rest before their turn comes up. I also believe this is a great number to have both a consistent presence by any one player on the court yet still change up the combination of players so that the strengths and weaknesses represented on the court are different each time. All in all, we have a great model for naming a champion and I believe that Guinness learned a lot from us.

In my opinion, I think that getting fifty people together to hold a playground game marathon would be tons of fun and everyone would enjoy it. But I don't believe that it shows a real marathon sporting event spirit. Sure, you could keep a game going forever if you have enough people to cycle in but it doesn't necessarily demonstrate the endurance and stamina of a group of game players. If I were in charge of judging world records for four square then I would give more credit to the groups that had a high percent of it's players moving throughout the whole event.

The good thing is that I don't judge records. It is very gratifying to get lifeline call from Guinness to help judge these things and they did mention that our group seems to be well known for aggregating the rules of this game into a concise resource. We've become experts on this fun childhood playground game - and that feels great.

For our next trick? How about the 2020 Olympics?

Don't Underestimate Me!

sean - Posted on 14 November 2011

Dear Sean, I really love 4square! I'm 11 years old but don't under estimate me. I'm really good at 4-square. On the first day of school I made my mark. And now everyone is like Whatch out for Katherine. Is it okay if it's not just in bosten because I live in Columbus, OH and Bosten is really faraway. But that's probably asking too much but I really wish I could join. Thanks, Katherine

Kat, it is obvious to me that your skills are fierce. You're authorized to mop the court with people's faces, even if it isn't in Boston. Let us know how it goes. - Sean

Since I Taugh my Grandkids to Play...

sean - Posted on 14 November 2011

Dear Sean,

If the ball is coming straight at you in the air and it has not yet bounced in your square, is it legal to allow the ball to bounce off your body or hands into your own square once before hitting it into another person's square? Also, are you allowed to cross over the inside lines and go into another person's square in pursuit of a play or must you remain in your own square? It would appear by watching the videos of championships that anyone can be outside the outside lines near their square but I am wondering about the inside lines because of interfering with another's play. Is there a regulation size to the court? One last thing, does the ball have to bounce in a square once or can you hit it in the air into someone else's square?

I remember playing these rules years ago when I learned four square but haven't seen it specifically addressed on any of the sites I've checked. Since I taught my grandkids how to play and we have heated four square matches at our family get-togethers, I really wanted to see if there are any "official" rules. One site suggests that you can pretty much make up your own rules and the person in the serving square has the option to change the rules during his time in the square but this sounds confusing to me considering how fast the positions change.

Thanks for your help
Jean

Listen, Jean, our rules are about as official as they get. This website has gone a long way to creating a standard and that is nothing to sneeze at, but it's still a kid's game and it's open to interpretation when you play at home.

Our rules page covers the standard court size we set for our league and lots of other people have adopted it. It's a good size for adults, but you might choose to do something smaller for little kids.

I hear the question about hitting the ball "in the air" a lot. This one is covered by the possession section of our rules. The skinny is that if the ball has been hit by another player then other players don't have to wait for it to land before they hit it next. However, if anyone does hit it that way, they had better be sure that the ball is hit into another player's square or else they are out. In fact, anyone who hits a ball out of the air had better hit it correctly, like, with their hands, into a square, not onto an inside line, not out of bounds, etc. Once you hit it, you own it.

Next, there are no rules on where you can or cannot stand during the game. But we find that it is foolish to leave your square unprotected. If you find people are aggressively interfering with another person's play then you could make up your own rules about it.

I hope that covers what you needed to know. Good luck at your next family outing, and maybe we'll see you guys at the World Champs in Feb.

The Straight Poop

sean - Posted on 07 April 2011

Dear Sean
I am sure you have heard this one before. I just started playing again recently with my children and the game brings me back to my childhood. What I have noticed is that there are a lot of new variations/rules that have come out from the newer generations. I don't really care about those too much as I have tried to keep "old school" rules in effect at home. With that being said, I do have 2 questions about 4 square that I am not sure on and my children and I disagree on. Hopefully, you can help.

Here goes:

  1. When a ball is hit to you, does it have to bounce in your square before you return it or can you hit it in air to another square?
  2. This is in regards to the "inside-out" rule, I understand that if you hit the ball and it hits the inside line that connects your square to the person you are hitting it to but what if you hit the ball and it lands on the line between two other players and not one of your own? Is that person still out or does play just continue

Thanks, Rob.

Hi Rob,

I have been getting a lot of questions like these lately, so I finally published the updated rule language I had been meaning to get to (its our off-season right now).

Check them out here:
http://squarefour.org/rules

The skinny is here:

  1. You can hit it in the air, but once it hits the floor only one person can hit it next.
  2. All inside lines are out, not just the ones bordering your square. It's your job to hit it right, not let two other people argue about whose square the ball was more inside - catch my drift?

The idea is to keep the rules as clear as possible and reduce as much confusion as possible. It's good for kids to spend time playing the game rather then arguing about the rules - and less headaches for the parents.

Again with the spinning question...

sean - Posted on 03 February 2011

Dear Sean,
Hi my name is Jake , i am 10 years old and in 4th grade, my PE teachers would not allow me to spin the ball in a pass ans told me, to print out the official rules. your web site has no info...Please message me back so i can play again and show her.

In our league, you are allowed to hit the ball as long as you follow these rules...

1. Hit the ball with only your hands. We define hands as the area between your wrists and finger tips. Can use the front or back, it doesn't matter.

2. You can only hit the ball for a single instant. No catching, no carrying, no holding.

With those rules, it is both possible and legal to hit the ball and spin it at the same time. Back spin and side spin are common in our games.

However, if you are using two hands to make the ball spin then it is possible that your spinning technique will break rule number 2. Two hand spins, where you move one hand up and one hand down to make the ball spin, is too similar to a carry or hold. We don't allow that kind of hit.

Print out this email and bring it to your gym teacher. The two of you can talk about it and decide what to do next in your classes.

Sean

Old School

sean - Posted on 12 November 2010

Dear Sean,
At my school our rules are interesting, so to speak. When I ask my peers about this they say we play "old school." What does that really mean? Thanks, Anson 10/26/2010

Listen, Anson. Old School means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Anything that is from an earlier era and looked upon with high regard or respect may be considered old school. 119 years ago, before there was this crazy thing called "basket ball," some dude and his wife worked out the rules of some silly game about throwing balls into apple crates - and since then his hand written rules were sold for crazy amounts of cash. Those rules are old school because they are original and authentic, but the rules of today are very different.

Now, I don't know much about you or your school, but I bet that it's just filled with kids. Kids between 8 and 14 years old, right? Now, you really have to be around for some time before you can claim to be old school. There aren't a lot of old school players out there in the middle school circuit, so your buddies are using some big words. I mean, if you really want old school four square, I know a guy that could tell you some stories.

Age aside, my guess is that your buddies believe themselves to have some claim on the true heart of the game. That might mean they prefer a more athletic game than that of your average school yard. That might mean they don't like to play with "silly kids rules". Maybe they prefer to play on sidewalk squares rather than on rubberized playground surfaces. Who knows?

To get to the bottom of this, you'll have to discover what the game was like when they first played it, and try to figure out what they believe has been lost over the years since then. Has the game been diluted by rules and restrictions - like the stock market? Has it been hijacked and sold back to us by corporations, like hip hop or baking? Has it's integrity been soiled by a bunch of overpaid drama queens - like the New England Patriots?

If you figure it out, Anson, then come back and let me know what they thought old school meant to them.

Put me in, Coach!

sean - Posted on 05 November 2010

Dear Sean,
Thanks for providing this great website. Would like to ask if you would provide a copy of the score keeping sheets that you use in tournaments. I'll be making an after school activities league at my school and am sure that you've put a lot of time into designing a great score scoring sheet. -Coach Jensen, 11/4/2010

Coach, thanks for dropping a line. We're happy to share our resources and knowledge especially with people working in public schools, universities, churches, or correctional facilities.

First you have to understand how we keep score, then you can check out our billboards for final score calculations. Once you've got your head wrapped around that you can finally get your hands on very sophisticated printable spreadsheet that we use on the days of the games.

There are other methods to keeping score. Rather than recording these numbers and doing tons of math each week, you could run this as a double or triple elimination tournament. We have used pieces of tape to represent the numbers of eliminations each player has been dealt. Just some food for thought.

Another shot at four square's history...

sean - Posted on 04 October 2010

Dear Sean,
I was reading the blog of a local upcycling carpentry company here in Cleveland, Ohio. "Piece of Cleveland" salvages lumber from razed buildings and creates new furniture. The former Stanard Elementary School was one. The Stanard site is now a big community garden. Some of those old bricks now grace my garden walkways. It has been rumored that our beloved game of four square was born on that playground. Could you confirm or correct that notion? -Steve 10/3/2010

You know, Steve, we get a lot of people wondering how four square got started - sometimes we get messages from the people who invented it. Like Archie who wrote to us last year:

Wish I could be there to show ya'll how its done, and why we invented 4-square in April, 1956 at the Recreation Workshop/UMC, Leesburg, Florida. (we 4 summer camp cousellors needed a diversion before meals in the long lines at the chow hall, so our solution, after much experimentaion, was 4-square ball, with the "Waiting Line" being the judges!) Contact me if you have questions, pls. Archie H. Columbia, SC

He's not the first to lay such a claim, and I'll bet he's not the last.

This game is so darned simple that it probably shot up in a bunch of places at once. We have our theories. It'll be hard to pin the invention of a playground game on anyone without hard proof and I'm not sure 8 year olds keep great records.

Someone is Making Crappy Rules

sean - Posted on 02 August 2010

Dear Sean, My school is having some trouble with four square. (every one is making rules that dont make sense such as punch-u-l8tr and fire-in-the-house!) My school is called Stevenson Elementary School in Mesa,AZ 85208. I would love it if u could come and give a speech or send a letter to the school with a list of the rules that we can tape near all the 4-Square courts. Thank you 4 your time. Wesley T, 8/1/2010

It just so happens that we have developed the Official Rules of Four Square, with rules pulled from not only our league but from other groups and playgrounds as well. You can print these out and hang them up next to your court. It might help.

If any of your scumbag competitors want to dispute them then tell them to take it up with our Google rankings, cause we all know that once you are at the top of the search results then you are pretty stinking legit.

In other news, four square is also a game that many people like because you can make up special rules. Despite our work to make official rules, playgrounds have their own way of doing things and this just might be the way yours will work. It could be that you just have to eliminate the people from the court who are making the crappy rules. Once you get to the top, you can run your games anyway you like.

If none of that works, just let me know. I'll show up in Arizona - just like Godzilla "shows up" in Tokyo.

Cambridge City Council Congratulates Christian!

sean - Posted on 23 March 2010

City Councilor Sam Seidel made an appearance at Squarefour's recent game to congratulate Christian Housh on earning his recent title of the Men's Four Square World Champion. It's a great thing that the City of Cambridge can get behind our small organization. Christian Housh was resolved right into Cambridge history as "one of the great people who eat, sleep, work and play in the our city."

Pictured above is Christian Housh (aka Tiger Claw) and Councilor Sam Seidel and the rest of our four square league.

Four Square plus Survivor

sean - Posted on 22 March 2010

There are an awful lot of four square videos out there on YouTube ranging from the awesome to the inane. And with our recent coverage on NESN its clear that everyone wants to bring four square to the LCD screen.

A video blogger going by the moniker of Adam4tvs has launched a vote-off-the-island style internet show with the game of four square at it's heart. If you are into that genre and you like four square then I'm sure it will interesting.

New England Sports Network Covers the Champs!

sean - Posted on 02 March 2010

World Champs Rocked: National Coverage

sean - Posted on 02 March 2010

The 2010 Four Square World Championships event on Feb 27, 2010, was the biggest we have ever seen. It was fully outfitted with 100 players on eight championship courts and crowned a number of new world champions for the year. In the photo above you will see nearly all the competitors attending this event, except for the ones who raced out to their swanky prep trailers to hit their saunas between rounds.

Follow these links for coverage of the Four Square World Championships:

ESPN Page 2 coverage

New England Sports Network coverage

Picked up by Last Angry Fan

Team California get local coverage

Peterredshoes published a giant - whopping - video - collection of the finalists on YouTube.

2010 Champs Photo Gallery

Monstrous Collection of Cool Rules

sean - Posted on 23 February 2010

A long time ago, we started the Wikipedia article on Four Square and since then it has grown into a very useful summary of how to play the game. It was also a repository for any grade schooler to toss in his or her special rules, which unfortunately doesn't jive with Wikipedia's citation and original research policies.

Our own league member Kayle recently recovered a huge list of special rules that had been edited out of the original Wiki article and we present it here for posterity. Here it is, unabridged and unabashed, just as it was originally presented in Wikipedia...

Special Gameplay Rules

7-Up: Each player that hits the ball must call out a number one higher than the previous until the number seven is reached. The one who is hitting the ball on 7 or a number that ends in 7 must skip that number; failure to do so results in the player being out.

Aerials: This allows balls to be hit in the air without bouncing first.

Around The World: Any player in possession of the ball may call Around the World regardless of rank at any moment. If it is called, the calling player can hit it to an adjacent square, and that person must hit it to the remaining adjacent square until it reaches the player who called it, at which point the game returns to normal. A "permanent" version may be called, in which case the sequence must continue until a player gets out, even if it reaches the caller.

Around the World: touch the front corner with foot then proceed touching all other corners of player’s square. Last one to touch the center square is out

Backboards (Treetops, Double tap): Hitting the ball upwards into the air one time before hitting it into another player's square, often used to give a player a better aim.

Black Magic: Has different connotations depending on where the game is played. In one variation, a player can catch another player’s ball above the waist during play and call Black Magic on the hitter, who must then do any number of actions for the rest of the game such as standing on one foot, left handed play only, etc. In another variation, catching the ball will make either the striker or catcher out depending on who calls "Black Magic" first.

Baubling (Bubbles, Double Touches, Popcorn, Juggling, etc.): A way to get around holding the ball, one bounces it lightly between their hands before hitting it to another square.

Black Magic: King says “black magic” while twirling a ball in hands before throwing it at another player. When they throw it, they yell “dare!” If the player does not catch it, they must perform a dare of the Kings designation.

Bottle Caps (Isolation, etc.): The server may invoke this at any point during play, on any of the other three players. Once a player has been declared bottle capped, he or she is put on pause and must squat for the remainder of the round, or until their bottle cap is revoked by the same server who declared it. This player's square also becomes out-of-bounds until the bottle cap ends.

Bomb: The server places the ball in the middle of the court and calls Bomb. All players must then touch the ball; the last one to touch the ball is out.

Body Hits (or parts): The player is allowed to use a specified part of their body to hit the ball, their head or foot for example. In some countries, this rule is called "Soccer Rules" and the ball may only be hit by the head or foot.

Bus Stop: A rule where two hits are allowed. There are three types of bus stops. If the ball is stopped in the air, bounces once in that person's square, then hit again, this is one variation. The other variation is if the ball bounces in the person's square, is hit and then hit again without another bounce. The third variation involves the King to call "bus stop," and the last player to touch the inner corner of their square with their foot is out.

Bounce Stop: Like a bus stop, in that the person hits the ball twice, but with one more bounce. The ball bounces once, is hit by that player, it bounces again in that person's square, then is hit again. With standard bounce stops, the second bounce must be in the person's square, but a special "out of bounds bounce stop" can be called which allows the second bounce to occur out of bounds.

Bus Stop: King calls bus stop and another players name before throwing the ball away from the court. All players count to twenty while the player whose name was called runs to retrieve ball and return to king. If they fail to do so by the count of 20, the player is out.

Catching: When the person catches the ball before it bounces in their square, dubbing the passer out (e.g. King serves to Jack, Jack catches it before bounces in Jack's square. King is now out). Usually the catching player must say some kind of code word when catching, which varies from school to school, or he himself is out.

Catching between one’s legs (The Annihilator): If this is called, and a player catches the ball between his or her legs (typically between the knees), all players except for the person to catch the ball are out. The person completing the play then moves to the serving position.

Categories: In this version, the server names a category (e.g. types of drinks or girls' names) before play starts, and each player must name something in that category (that nobody has named yet in the round) when they hit the ball. If a player fails to come up with an accurate item in the category, they are out.

Cherry: In Australia, players are not normally allowed to hit the ball in another player's square with out hitting into their own square first. However, it is sometimes accepted to hit the ball into another player's square on the full if the players call "cherry." The player must hit the ball upward, i.e. they cannot hit it downward or slam it into someone else’s square. Sometime cherry can be abbreviated to just "chez" to make it easier to say. Other variants are "e-mail" and "postman".

Cherry Bomb: When a player grabs the ball and throws it hard into any square. The attacking player must say "Cherry Bomb". This is generally the hardest ball to return.
"Chicken _____" or "Duck _____" (Shoe Shine, etc.): When the ball hits any part of the body other than the hands or chest: a "Chicken Foot" is when the ball hits a player's foot, etc. If "Chicken Feet" is enforced, the player who hit the other player's feet with the ball is out instead of the hit player.

Circle rule: This rule applies when a circle is drawn around the court, at least four feet from the boundary line. When burning an opponent, a player must hit so the first bounce after the burn occurs inside the circle. Otherwise, that player is out. Aside from preventing lost or hard-to-retrieve balls, this rule makes slams more difficult, requiring "power players" to alter their game and use more skill.

Corners: All players must go to the outside corner of their square. The last person to do so is out.

Death Rally: If the server chooses to allow them, any player may call a "Death Rally" (also known as

"Battle", "Duel", "War", "Showdown", "Tea Party", etc). The two players may only hit the ball to each other until one of these two players is eliminated. If a player calls a Death Rally off at the right moment and quickly puts the ball in another it is called a Sneak or Stealth Attack, and the player who was attacked will often not be able to react to the sudden attack.

"Duel" or "Teams": At any time any player may call deul or teams. They will team up with an adjacent square against the other two squares. Such as 4 & 3 vs. 2 & 1. The ball may bounce only once in one square but twice in a teams rectangle. When an out is made both players on the team are out.

"Do Over" or "Redo" (term varies from school to school): Term used when there is a dispute, players are unsure of a decision, or the line judge determines that the previous play was too close to call or invalidated by an outside interruption. The ball is re-served with no eliminations.

Dodge Ball: If a player is able to catch the ball before it bounces in any square or out of bounds, the game play shifts to Dodge Ball, wherein all players must abide by the standard rules for the game Dodge Ball. This entails the player with the ball not taking more than three steps, and attempting to throw another player out by striking them with the ball (recommended only with soft large rubber balls). If the target player catches the ball or the ball misses all players the player who threw the ball is out.

Double Bounces: The ball can (or sometimes must) bounce twice in a player's square before he hits it. If it bounces any other number of times before the receiver hits it, he is out. If it bounces once in and then once out of a player's square, the hitter is out.

Dot to dot: all players must touch the center corner, the back corner, and then the center corner again. The last player to return to the center is out

Fair Serve (No Blood on Serve, etc.): A common rule in which players cannot get out on the serve. For example, if the server hits the ball out on serve, he is given a second chance; likewise, if a player misses the ball after it is served to him, he also gets a "redo." The term "Outs on Serves" is sometimes used to indicate that there is no Fair Serve; such a rule is usually invoked to make the game move faster.

Fair Return: Usually called along with "Fair Serve" in a two-square variant. A Fair Return is one that can easily be hit by the server after the initial serve is made.

Fairy Bomb: When a player catches the ball they may jump in the air as if about to throw a cherry bomb but instead softly say, "Fairy bomb," and lightly drop the ball in another player's square.

Faking (Psyche Out, Teardrop, etc.): A hit where a player acts like he will slam the ball, but instead barely taps it so the other player will miss it.

Final Play (Last Play, Last Round, and Final Rally): In Australia, this term is used to denote the last round of play due to the end of the break period. This would usually confirm the winner for the day. Final Play could include a duel of the top two squares.

Friendsies: Allows the players to play balls that did not land in their square and would have otherwise made another player out for the purpose of continuing game play.

Grandfather Clock: All players on the court take turns throwing the ball in the air and clapping as many times as they can. The player with the lowest number of claps is out.

Holding (Grabbing, etc.): Usually a player can only hit the ball and not hold it, but some rules allow holding the ball for half a second or less if using a special move.

Ice Cream Cone: During game play and when the server has the ball he/she must yell out "ice cream cone". When the server does, they grab the ball and run to the center of the four square. The other players must rush to get their feet outside of the boundaries. The last player to get their feet outside of the boundaries is out.

Intercepting (Poaching, etc.): Term used for a player other than the intended receiver grabbing and/or hitting the ball in play. This often happens if the ball passes through one player's square but does not bounce in it.

King's Court: Disputes are resolved by the serving player instead of a line judge. Land mines: a portion of a square is an automatic out for the player in that square, marked in some way (chalk, tape, etc.); customarily the portion increases with increasing square number.

Letters: If the squares are labeled, all players must touch the letter in their square as soon as this is called; the last person to do so is out.

Liner: (Laser lines, poisonous lines, etc.): When the ball hits a line, the player that hit it is usually out, although a myriad of rules have been made up for this occurrence (see "Liner Mini-Games" below).

Lumberjacks (Battle Royale, etc.): When a lot of people are playing, the extras circle around the court (or standing on the circle if there is a circle rule). Those standing around the court are the lumberjacks. When the ball is hit out, the lumberjacks hit the ball back in so the game does not stop. When a player is called out, the remaining players continue against each other. The game ends when only one of the four original players remains.

Master Key Lock: The rules cannot be changed unless the person who called this gets out of the game.

Midget World: The King may call "Midget World" before they serve and all players must play in squatting position for the match.

Mini Michael Jordan: The next round is played with all players in the squatting position. "Must accept" (Ready or not): A receiver must hit the serve regardless of interference or if they are not ready.

Off-Serve: The player who received service is required to hit the ball back to the server.

Open Book: Any player can change the rules regardless of whether or not they are the server if this is enforced.

Passback: If a player calls Passback during a game, the next person must hit it back to that player.

Pick Up: Players are allowed to pick up the ball when it bounces at a height specified by those playing or the server. In some places, rules require players to call "pick Up", "picks" or "grabs" when doing this.

Play On: This is called when a decision is made to continue play, despite the call being close. "Play On" must be called immediately by the judge or server after the bounce, or a dispute may occur.

Poison: In Australia, a person of any rank may call poison if he or she is not ready. The game continues without the player and the player resumes his / her participation with the call "medicine".

Popcorn (different from Bobbling): A player calls out "Popcorn x" with x being any number. If called during play, the receiving player must throw the ball in the air, clap the number of times specified, and then catch the ball. Or, the king throws the ball in the air and claps one or more times before catching it. The next player must do the same but with one more clap than the king. Each subsequent throw must increase in number of claps, and failure to complete a toss results in an out (sometimes with two tries per player)

Revenge: When the server is out, he may choose to call Revenge, or King's Revenge. The player who is now server must engage in a Death Rally with the former server (See Death Rally above).

Rolling (Bowling, etc.): A player hits the ball so low that the ball rolls. Usually the player who rolled it is out.

Sentences: In this version, the server begins a sentence by saying one word, and each play must continue the sentence or end it by saying period. If they fail to continue the sentence logically, they are out. (An example: "I love playing four square period").

Services: When the ball is about to be served, any player may call "Service" and the server must automatically play the ball to them, unless they chose to overrule it, at which point no other player may call service on that serve. If multiple people attempt it, the first to call is given the honor. A player may also call "Service no overrules" which will force the server to play the ball to him.

Sharking (Skunk, Sting, etc.): Aiming directly for any part of an opponent's body rather than playing it normally. If the sharker hits the opponent, the opponent is out. If the opponent dodges the ball, the sharker is usually out (because the ball did not bounce in his or her own square).

Slamming ‘‘(High Bounces, Treetops, Cherry Bombs, etc.): Hitting the ball in such a way that it bounces a considerable distance over the receiver's head. More than for being hard to receive, this move is often discouraged for risk of the ball becoming stuck on a roof, in a tree, etc. Defensive moves against slams, such as using one's body to stop the ball from flying out of bounds, are often given names themselves, such as "Tiananmen Square".

Sleepover: all players sit down with their legs apart touching feet with the person on either side of them. All the players roll around the ball until it touches a foot. The player who rolled the ball before it touched the foot is out.

Spinning ((Texas) Twisters, Screwballs, Peppermint Sticks, etc): Hitting the ball, usually with both hands, in such a way that a spin is imparted on it, causing it to bounce unusually.

Style Points: In some variations, style points are awarded to players who exhibit excellent or rare form during play, and/or artistically hit the ball (such as under one's legs); depending on the rules at that school or location, style points can be used to exempt a player from one out, or award other bonuses as players agree upon them.

Tapping (Babies, Tiny Tims, etc.): Hitting the ball in such a way that it barely bounces off the ground and likewise goes across a very small horizontal distance.

Toesies: A variation on "Chicken Feet" (see above) in which one player aims the ball directly at another player's toes. If the ball connects all players must rush to the center and place their toes in the middle. The last player to put their toes in is eliminated.

Two and Up: If the ball bounces in one player's square twice before the owner of the square hits the ball, the player can tap the ball upward into another player's square while saying "two and up" and not be eliminated.

Typewriter: A rule in which a player grabs or baubles the ball, moves close to an adjacent square, and bounces the ball in that square a predetermined number of times. The usual variant is to spell out the opponent's name, one letter per bounce. If the player successfully completes the move, the opponent is out. If the opponent hits the ball to disrupt the spelling, the person who initiated the typewriter is out.

Mini Games

Creative players around the world dream up exciting varieties that break out of normal game play entirely. This Side and Line Games section will lay out some of the best known mini-games to take place on (or off) the court.

When the ball hits a line (or in some cases, a wall), the game will usually stop with a player being eliminated, a special rule will be enforced, or the players will go directly into a mini-game.

Possibilities include the following:

  • The person who hit the line automatically getting "out".
  • The server calling a re-do.
  • The players continuing play as if the ball was in one of the players' squares, and if no player continues, it is a re
  • Multiple players being eliminated if the line between them is hit by the ball.
  • A dispute resolution, as outlined in the Disputes section above.

Some servers call one of the following side-games:

  • Shark Attack: The person calling Shark Attack may hold the ball and run around on the lines to tag another player, and whoever they tag is eliminated.
  • Bubble (not to be confused with baubling/bubbling): If a player calling Liner chooses Bubbles, he or she stands in the intersection, bounces a ball and say "Bubbles times n" The number they call is the amount they have to let the ball bounce for before normal game proceeds. If the ball is about to stop bouncing, a player may tap it up. After the ball has bounced said number of times, normal play continues with the player whose court it lands on hitting it next.
  • Rocks: If a player calls Rocks, they bounce the ball hard and slam it into an opponent's court, usually a corner to make it harder. After the hit has been done normal play proceeds. This is also called Footy Rucks because it resembles a ruck contest in Australian rules football.
  • Taps: If a player calls Liner and chooses Taps, they place the ball on the line; at that point, any player can run up and lightly tap the ball to another players square.
  • Tea Party: A player returning a ball to another player can call a "Tea Party." When this occurs, the match becomes an intense bout between these two players until one is eliminated.

"But it was GOING out of bounds, so..."

sean - Posted on 16 February 2010

Dear Sean. In 4-Square, I hit the ball into another court, albeit too hard and so it would have gone out. However, the player in that court put her arm out and the ball hit her arm before it went out. She called it out, but since she touched the ball, she should have been out. Instead, an argument ensued, and she insisted that I was out since the ball was going out. How would you have settled this problem? Thanks! -Sue in Somerville

I believe that the other player should have been out on that call, and I have two reasons.

First, if a player touches the ball then that player is responsible for the outcome. If that player allows herself to be accidentally hit by the ball then she is the one who made the mistake, whether or not the ball is "headed out". If the ball looks to be going out of bounds then she should just get out of the way and let gravity do its thing.

Second, and less complicated-ly, players aren't allowed to hit the ball with anything but their hands. If it hit her in the arm then she is out - and it doesn't matter where the ball was headed ("Body Language" notwithstanding).

So, very sorry that shook down the way it did. If I had seen it I would have sent that other player packing.

The Cheating Cheaters who Cheat

sean - Posted on 02 December 2009

Dear Sean,
Well this is more of like a help thing. When i play 4-square and i am at the diagonal square to the king square, the king serve the ball not diagnol towards me. He serves more like diagonal near towards the queen's square and the ace square/toilet, but STILL in my square, can he even do that? and so if it hit the inside lines, it means you're out right? my other help is can that the other 3 members, i.e. king, queen, toilet, gang up on the square diagonal to the kings (my school calls it the Jack square). They like gang up and doing whatever they can to get you out. Another confused help is referring to the "gang to get you out" rule is that once they get you out, they will keep doing it until they get you out and bring a friend of theirs and play a friendly four square. The ganging team plays vicious to get you out and when their friend comes in, they play it nicely and friendly, not trying to get the person out. And if the ball is too low, you can get a redo right? Is this custom or not? -love, "a confused player" 12/1/2009

Whoa. I'll answer your questions in the order they were received.

  • That guy in four square is being a cheating loser. The person serving the ball should understand that his job is to put the ball into fair play, and any control over the first hit of the ball should be given fairly to the receiver. If he is hitting ball into your square in a crappy place, as if he wants to control the way you hit it back or prevent you from hitting it back, then you should institute a rule for where the serve must first touch. A "serve zone" would work, some smaller division of the receiver's square that is in an appropriate place, to force the server to hit it fairly into the square. The alternative is to quit playing with him because he cheats.
  • Those three guys kinda suck. There are no friends in four square. Not only are they colluding with each other in anticompetitive nature, they are also hurting themselves by not ganging up on the top player. It's kinda dumb, because the when they gang up on you in one square, the person who gains the most is the person in four square. Again, the alternative is to quit playing with those cheating cheaters.
  • The ball being too low? Well. That is another story. If we are talking about serves, then you can make up a rule that prevents server from serving low balls. If the ball is just too low during normal play and you couldn't return it then I think it means you are out.

But I'll stick with my original diagnosis and say again that those kids are cheating and it sounds like it kind of sucks to play games with them. I would say you can try to reorganize a few rules to deal with the bad behavior of a few people, or make it personal andannihilate them as soon as they get on the court with you.

Either way, you'll teach those cheaters a thing or two.

Fault vs. Blackjack: Round One!

sean - Posted on 05 November 2009

Recently, our members threw down about the fault rules for the receiver. The big dispute based on this scenario:

Special rule in play was "black jack" which means that players may attempt to catch a ball before it bounces in their square in order to eject the player who last hit it. On the serve, the player in four square serves the ball cleanly into the one square. The player in one square hits the ball into two square. The player in two square catches the ball using the black jack rule which would imply that player number one is out. The player in one square claims this was a fault (we call it "one bad") and asks for the ball to be served again.

I understand where the confusion comes from. We make the fault rule here to give a little extra protection for the newest player on the court by allowing them to make a limited number of errors on their first round after a long wait in line. These errors are usually because a rule was broken, as we can read in the rules section:

"The receiver can fault on a return if she hits the ball out of bounds, into her own square or on to an inside court line. The receiver has a second chance for a serve. Both the server and the receiver are allowed only one fault, referred to as "one bad". However, if a player faults a second time then they are out. You can also remember it this way: Two bad = too bad for you!"

The way these are written, and have been published for years, it's actually pretty clear that the receiver can fault on boundaries. But there is no mention here about the player just playing poorly and not using a strategy that would prevent other players from exercising the rules of the game.

I might have to say in this case that the player in square one made no fault error, but just played poorly and allowed another player to get the better of him or her.

Making and enforcing rules in four square, a game that has one million home court rules, is tricky. It's good to poke at the rules now and then to make sure that they are clear and grow less ambiguous over time. And while reading up on the rules for this specific issue, it became clear there is a huge area which is totally ambiguous that will shortly need to be clarified. This section of the rules immediately precedes the receiver fault rules:

"Faults are allowed only once for both the server or the receiver. The server can fault if the serve into one square is too high, too low, too fast or otherwise unreturnable by the receiver. The receiver may send the ball back to be served again."

Too high, too low, too fast are subject to wide interpretation and this potentially leaves picky players with an advantage over the server and opens up too much opportunity for abuse. If any of you have some suggestions about how to create finite criteria for a "good serve" then I would love to hear it.

Until then, play nice.

Four Square World Record Set!

sean - Posted on 22 September 2009

While working on a project for Cartoon Network, Laura McNally played a part in setting a Guinness World Record for the greatest amount of simultaneous four square players. Nice work! She writes:

"I have been wanting to send you this email for awhile. However, it took Guinness literally six months to go through all the witness statements, photos, and paperwork before we heard back from them. Long story short, Cartoon Network hired my firm to promote National Recess Week (March 2-6). So after a massive amount of coordination, we had 44 schools from across the country play four square at exactly noon EST on 3/3/09. Guinness counted us in a grand total of 3,176 players. Here are just a few of the photos. I thought you might find this pretty cool!!"

Philadelphia's Balls Get Cop-Blocked

sean - Posted on 09 September 2009

A culture of pick up four square has been forming in a public park in Philadelphia. Just when they were gaining some traction with their hood, the city was forced to clamp down on their ball playing policy. Apparently, there is no ball playing allowed in city parks - including footballs and baseballs and four square balls - and these kids have to find a new home. The full story is here: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20090727_City_rule_forces_ball_g...

We thought we would republish this story and try to keep them in the spotlight, hopefully they have found themselves a new home with as much pedestrian foot traffic as they can possibly garner.

Velvetron's Infinite Four Square Playlist

sean - Posted on 09 September 2009

Velvetron contacted us over the summer to tell us that they were working on the official soundtrack for the sport of four square and I wanted to be sure that these guys got some love. With the new 2010 winter season coming up on us, now is the time to bring these efforts to light! They said:

"My band-mates and I have been huge 4-square enthusiasts for years, and we recently produced a podcast that is all about 4-Square. Additionally, we've posted a streaming radio playlist of music we think suits 4-Square play well."

Feel free to check them out at http://www.velvetron.net

It's all about possession...

sean - Posted on 28 July 2009

Dear Sean,
so we've been rockin the 4 square every summer for some time now, but just got back into it this summer. There's been a hot debat on a specific rule and we'd like some clarification. so here's teh court set up: looking birds eye view, square one is on the north west quadrant, square 2 is below that in the sw quadrant, square 3 in se and square 4 ne. If a person in square one taps teh ball into square 4, but the ball only bounces once in that square and then lands in square 3, does the person in square 4 have to hit it? or can they just let it bounce from their square (b/c it only bounced once) and let it just freely bounce into square 3 for the player in square 3 to then need to return it? hope that makees some sense. - Dr. Hamburger, 7/27/2009

Dude, if it touches your square then you must hit it. Seriously.

In fact, according to our rules NO ONE can touch the ball once it has hit your square until you hit it first. This makes it clear who is in possession of the ball, and who should be out if there is an error. That is about the clearest answer I can give you. Let us know how this shakes down with your friends.

Invisible Touch, Yea

sean - Posted on 17 July 2009

Dear Sean,
i would like to know if a 'phantom' hit is allowed? here is an example of what i mean. a ball is returned from square 1 to square 2 (my square). it bounces once and carries into square 4. i approach the ball and act as though i am going to hit it in a certain direction/part of square 4, and just as my hand is about to hit the ball, i stop. i allow the ball to continue in the direction that it was traveling while only slightly grazing the ball with my fingers. the ball, having hardly any of its momentum taken away from it, would continue to bounce in square 4 with the owner of that square out of position because of where i was feigning to hit the ball. is this legal? my friends were claiming that it was an illegal move because you couldn't see any clear alteration in the path of the ball. i contested that as long as i touched the ball (no matter how slight or hard) it counted as a hit. what would the ruling be? - George, 7/14/2009

George, listen, what you are asking is if the player must hit the ball firmly enough for an official to perceive a change in the ball's motion and trajectory.

There are a couple of sports that do this and they all have good reasons for it, and I suppose there should be a similar rule for four square. They do this in other sports to make the players prove that they made contact, otherwise it is just as your friends said, why would they trust you when you say you hit it but they couldn't see it. It's only a short leap for a player to flat out lie about their contact with the ball.

So as the commissioner of the Boston four square league, I will make this change to the official rules as of right now. I think this is a great addition that adds a new level of clarity in an otherwise murky arena of playground games.

But, listen, George. Up until right now, you actually had no rule to obey. So go tell your friends that your play was 100% legit until that Masshole down in Boston revised the official rules. You should glean whatever bragging privileges you can take as the person who single handedly changed the course of four square history.

Chris Glasser (this time in video)

sean - Posted on 07 July 2009

Can an American guy fit into this square at all?

sean - Posted on 17 June 2009

Dear Sean,
You stated the court size is 16' square... Are you sure? I am not an American and use the International Metric System - but when I converted it into my system the size is ridiculuously small. Not sure your math skills (we hear a lot about very low American education level here) - but 16' square is 4'x4' (about 1.2m each side!!!) and then divided further into four squares... means each square is 2'x2'... - can an American guy fit into this square at all??? Don't think so. Can you please look into it again, amend it and preferrably show International Metric System sizes. Thanks and regards from Sweden. - Luke, 6/17/2009

Dividing our 16-foot court (4.87 meters) into quarters yields four 8-foot squares (2.43 meters). Our fat, uneducated American people fit in their squares just fine.

Your Balls Keep Breaking?

sean - Posted on 09 June 2009

Dear Sean,
I have bought 2 4 square balls in one month and they both popped. Are they not made like they use to be. I am disappointed in this. I have paid close to $20 for both. I purchased these at different stores and neither one made it. I am not going to keep purchasing them if this keeps happening. Please give me some advice. There is nothing around that would pop them. Thank you. - Kimberly, 6/9/2009

Wow. Either you are playing this game against half-ape-half-barbarians, or you you using the crappy balls you find at your local drug store.

Let me give you a little advice.

If you are indeed playing with nordic tribesmen, and they are popping playground balls left and right, I would say the balls are not the problem and you've got other stuff to worry about.

But if the quality of your balls is questionable, change it up and order a bunch of 2-ply playground balls that are designed to take abuse. These are balls with a thicker textured outer layer designed for playground threat levels. I have never popped one of these balls and our league puts about 20 hours of hard play on each one each year.

So, buy higher quality balls, keep them inflated to their normal pressure, don't let anyone handle them who has something to prove, and your balls should last a long time.

And, what's more, you're paying way too much for your balls. I buy balls from the Dick's Sporting Goods website. The 2-ply PG-8.5 balls go for about 6 bucks each and you can get them in a bunch of colors.

The Rules

sean - Posted on 26 May 2009

Dear Sean,
Hi. I saw the rules on your site and I like them, but where can I find the OFFICIAL four square rules? I play with some friends who poach all the time, and they want the official rules to prove it's not allowed. They don't believe the rules on your site since they aren't considered official. Thanks. - Tyler 5/26/2009

Tyler. It's about time someone brought this up.

The way I see it, if you are searching on Google with the phrase official four square rules and our rules turn up as number one, and the article we wrote for Wikipedia turned up as at least number three, it's a pretty good indication that we are as official as it gets.

And if you can find another organization that hosts a Four Square World Championship that plays by rules other than these, I'd like to know about it!

Someone Else Hits it by Accident?

sean - Posted on 22 May 2009

Dear Sean,
Can you hit the ball before it bounces? Also, if a ball bounces in someone's square, but someone else hits it by accident, who is out? Thanks! - Cara 5/22/2009

Thanks for the note, Cara. We get this question a lot and get a lot more like it all the time. But I'll put a definitive answer on the internet right now. There are two questions here. One, does the ball have to bounce, and two, who is allowed to touch the ball. Here goes...

Players effectively "possess" the ball from the instant the ball touches floor of their square. That means if the ball lands in the square that you are standing then ONLY YOU can hit the ball next. If someone else touches that ball before you do then that other player is out. So it's up to everyone to take careful note who is in possession of that ball and either hit it or stay the hell away from it.

And don't go saving your "friends" if they hit a ball out of bounds or fail to hit the ball out of their square. There are no friends in four square.

Ok, so that's the answer to question two. But what about question one?

Once a player has touched the ball they basically relinquish possession. From the instant that the player's hands break contact with the ball any other player can step in and hit it. They do not need to wait until the ball touches the next square to do it.

Players take a big risk here. Waiting for the ball to bounce in your square gives you a hair of a breath to make a strategic decision - while not waiting leaves open a wider margin of error. Why hit a ball that is not headed for your court? Why not let it sail out of bounds rather than risk your neck to keep it in play? Well, that's all up to how aggressive your peeps like to play. If that's how you like to roll, then roll.

So, so sum it up. You do not have to let the ball bounce, especially if you like hasty decisions. And if your friend touches your ball before you do then your friend is out for poaching. You can't kill animals out of season.

Honest-to-God

sean - Posted on 18 May 2009

Dear Sean,
I'm a youth worker at a church K-8 after school program near Kansas City. The kids show up for three hours when school lets out. We lead games and activities that try to teach church values.

We've got all kinds of activities but the most popular is box ball. Kids go bananas for it. They would play all afternoon if we let them. The problem is that the games usually turn into riots, name calling, and sometimes fights. I don't know what comes over them and I've started to jokingly refer to it as "the devil's game". But its a church program, so no one else thinks its very funny when I say it.

Anyway, do you have any tips on how we can change the game so that it doesn't turn kids into monsters. The folks here want to ban the game. What do you think? - Evan T. 5/3/2009

The biggest problem that we face on the playground, at any time and under any situation, is the lack of structure and supervision. Without it our duck-duck-goose turns into slap-slap-punch and the fattest monkeys never get out of the middle.

Four square is one of those games that can be open to infinite interpretation. One of the most exciting elements of the game is that the rules can be bent, broken and born anew by any kid that gets to the fourth square. Everyone wants the chance to make their opponents do humiliating things like howl like a monkey after each hit or open up the rules to allow the use of the one tactic that will render them invincible.

More so, a lot of fighting a breaks out because the rules are so fuzzy. Was that an over hand hit? Was the serve too fast? And then there are kids that are just good at arguing about the rules rather than playing by them. And somehow they always make it to four square.

So, Evan, what you can do it reduce the holy war on the court is seriously tighten up the rules of the game and put limits on what special rules are allowed. Find out what kids fight over and then exorcise it from the court forever. It narrows the path to oblivion and you can steer kids away from it rather than towards it with just a little more structure.

Make the boundaries firm, remove rules that are open to interpretation, don't let kids make stuff up and pass it off as law, and insert a real honest-to-god referee to call the plays. It will make everyone more accountable and they can even direct their hatred at the ref instead of at each other.

A few of these steps and I bet you see an improvement on the court and you won't have to ban anything from the playground.

The Season in Photos-ish

sean - Posted on 18 May 2009

The 2009 indoor season is over and after the night of the Final Formal Banquet it's important that we show off who our season champions turned out to be. We have almost all of their faces recorded in photos and it's worth a spin through the 2009 gallery to see who they were.

Popcorn and Bridget Hockstetter

sean - Posted on 06 April 2009

Dear Sean
Here is a new custom rule, "popcorn". This means any player may hit the ball as many times as he wants in the air after it has bounced once in his square. This rule is similar to double taps. - "the unkown" 4/4/2009

Unknown, huh? Thanks for that note, popcorn is indeed the name of the "unlimited taps" rule where players are allowed to continually hit or bobble the ball until they decided to release it into another court.

Popcorn is also the dirtiest rule I ever saw played on the court. It gives a player unlimited time to set up a shot, and often opens the door for mean and unfair play. It brings back some painful memories of Bridget Hockstetter and her groupies.

She owned recess. She wasn't especially good a four square but once she was sitting pretty in the top square then she intended to never let it go.

Half of the time she would play the offensive tactic of calling other players out on questionable terms. You never had a chance to defend yourself because she would either yell louder than you, have a snappier retort ready before you, or simply start the next game before you could open your mouth. Her cronies in line would help leverage the mob rule, and pretty much whatever Bridget did was the word.

And the other half of the time, she would use the popcorn rule.

We will be here in 2016!

sean - Posted on 05 March 2009

Dear Sean and Peter,
On behalf of our family and the entire Cape Elizabeth contingent, we just wanted to thank you for a great experience on Saturday night. You put on a terrific event but even better was the goodwill and sportsmanship shown by all. Everything was well run, friendly and pretty funny too!

Matthew and his friend Matthew (aka "Yellowshirt") commented in particular on our ride home just "how nice everyone from Squarefour was." Our Matthew, who has been, well how shall I say it, obsessed with 4 Square since the 1st Grade announced that he will go to college in Boston so he can join SquareFour. (Can you commit to being an active club in 2016??)

Finally, we are moving into a new house we've been building in two months, and it has an indoor regulation FourSquare court in the basement (I am not making this up), so expect the two Matthews to be even more formidable next year.

With genuine thanks for allowing us to join you for this event Saturday, - Dan and Ilene

Dan and Ilene, this is all really great news. I'm really glad that the Matts enjoyed themselves that much and I'm especially pleased that you had such a great experience with our league. Our players are all involved because four square is competitive but also because it is fun and social, too. Certainly maintaining a comfortable and supportive atmosphere goes a long way in building healthy relationships with one another and the people we meet. So, I'm very glad about this.

As for your secret underground training facility and Matt's intention to jockey for a school in Boston, I can only say "wow". Your little guy has got mad chops and his motivation should have all the men on our league very concerned about their scores. When he is ready, send him.

Get live tweets from the World Champs!

sean - Posted on 20 February 2009

Thanks to our long time member Ben LaPointe, you too can be reading live Twitter updates from the Four Square World Championships on Feb 28, 2009. If you can't be there then follow Ben's tweets for messages and photos of the day's progression right here: http://twitter.com/square4playa

In fact, Ben's tweets plus all other public tweets containing the tag "#worldchamps" will be fed into a handy little digest here on Squarefour.org for the entire day.

Catch that page here: http://www.squarefour.org/championtweets

We're coming [from Pennsylvania]

sean - Posted on 08 February 2009

Dear Sean,
We’ll be coming to the 2009 World Championships from Pennsylvania and we want to get the rules right so we have time to practice them. We have been playing a very extreme version of four square for the past 5 years and have recently tried to change our game to practice.

First, if you hit the ball and it touches any part of your inside line, albeit a centimeter of it, are you out? Second, is there any spiking rule in the men’s league that you play or are you allowed to spike it as hard as you want? Is this frowned upon in competition? Third, is blood on the serve only when the serve is unreturnable or also when the receiver plays a shot off the serve that is unreturnable. Fourth, how is a showdown actually performed? Who serves the ball and does the server have to be in a certain square? Do the people competing in the showdown have to be in a specific square, say, horizontally rather than adjacent?

Thanks! Great job with the site and we hope to see you at the World Championships! - Dan F.

Dan, it's good that you are asking these questions now and giving yourself time to train for the Champs in advance. We're doing the same thing here in Boston, setting aside a few hours a day for sprints and calisthenics and whatnot. In fact, I only have a few minutes between my lap pool time and a scrimmage in order to choke down a power bar and get a few emails off. Let me bang out some answers while I have the time.

1. If you hit the ball and it next lands on one or any of the inside lines, the you would be out. We do it this way so that there is no confusion on the part of the other players who that ball was intended to reach. Put the ball cleanly into another square or face the music.

2. There is no restriction on spiking, but there are limitations on accuracy when it comes to brute force. The dudes in our league spike a lot, but it only works out for them 50% of the time. We find that clever play is a more successful tactic.

3. The serve is meant only to put the ball into play. So if the serve is to high, low, fast, etc, then do it again. It's really the person receiving the ball that is in control of the first play and they can do whatever they like.

4. The showdown is meant to settle the argument as to who was in or out. It doesn't matter which squares they are in, but you play from the square where you started the round. Sometimes this puts you next to your opponent, sometimes diagonally across. And the highest square serves the ball.

Glad you are coming, Dan. Make sure to let Peter Lowell in Bridgton, ME, know that you are coming and how many you are bringing.

A Message to Bridgton (and UCONN and all of Newfoundland)

sean - Posted on 01 February 2009

This is just a friendly note to let you all know that we will be at the Four Square World Championships on Feb 28, 2009. To all the good folks in Bridgton, the great people of Portland, all of the UCONN four square team, the barbarians of the north in Newfoundland, and all the citizens of the great nations attending the championships - take a good, hard look at the fiercest competition you'll ever face. See you there.

Heroes of the Game

sean - Posted on 22 January 2009

This is an awesome little video that captures one of the greatest moments of your childhood - that time you crushed that kid at is own game. Enjoy it.

"I am trying to write a paper..."

sean - Posted on 19 January 2009

Dear Sean
I am trying to write a paper on promoting four square. The only problem is there is not a lot of resources out on the internet. Could you help me with some of the pro's of playing four square, so far I only have: you can make it your own game, simple instructions, not a lot of materials, any age group, and hand eye coordination? Please help me out. - Susan 1/17/2009

Listen, Susan, promoting four square comes in a ton of different flavors. Especially if you are writing a paper about it then you really have to start at the beginning. Why are you promoting four square, what is the purpose of the promotion? I could, off the top of my head, suggest three excellent angles that you could take or you could mix them up any way you like. They aren't very far off from the pitches that I make on the Squarefour site. These are:

  1. Four Square as Exercise: It's common knowledge that practically any level of activity is good for your body and spirit. There are a lot of folks out there who don't get enough of it as it is. All it takes is 30 minutes of elevated heart rate 3-4 times per week and you are already head and shoulders above the average Amercian couch potato. Four square can do that for you, it can get you active and moving and has the potential to scale so that anyone regardless of athletic ability can get some excercise.
  2. Four Square as Community Building: This is a game that draws people together. The simplicity and low barrier to entry that four square offers really lends itself to playing with wide ranges of people. The revolving door nature of the game mixes players up constantly, forms new alliances between players, gives the players the chance to gang up and defend one another, and even waiting in line is a chance to interact with other players. It's very social but provides structured ways to interact with people that are always changing and makes it an excellent tool for building and strengthening groups.
  3. Four Square as Creative Expression: This game has improvisation as one of it's core elements. It's not like bowling that requires perfect form on each ball toss, and not like volleyball that requires particular ways to hit and return a ball. The rules are so sparse in four square that players are encouraged to make up their own styles and perfect their own way of playing. And an entirely other layer of the game invites kids to make up extra rules, often silly ones, that involve reciting, singing, shouting, dancing, jumping, and more. There aren't a lot of forums where kids can make up silly things to do and its perfectly acceptable to make other kids to do them - and for this reason it's clear that four square has a lot going on for it than just athletics alone.

There are a couple of cons that a good paper on four square should mention (that is if you want the A+ rather than the A-). It's not a sport that is on television so it doesn't get a lot of street cred as "real" athletics and so schools treat it as only a recess game - it has the potential to teach things like strategy, skill, sportsmanship, sharing and caring, and all that jazz. Four square can bring out the worst in kids - the arguing, the fighting, the bad blood - and I think this is due to lack of supervision by adults. Parents and teachers are missing opportunities through their children's play to focus that streak of competition into constructive opportunities for learning and growth. And so it's a shame that this activity can be dominated by a few unchecked aggressive kids, both athletically and socially.

I bet if you mention a couple of these points in your paper you'll do just fine. And if you teacher doesn't like these points then you can give me their number and I'll meet them on the court for a few rounds of squares. Ha, ha, just kidding.

But really, just give me their number.

Are leg shots legal?

sean - Posted on 06 January 2009

Dear Sean,
If a server serves the ball correctly and it bounces into square 2, opposite from square 4, whereupon the receiver returns the ball to the server hitting him in the knee followed by the ball hitting an inside line, is the server out? - Elaine, 4th Grade Teacher, 1/6/2009

They way we play here in Boston is that the ball may only be touched with your hands. More specifically, we let players hit the ball any way they like with their hands - front, back, fingers, fist, slap, whatever. The hands are any point on a players arms that are between the wrists and fingertips.

So in your case, everything looks legal from the serve to the return, except where the player's legs get in the way. If a player touches the ball with any part of his or her body that is not a hand then we would call that player out. Also, in your case, I don't care where the ball landed after hitting the knee, the round is already over.

Now there are a few special rules that we play in Boston that let you use other parts of your body to hit the ball (like "Body language") or require that you hit the ball with a specific part of your hands ( like "Underhand only") but these are both exceptions to the broader rules of play.

Hope that helps, and send my regards to the sorry fool who couldn't get his legs out of the ball's path. Chances are if he jumped really high then the ball would have sailed right out of bounds and saved him another long wait in line.

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